05/06/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT
HIS OLDER BROTHER CALLED HIM "UGLY," says David Duchovny, 35, who plays the intriguingly buttoned-down Fox Mulder on The X-Files. "Soon that caught on with his friends, along with names like Big Nose and Big Lips." Duchovny is still self-conscious about his nose—and the rest of his face, for that matter. He describes it as "at war with itself," a condition he attributes to the "mongrel vigor" he inherited from his Russian father and Scottish mother. But these days, Duchovny is the only one griping about his looks. His X-Files fans—the David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade on the Internet—still recall his all-too-brief appearance last season in a skimpy Speedo. That sneak peek at his lean limbs was a bonus for those who had already fallen for his crooked smile and ironic wit. "The sexy thing about David is his mind," says actress Bonnie Hunt, a friend of the Princeton grad since they both appeared in 1989's Beethoven. "But if he fell on his head tomorrow and lost his memory, he'd still be a pretty sexy guy." Casting director Johanna Ray, who hired Duchovny to play a transvestite cop in 1990's Twin Peaks, calls him "the sort of man you can rely on." Rely on him to downplay the hype. His grooming routine? Flossing. As he explains, "You don't want to be caught by the paparazzi with spinach in your teeth."