One of the most iconic villains in the history of television, the enigmatic Cigarette Smoking Man fascinated legions of fans of the 1990s’ hit TV series, The X-Files. Best known as “Cancerman,” he was voted Television’s Favourite Villain by the readers of TV Guide. The man behind the villain, William B. Davis, is a Canadian actor and director, whose revelations in this memoir will entertain and intrigue the millions of X-Files aficionados worldwide. But there is more to Davis’s story than just The X-Files. Davis’s extensive acting experience began when he was a child in Ontario in the 1950s, and grew to encompass radio, theatre, film, and television. At the University of Toronto, where he graduated with a degree in philosophy, he turned his hand to directing, a move that took him to theatre school in Britain and a directing career. There, he reconnected with his undergraduate colleague, Donald Sutherland, and worked at the National Theatre, with such notables as Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Maggie Smith, and Albert Finney. Those who love the theatre will delight in his recollections of the Straw Hat Players in Ontario or the trials and tribulations of an artistic director of repertory theatre in Dundee, Scotland, or his valiant attempt to create a theatre in Quebec devoted to the Canadian repertoire. Those who love history will relive with Davis those “golden years” of Canadian radio drama and theatre, not to mention enjoying an inside look at the National Theatre School of Canada where he directed the English Acting Program in the ’60s. Those who love a bit of scandalous gossip will not be disappointed. Written in an easy conversational style, this memoir truly is “The Musings of the Cigarette Smoking Man” – as William B. Davis reflects on his loves, his losses, his hopes, his fears, and his accomplishments in this unique and engaging autobiography.
If you’re like me, you probably know the name William B. Davis from his work on The X-Files as the Cigarette Smoking Man.
But if you’ve ever wondered about the life and career of Davis before he found mainstream recognition as one of the best villains in television history, you will definitely want to pick up Davis’ autobiography, Where There’s Smoke…
Written in a conversational style, Davis engages the reader with stories of his youth and his young acting career in Canada. Davis chronicles his early work in radio, theater and television in Canada, allowing us to see how he grew as an actor and a person. Davis even allows us a bit of insight into his own mind, giving these memoirs the feel of a personal conversation with Davis.
Of course, X-Files fans will want to know if there are any insights into the hit series. Davis covers his work on the show, but if you’re looking for a kiss and tell book along the lines of those published by most of the original Star Trek cast, you may be disappointed. However, there are still a few nuggets that will interest fans of the influential series. (For example, Davis admits he never quite understood the phenomenal success of the show).
The conversational style of the book makes for a comfortable reading experience. At times you’ll feel less like you’re reading a book as much as you’re sitting down and having a drink with one of the most familiar genre actors of the last two decades.
Pleasant tell-all memoir by William B. Davis, the Canadian stage actor who became famous in middle-age as The X-Files' Cigarette-Smoking Man. Davis is a charming raconteur, recounting anecdotes of his life growing up in Toronto, his early life navigating Canada's burgeoning theater world and his detours to London's National Theatre, teaching acting in Vancouver and stardom there and Hollywood. Readers with a bent for theater history will get the most out of this book: Davis focuses on his experiences staging classics and modern works alike, the thrill of acting in the age of John Osborne and Tennessee Williams, the experience connecting and sometimes working with Canadian and British stars, from Donald Sutherland to Maggie Smith. He's candid about a tumultuous personal life (he was a ladies' man, a less-than-ideal husband and an actor who struggled with ego in his youth) and his professional struggles. The chapters on The X-Files are shorter but certainly entertaining: Davis explores tensions with Chris Carter and his co-stars, his bafflement at Cancer Man's character arc and problems acting on a show that espoused a worldview antipathetic to his own (his innate skepticism became heightened, not lessened by exposure to the show's fanbase). Whatever else may be said of Davis, he is very candid, engaging and self-reflective, which is all you can ask from a celebrity memoirist.
The Cigarette Smoking Man was one of the most iconic villains of my childhood. I grew up watching "The X-Files" from the pilot onward (I was nine at the time), and though I dropped out from season 8 to right before the series finale in season 9, it still remains one of my go-to comfort shows whenever I get sick or feel down. When I lived in Japan and got sick I'd watched it dubbed in Japanese on TV there. CSM always fascinated me, because he seemed to have so many conflicting stories about him, about his life, as if he were his own mytharc and not just apart of the larger government scheme.
So when I learned the actor was releasing an autobiography about his time on the show and the rest of his life, I was really excited. And I wasn't let down. "Where There's Smoke" offers interesting insight into the evolution of Canada's radio, film, and theatre industries from the latter half of the last century onward (something I know next to nothing about), as well talks about today's television boom within Vancouver and his other endeavors within the industry. That, and we finally get to see what goes on inside of CSM's head as a character. Yay!
I really enjoyed it and I feel like I learned a lot. For example, I didn't know that acting schools in Canada had subsidies from the government. I'm pretty sure that's not the same in the States. It was almost like reading fiction when reading the parts of his childhood acting, getting involved with British theatre companies and the decline of radio. It was very absorbing, and Davis definitely has a rather compelling voice as a writer that's definitely his own. It's almost as if, in parts, when talking about his own experiences he wasn't using first person POV, but almost as if it were third close instead. And he used first person the entire time in the actual form on prose. It was a very surreal experience, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I didn't know how interconnected all of these different industries were, and I feel like I definitely got schooled (in a good way) there. I also mourned with him how things changed as the years passed in terms of media - video killing the radio star, and all of that. We're evolving so quickly with our technology, and that made me wonder (and not for the first time) if this is truly the best thing for our species.
The X-Files insider information was especially of interest to me, and I definitely devoured the rest of it up. Before I knew it, the book was over, and I genuinely felt grief over the fact that the show is done and over with and now, nearly ten years past its finale along with Davis. There seemed like there was so much more that was going on within the making of the show that he decided not to talk about, and though I don't know whether that's true or not, it sounds like things weren't all sunshine and aliens behind the scenes. And for that, I'm sorry. Not that I expected it to be, but I genuinely laughed and agreed when he called acting "waiting" instead. Because yeah, that's what actors do - they do a lot of waiting until they can actually perform their craft. At least, if they're doing episodic television.
I'd love it if Davis were to write more books, because I feel like he'd have a pretty awesome fictional voice if he were to try out fiction. He is an actor, after all. He knows how to slip on a skin written for him. I'd like him to write one of those skins instead. Overall, if you're a fan of the industry, or you just like CSM, definitely give "Where There's Smoke" a try. Definitely one of the better non-fiction books of 2011.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)
This is a fantastic book and a great read. Mr. Davis has had an interesting time as an actor. There are a few insights into the X-Files, but everything leading up to that is far more engrossing. I just interviewed Bill about this book and he is just as fun in person as he is on the page. I highly recommend this book.
William B. Davis’s memoir reminds me a lot of the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. The book chronicles his life as he navigates the Canadian, British, and American drama industry. Spending much of his time as a director of theater and teacher of acting, he eventually finds fame performing a television character that, for the most part, had no creative direction. It just happened. Anyone expecting a long X-Files expose’ will be disappointed. The X-Files takes up the last fifth of the book. However, the guy started the show in his fifties. To expect him to abridge most of his life to satisfy the fanbase is unreasonable. He accomplished a lot and rose to the challenges he was presented even when those challenges failed of their own accord and, like most of us, some of his early dreams and ambitions fell by the wayside. However, I must admit that The X-Files portion of the book was the most interesting but not because of nifty insider information, though there is that. Talking about the show gave him a platform to discuss is skeptical outlook, his strong ideas about acting and the actor, and the nature of fleeting celebrity. That was the best stuff.
I met Mr. Davis at a book event in Vancouver in 2015. I really enjoyed this book and learning about his life growing up in Toronto and working alongside fellow Canadian Donald Sutherland. He lived in the UK for several years and eventually ended up in Vancouver where he has a school, and has acted in several productions, including The X-Files. I've met him several times and he is always a pleasure to interact with.
WHERE THERE’S SMOKE…Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man was an interesting read. When I first received the book, I thought it was going to be about his time on the X-files. Being a fan of the show, this was why I wanted to read it. I was however pleasantly surprised that it was more than just that. It was about life and times of being an actor, the gossip, the hardships. He holds nothing back. This was my first autobiography and one that has drawn me into reading more.
Reviewed by: KellyR
Received from the publisher for an honest review by MY BOOK ADDICTION AND MORE
Canadian politeness does NOT mean not saying exactly what you think. A tour of the history of Canadian theater and then a cutting view behind the scenes of The X-Files. Endlessly entertaining and fascinating.