X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

Details Magazine

Details Magazine

I’m warned about Chris Carter by Duchovny, who knows a lot about misleading exteriors. Inside Carter’s office on the Fox lot, not far away from the [movie] set, the creator of The X-Files seems calmly immune to the rigors of filmmaking. He is a handsome man, graying and shaggy-haired, sitting in an elegantly appointed, shuttered office, bowls of candy and fruit on various dark wood desks, a turquoise surfboard in a corner, an episode mapped out in index cards on a bulletin board. It could be the office of any other successful executive, except for a copy of The Big Book of Death, a volume of fun facts about death, murder, and suicide.

Everything about the forty-one-year-old Carter’s manner and appearance is smooth and fluid, and he takes a patient, fatherly view of the on-set tensions. He cautions me, for instance, not to believe the stars’ threats to leave the show. “We’re all tired,” he says. “And the tiredness sometimes leaks into our feelings about the future.”

Carter’s in charge of the full X-Files franchise, series and film, as well as Millennium, yet he seems like the only reasonable man on the lot. “But don’t be fooled,” Duchovny advises me. “He’s an anxious dude, and he’s intensely driven. He’s definitely the hardest-working man in show business I’ve ever met. That comes from intensely personal reasons that aren’t important, aren’t savory, for him to publicize.”

During the show’s growth and comprehensive scrutiny by fans, the three principals — Carter, Duchovny, and Anderson — have remained as elusive and mysterious as the figures they’ve created, their personal secrets guarded more closely than nay red-paper script. Until now, Carter has given only a sketch of himself: He grew up in a suburb of L.A., majored in journalism at Cal State Long beach, toiled at Surfing magazine, then wrote TV and film scripts with enough success to merit a deal at the needy new Fox network. Carter has always attributed the paranoia evident in The X-Files to historical events — specifically the Watergate scandal, which broke when he was in high school and cautioned him not to trust the government. “Trusting people, generally, is bad,” he says with a slight smile.

But his distrust, I learn, isn’t solely the product of Richard Nixon’s scheming. Carter reveals that he is the child of alcoholic parents. “My dad was very, very strict, a construction worker, and an extremely hard worker,” he explains. “He tore up streets, and the job always came first. If it was raining, he’d get up in the middle of the night and go make sure the flooding wasn’t filling up ditches.

“My parents were a united front, and never broke rank with one another. If my father said one thing, my mother had to agree with him. I couldn’t trust my mother — if I told her something about a girlfriend, she would blab it. When you can’t trust the person you by nature want to trust the most, it’s a very dangerous situation. So it became a challenge for my brother and me to figure out how to comport ourselves. Later, it got much worse; my parents became alcoholics. Our household sort of disintegrated, and it became a crazy version of that unified front, so my brother and I lived through the less rational years, and found a way to survive in that environment.”

Given Carter’s revelation, it’s understandable that Mulder’s monomania is motivated by a hunger to discover who killed his father and whether or not his sister was abducted by aliens — to reclaim the family that was taken from him. Duchovny also grew up in a broken family; his parents split when he was eleven. On The X-Files. every human connection is tenuous and shifting, with an uneasy alliance of mistrust. “David and I share a fear of betrayal,” Carter observes. “It comes from the same roots. His was a father who’d left the family, mine was two parents whose availability was affected by their alcoholism.”

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