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Seattle Times: Man behind The X-Files exhibits same stoic calm as his characters

Seattle Times
Man behind The X-Files exhibits same stoic calm as his characters
Keith Simanton

In The X-Files movie, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully get attacked by bees, bad guys and some serious bio-hazards, but their voices rarely rise above the pitch of faraway freeway traffic. They must get it from their boss, creator and principal writer of The X-Files, Chris Carter.

On the phone, Carter sounds as implacable as his stoic main characters. That’s quite a feat, as The X-Files movie was a gamble in many respects, and as dicey a deal as the television show ever was. (It’s made a respectable $55 million to date.)

The film takes off from the fifth season’s finale and incorporates characters and mythology scrupulously developed by the show. The X-Files also aims to be a solo event that doesn’t rely on past knowledge or the total support of the show’s 20 million fans.

Yet Carter is too busy to sit back and count box-office returns. The X-Files series has already finished the third show of its sixth season. Carter spent five years in Vancouver, B.C., where the show’s first five seasons were shot, but complains he never had a weekend to go skiing at Whistler.

Part of his packed schedule, no doubt, is compounded by the show’s move from B.C. to L.A. The move was precipitated by David Duchovny, who stars as Fox Mulder, marrying L.A.-based actress Tea Leoni. But the relocation had been discussed by others long before the Duchovny nuptials.

And where, now, is he going to find locations for the show’s frequently used big, spooky, foggy forests?

Well, we’ve told a lot of forest stories, and now I suspect we’ll begin telling desert stories, he says with a laugh. Then he quickly turns serious. There was a lot of terrain we couldn’t cover in Vancouver. But the show was never really meant to be located there, and, as Duchovny had frequently put it, and Carter agreed, it was a three-week shoot that turned into five years.

His other show, Millennium, will remain in B.C. For The X-Files, however, he says he’ll miss the way Vancouver embraced the show and allowed more license than other productions would enjoy. How people would embrace the movie is still preeminent in his mind, however. The film answered a lot of questions, but not the ones that people most want to know. A few scenes about Mulder’s abducted sister were cut from the movie.

Carter promises that the information is in the novel and will be included in the DVD release of the film (he is nothing if not a shrewd marketer).

He’s also an entertaining writer, balancing a sarcastic sense of humor with a true ability to unnerve and scare. He suffused the show and the film with a symmetry, but he’s a tad unnerved, as he’s not sure people are noticing his efforts. At the beginning of the movie there’s a boy who falls down a hole, at the end there’s a man who falls down a hole and there are other things that aren’t getting much comment, he says. Sometimes his subtleties even escape the actors. When Gillian Anderson was told by Entertainment Weekly that the Blythe Danner character in the film is a representative of what Scully would have become if she hadn’t been assigned to the X-files, Anderson wanted to go back and reread the script.

While there may be a hint of letdown in Carter’s voice that some of his nuances were being missed, but he is still sanguine about the whole thing.

After all, The X-Files had half its roots in the sometimes frightening, sometimes hokey Darren McGavin TV show The Night Stalker, and it has ballooned into a multimillion-dollar industry with obsessed fans and worldwide attention.

Carter is riding high on that crest, and with the The X-Files a sizable hit, it doesn’t look as though he’ll manage time to finally hit those slopes.

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