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Archive for June, 1998

L.A. Weekly: The Truth Is Out There At a Theater Near You

L.A. Weekly
The Truth Is Out There At a Theater Near You
Manohla Dargis

There’s a scene in the big-screen version of the television show The X-Files when Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), the good-looking FBI agent with a permanent case of the heebie-jeebies, steps into a back alley, unzips and pisses on a peeling, crusted poster for Independence Day. Independence Day earned a lot of money for Fox, the same studio that produced The X-Files, but its creative team of producer Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich made their next movie with Sony (a little something called Godzilla), which helps to explain Mulder’s target. He – and the movie’s makers – needn’t have bothered.

The X-Files is better than Independence Day – better acted, directed, written. It’s even better looking. No surprise there: The X-Files has always been better than Independence Day. Except that now The X-Files is motion-picture big, with looming long shots, ear-ringing sound and a bombastic (a mistake, I think) score. The weird thing is, it’s still a TV show, and plays much like the repeat episode that aired last Sunday night. “Horrible killings lead Mulder to evidence of extraterrestrial life,” is how the newspaper guide described that particular episode. It might as well have been describing every third show broadcast over the last five years, or, for that matter, the movie itself.

In the film, as on television, FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are again ensnared in a complex plot involving aliens, U.S. government agencies and a cabal of sinister-looking white men called the Syndicate, Bohemian Club types who like to hang out in underlit rooms and speak in clipped, cryptic sentences. Among the familiar characters who contrive around them are Cancer Man (the wonderful William B. Davis, here credited genteelly as the Cigarette-Smoking Man), the Well-Manicured Man (John Neville), Skinner (the underused Mitch Pileggi), as well as the three conspiracy geeks who essentially function as Mulder’s own personal groupies (Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood). Rounding out the cast are solid character actors such as Martin Landau, Terry Quinn and, too briefly, Glenne Headly.

Written by series creator Chris Carter and directed by series regular Rob Bowman, the movie includes faces and story lines familiar from the program, along with some of the sniggering gore that helps keep the show safe from the Masterpiece Theater crowd. The production design is more ambitious than it is on television, though at times it feels as if the filmmakers were trying too hard to load the movie with epic grandeur. Duchovny easily holds the screen, just as he did in The Rapture and his handful of other features.

Anderson, whose extraordinary face can seem lit from within, here seems vaguely uneasy in some of her scenes, although that may be because the costume designer has tailored her clothes too tight, and in one ridiculous instance put the actress in heels better suited for a fetish ball than an FBI hearing.

Writing for The New York Times Magazine, the Times book-review editor Charles McGrath recently ventured that the popularity of The X-Files could be chalked up to a “nostalgia – for a time (which may never have existed, really) when a belief in global conspiracy held out the promise of a universe that could be comprehended.” I’m not sure under which dust jacket McGrath has been hibernating, but it does seem a little strange that anyone, even an editor at the paper of ostensible record, could assert, in the age of Waco, Timothy McVeigh, Vince Foster, Iran-contra, the Gulf War, the president named Bill Clinton, the conglomerate known as Time-Warner and the battlefield once known as Yugoslavia, that a belief in global conspiracy could in any respect be considered nostalgic.

Paranoia is as American as apple pie, baseball and assault rifles. In an essay first delivered at Oxford in November 1963 and pointedly titled “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” historian Richard Hofstadter wrote that American political life has repeatedly served as “an arena for uncommonly angry minds . . . I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the qualities of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.” You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better explanation than this for Reagan’s reign, the main of Oliver Stone’s oeuvre, any number of covers for The Nation, or, indeed, the mind of Fox Mulder, a paranoiac whose personal trauma (his kid sister was, so it seems, snatched by aliens) has set him on a righteous crusade in which, he believes, the lives of millions are at stake.

It’s the brilliance of The X-Files to have turned Mulder’s paranoid style into a function of cool. Mulder and Scully aren’t just beautiful, smart, well-armed and seemingly impervious to the banalities of everyday life, such as cheap haircuts and ruinous love affairs – they’re cool. Special agents in dark, sweeping coats, they are at once privy to some of the world’s most arcane secrets and – this is crucial – completely powerless to do anything about them. The show’s signature, at times near-affectless performance style is intrinsic to its creepy, droning atmosphere. It’s also crucial to the sense that, in the end (to quote yet another TV series), resistance is futile.

McGrath calls Mulder a zombie, but that’s a mistake. If anything, he’s the modern reincarnation of the postwar lonely man, an alienated company man who clocks in for an organization he can neither quit nor believe in. Scully, in turn, as with so many countless single women, buries herself in work and may or may not be in love with the wrong man (in another life, she’d be a nun). They’re solitary searchers whose deepest emotional connections are with each other, their co-workers, which makes them two of the more realistic characters inhabiting prime time.

The low-frequency hum that passes for emotion on The X-Files may seem almost Bressonian when compared to the overheated style of most TV acting, but over the years Mulder and Scully have found plenty of cause to tear away their masks. It’s noteworthy that Mulder, who lost his father, and Scully, whose sister was killed and who herself was stricken by a mysterious cancer, are the show’s most important casualties. That the two often operate at an emotionally low register indicates their professionalism (big agents don’t cry), but, critically, their blankness also serves as a reminder that Mulder and Scully are more spectators to the surrounding madness than active participants. Which, more than anything else, explains their appeal to the some 20 million Americans who every week hitch a ride on their tribulations.

Unlike The Twilight Zone, the show to which it is most often compared, The X-Files conveys no great moral urgency; nothing ever seems really at stake – the environment, civil liberties, nuclear proliferation, freedom. You never get a sense that Chris Carter or any of the other writers are particularly passionate about anything outside of goosing the audience and telling a ripping great story. That disinterestedness might serve as a warning sign for a deeply imbedded political conservatism, but The X-Files, with its confusion of right, left and crackpot-think, is beyond ideology. (Often it’s often beyond sense.) In the end, the most radical thing about the show is its refusal to adhere to the inherent precepts in mass culture that everything be understandable and remediable: stasis, crisis, group hug.

Week after week, nothing is understandable on The X-Files and nothing is remediable – at times, one senses, even to the program’s writers. This, as well as the show’s rejection of easy solutions, allows The X-Files to push into the marvelous, the grotesque and, on occasion, the sublime. An episode starring Peter Boyle counts as some of the best television I’ve ever seen; the episode with the three inbred brothers ranks among the best E.C. Comics ever written. It’s that not knowing, far more than the show’s apparent gift for surfing the edge of our collective consciousness, that seizes the imagination. For all their focus on the machinations of power, the creators of The X-Files aren’t all that interested in global conspiracies or nostalgia for the same. They just want our attention.

Mania Magazine: X-Files Director Rob Bowman Talks with Mania

Mania Magazine
X-Files Director Rob Bowman Talks with Mania
Valarie Thorpe

It almost sounds like a cruel joke.

Take one of the most successful television series currently on air, that the faithful have tuned in, turned on and deconstructed every bit of its five-year way, and now successfully move it to the big screen — movies, theater takes, box office draws, film festivals, Oscars…

No pressure.

Your past resume?

Directed a bunch of Star Trek:TNG and the 1993 movie Airborne, its greatest claim to fame being that it starred Buffy’s Seth Green. Oh yeah, and 25 episodes of the aforementioned TV series, The X-Files.

Rob Bowman is the recipient of what may turn out to be either the greatest chance or greatest disaster of his career.

The X-Files movie would seem to be poised perfectly for a box office blockbuster. The much-maligned secrecy surrounding Godzilla has taken the heat off The X-Files’ cloak and dagger act. They are releasing to an audience clamoring for a blockbuster that Godzilla didn’t deliver; moviegoers now appear ready and willing to hit the theaters.

So far, unbelievably, Deep Impact has pulled in as the summer sleeper hit, and it came out in the Spring. This may have Armageddon makers worried, but shouldn’t have any impact on the X-Files audience. No, the plain, simple, perhaps very frightening truth is: this movie will make it or not on its merits – and Rob Bowman wouldn’t want it any other way.

Looking extremely relaxed for a man who still has final edits to make, Bowman finishes up a quick snack backstage at the X-Files Expo in Washington DC, the only stop on the tour he’ll have a chance to attend.

“We still have to finish things up,” Bowman said. “I’ll probably be running from theater to theater getting the final cut, still wet, to them,” he said with the hearty laugh of a man who is very secure in what he’s about to deliver to X-philes everywhere. “We’re in the final stages of dubbing music, but it is definitely a wet print situation.”

Mania: When did you get started with the X-Files?

Rob Bowman: “I directed one episode in the first season, “Gender Bender.” I became interested when I saw a promo for the pilot and I’ve always been interested in the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe and stuff, so I called my agent and asked him to set up a meeting.”

How does the series compare with feature film work?

“Most TV series don’t have the freedom we have because of restrictions of time and money. The recent episode written by William Gibson, “Killswitch” took 22 days to shoot. But having those freedoms isn’t going to make you a good director. A lot of directors that have tried to shoot an X-Files episode run into trouble when they believe that access to a lot of stuff is going to shoot the episode for them.

They’ll say, “What if I have a crane?” Well, you always have a crane. “What about 300 extras?” Sure. “Ok, then how about 600 extras?”

Then it becomes about what they can use and they don’t know what to do with it. You have to have the vision first, the stuff comes second.

Only a few of us that have come to the party have hung around. Glad that I fell in step with it.

Airborne was my first major studio work. It was absolutely helpful when I approached the way we shoot X-Files episodes because we take a feature mentality to the series.”

What are your thoughts concerning the move to L.A.?

“The atmospheric qualities are different. The moods will become more manufactured than just a given. We’ll probably be doing a lot more interior shots. We just need great location managers who can find places with no palm trees,” he said with a laugh. “Another problem will be the time spent travelling. We’ll definitely be spending more time going from location to location. In Vancouver, we could go from forest to farmland in 30 minutes. We’ll probably be using the desert a lot more.”

How much of a difference will audiences see in the movie compared to the TV series?

“Not a lot of difference. Larger of course. We aimed quite high in some sequences. It’s been extremely challenging. The question we put to ourselves was, do you make it different or do you make it more? Audiences become comfortable with certain aspects and you don’t want to rip all that out from under them. Like the legends that tell the location, we could do them as big fancy LED readouts or somesuch, but in the end we decided to keep it the same plain way we do it on the series. Let’s not take away that which they’re familiar. They’ll cheer when they see it. Of course some things are on a much grander scale. We throw a heck of a lot more rocks at Mulder and Scully.”

We answer some long standing questions and of course we pose new questions.

Why no Krycek?

“I wasn’t really involved in the casting, but if you guys go to see the first movie and make it successful, I’ll guarantee Krycek will be in the next movie.”

Bowman has nothing but praise for everyone that worked on the project and gets as excited as a, well, as an X-fan, when he talks about making the movie. So did everything go exactly the way he wanted? Possibly not.

Reportedly audiences don’t see too much of the aliens in the feature film. When asked if this was on purpose, Bowman told Variety in a recent interview that was definitely not the plan.

“Number 1, I didn’t have an alien that was a groundbreaker,” Bowman says. “Number 2, it’s not as scary if you see it. And number 3, it was a guy in a rubber suit, and it looks like a guy wearing a rubber suit.”

Bowman told Variety there were folds at the arms of the costume and the seat of its pants sagged. He also said the feet were “stupid-looking”, so he made him wear tennis shoes. The designers also added reptile skin and claws. But Bowman said since the fingers were extensions, the alien’s fingers wiggled when he waved his hand.

Despite the problems, the director said all of this contributed to the film’s unique visual style: “I was as non-literal and sketchy and evasive with the alien as I could be.”

This all sounds a little ominous, but in the tradition of The X-Files television series, maybe we should just know the truth is out there, but never really get to see it.

TV Guide Online: Online Chat with Mark Snow

TV Guide Online
Online Chat with Mark Snow

TVGEN: Welcome to the TVGEN/Yahoo! Chat Auditorium. Our guest tonight is Mark Snow, composer of the X-Files and Millennium soundtracks. He also is the composer for the X-Files: Fight the Future soundtrack. Welcome Mark. We are very happy you could join us tonight.

Mark Snow: I’m very happy to be here and very excited about the upcoming release of the X-Files movie. And fire away!

Elderess27: Is the truth out there?

Snow: The truth is in the music and it IS out there!

Ctsufer31: Are you planning on releasing more music for the X-Files as well as music for Millennium?

Snow: It’s more likely that Millennium music will be out before new X-Files music.

Figr_Sk8r: I have been involved in orchestra music all my life. What kind of chance do I have in something like that?

Snow: Snow: It helps to be in Los Angeles and it helps to have some contacts in the business. If you don’t and still have strong feelings about it, you need a lot of guts and perseverance and you’ll find your way.

Jacie5andRock: How did you start composing for the X-Files? Were you asked?

Snow: I was one of 10 people up for this job. Chris Carter came to my studio, heard my music and left without giving me any indication what he thought. Then two weeks later I got a call saying I got the job. Which at the time was just another TV pilot. Little did we know it was going to be the smash cult hit that it is. It also helped that I was on the West side of L.A. because Chris didn’t want to travel across the Valley.

Summerof78: Hello Mark. I have the X-Files movie soundtrack and love it. What kind of differences will the movie soundtrack have and where do you get your ideas?

Snow: Assuming you’re talking about the TV show, the differences between the two are: The film score uses an 85-piece orchestra as well as electronic sounds, while the TV show is just the electronic stuff. That’s the big difference.

John_po: Have you been inspired by Brian Eno’s ambient work?

Snow: Yeah. The answer is yes. The minimal quality of that stuff has really inspired me, especially for season one and two for the X-Files.

Julie_silver: How hard is it to compose for La Femme Nikita?

Snow: I only wrote the theme and not the underscore, so it’s pretty easy.

Elderess27: Was it great working with an orchestra for the X-Files movie?

Snow: It was. I hadn’t done it in a long time, and in L.A. the musicians are so great that it was a thrill, and none of the X-Files producers or directors had ever seen me do that so it was an extra special kick for all of us.

Ctsufer31: Are you planning on doing the music for any other TV shows or movies?

Snow: Yes. Right now I’m doing the score for a movie called Disturbing Behavior from MGM which will be released around Aug. 7. It’s like a teenage movie with all unknowns but it’s very, very good.

Kristina_aus: What other TV shows have you composed music for?

Snow: As weird as this may seem, I did the music for Hart to Hart and bunch of TV movies and miniseries.

Agent_Y_98: Was “Blackwood” ever intended to be the real movie title?

Snow: No. That was a disguised name to keep the X-Files movie anonymous. When they sent tapes of the film to my house, it was always titled “Blackwood” in case some burglar stole them and told everyone what the movie was about. Blackwood was in the movie and if you pay attention, you’ll see Blackwood in the movie.

Adidaspigtails: Who is your favorite character on X-Files?

Snow: I really love Scully, because it’s been a thrill to see her grow and change from a little girl at the beginning of the first season to a very sophisticated, strong woman. And also Skinner, because he’s balder than me and all the women think he’s great.

Kristina_aus: How long does it take to complete the music to accompany an X-Files episode?

Snow: It takes anywhere from three to five days. Not a very fancy answer, but there it is.

Elderess27: I bet doing music for the X-Files, Millennium, and the X-Files movie really keeps you busy. How do you find time for it all?

Snow: In order for me to do all of that I have to be extremely disciplined and know that there is a certain amount of music I have to write to make these deadlines. If I get off schedule, it is real mayhem. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it helps having all this experience and working for all the same people, Chris Carter’s 10-13 Productions.

Ctsufer31: Why did you use Latin names for the music on the X-Files TV soundtrack?

Snow: The producer of that was my friend Jeff Charbonneau, who was also the music editor of the TV show. It was his idea to title the pieces in Latin just to be clever and more mysterious. I don’t know what any of these things mean, but as long as you like the music, that’s all that counts.

Adidaspigtails: What has been the favorite episode that you composed music for?

Snow: Well, seeing that there are over 120 episodes, it’s hard to pick out just one. But the show “Humbug”, as well as “Clyde Bruckman” and “Jose Chung”.

Elderess27: Are there certain restrictions made on your music by Chris Carter?

Snow: Not at all. If he has any comments at all it is usually “Let’s add some more music” or “Let’s add a ‘sting’ here.”

TVGEN: What is a “sting”?

Snow: It’s a musical accent when a startling thing happens. When something pops out of a closet or a frightening beat. Like the Psycho shower scene, the funny music is many stings.

Kristina_aus: Are you going to release another CD like The Truth and the Light?

Snow: There are no plans for any other X-Files music at the moment because the movie soundtrack is out, but maybe in a year or two or if this movie is a big hit, then the music for the sequel.

Kristina_aus: Chris Carter and Darin Morgan have guest starred in the X-Files. Will you also get a cameo appearance?

Snow: I hope so, now that the show has moved from Vancouver to L.A. I’d like to play a quiet psychopath.

Adidaspigtails: What do you consider to be the best piece you’ve written?

Snow: Well, the scene to the miniseries The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, as well as the X-Files episodes “Conduit” and “Redux 2” of year five.

DarkeningSoul: The Millennium score is so alluring and very different from the X-Files. Where did you get your inspiration?

Snow: That’s a good question. Chris sent over a Celtic band, and there was a violin in there and it was sort of a sad, melancholy sound that I thought would be really cool for Millennium. I wanted there to be hope for the future and horror and the violin is hopefully more of a sound of hope.

Jacie5andRock: What do you mean exactly by the title of “Stung Kissing”?

Snow: You’ll have to see the movie. It’s very obvious if you see the movie. It’s probably the most exciting moment in the whole movie. I can’t give it away.

Elderess27: Do you have any composers that inspire you?

Snow: Yes. The film composers that inspire me are Jerry Goldsmith, Thomas Newman, Ennio Morricone and John Barry. And Bernard Herrmann.

SRT3: If you had a chance, would you like to spend a weekend in the future or the past?

Snow: In the past. In Vermont, skiing all by myself and it was one of those magic moments when the sun was going down and I thought I could stay there forever.

Jacie5andRock: Did you have fun conducting a very large orchestra?

Snow: Yes, it’s a thrill standing up in front of a large orchestra and hearing that great big sound. Because the TV show is done at my home studio and being let out of my room to conduct a big orchestra was a big thrill.

Gidget88: At the San Francisco Expo, you mentioned having an Internet poll to pick X-Files viewers’ favorite musical selections from the movie, then releasing it as a CD. Are you still thinking about that?

Snow: Actually, it was from the TV show. It would be great to get a response of people’s favorite pieces. Then I’d know I would be satisfying most of the fans. It would be real fun to know what everyone really loved.

Elderess27: Did you get to attend the X-Files movie premiere, and if so, what was your reaction to it?

Snow: I did attend and it was fantastic fun for me because I had never been to a big Hollywood premiere before. It was especially fun because I was interviewed in front of a lot of reporters and a whole bunch of fans saw me and screamed out my name and for about five seconds I felt like one of the actors. But I will take being a composer any day over being an actor.

TVGEN: Did you go to the premiere party following the screening?

Snow: Yes, I went and found my way over to the online chat area, which was unfortunately directly under the speakers of the DJ so we couldn’t hear ourselves think, it was so loud. But we managed to answer some questions despite the noise and it worked. If you like really loud dance music, that would have been the place for you. Actually, the Dust Brothers version of the theme was playing there, which is a remix dance version. That was cool.

Bonbonh: Are you any relation to the Grand Ole Opry star Hank Snow?

Snow: I’m not, but I’m not ashamed to think that I love the lyrics in most country songs.

Christo_43: Do you get angry when stock music libraries emulate your themes?

Snow: No, I think it’s kind of fun, actually. There have been many, many versions of the theme, from solo piano to hip hop and dance, and on and on. It’s always fun to see what people come up with.

CrayKlaw: What do you think of Angelo Badalamenti’s scoring for various David Lynch projects?

Snow: That’s a good question. I really loved his music. It’s very soulful and moody and simple. It really speaks to me and to a lot of people as well.

CekChik_pinky_: When cutting the soundtrack for the show, do you have the scenes to look at, and do you custom fit the music to the scene?

Snow: I get a videotape of the final cut picture and work very closely with that until I get my finished product.

TeChnOdANcEr25F: I watched the special on Fox last night, and was impressed by the artists performing on the album. How do you feel about being among the “best” of the best?

Snow: It’s very flattering and very much fun and right now I’m working with my personal trainer to look more and more like David Bowie every day. Once I have achieved that, I’m ready to go on tour. With the X-Files players.

PFrancoise: How old were you when you realized you had this talent and how did you recognize it?

Snow: I was 28. I looked in the mirror and said, “Damn, I got talent!” No, that’s a smart a$$ answer. I really loved music from an early age and my father was a musician, so it was in the genes. (My father was a drummer.)

Radiodazed: What was working with the Foo Fighters like?

Snow: I never really got to meet them, but I really loved their music so much and especially Monkey Wrench.

PFrancoise: Since music is your “work”, what do you do to relax?

Snow: I do a lot of bike riding and drinking a lot of great wine helps to relax me (as well as an occasional spanking… just kidding).

Guvie: Is your X-Files music published so we can buy the sheet music??

Snow: You can by the X-Files theme and Millennium theme sheet music from any record store.

Guinvere: Mark, do you have any hope of doing the music for the Psycho remake being done by Gus Van Sant?

Snow: That would be a thrill, but I have a feeling they have hired a composer already, although I’m not sure. It’s probably Danny Elfman.

CrayKlaw: When will the Millennium soundtrack be released? Any time soon?

Snow: Hopefully, after the first of 1999.

Adidaspigtails: What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

Snow: When I was in Italy, in Capri, I bought a brand new pair of white linen Giorgio Armani pants, went to a gelato stand and dumped a whole scoop of black chocolate gelato all over myself and had to walk through the streets back to my hotel with people pointing and laughing. It was fun after a while. Then there was the time I set myself on fire and died. Then I recovered the next day.

Starlight1st: Do you consider yourself as famous??

Snow: Maybe in a very quiet way, which is I think the best type of fame, where you can go to the store and not be recognized. I love being anonymous.

TVGEN: Thanks for joining us tonight, Mark. We hope you can come back again soon.

Snow: Some last minute advice: Don’t be afraid of eating a lot of eggs, and flossing is very important!

Source: TV Guide Online, 16 June 1998

Express: Chris Carter comes clean

Chris Carter comes clean
Louis B. Hobson

The truth about the X-Files

HOLLYWOOD — There are a few truths Chris Carter is willing to share about The X-Files, the phenomenon he created five years ago.

The series, in which special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate mysterious occurrences, has spawned The X-Files movie that opens Friday.

“Fox and Dana, as played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, are the reason the show is so popular. They are the ones who make the stories connect with the audiences,” insists Carter.

“At the original auditions, I saw dozens of people but the moment David and Gillian walked in the room, I knew I’d found my Mulder and Scully. It was as if the skins I’d created fit these two people like gloves.”

Much has been written these past two years about the strained relationship on the set between Duchovny and Anderson.

“When you work together, day after day, month after month as David and Gillian do, you form a relationship that is not unlike a marriage.

“It’s a relationship that’s bound to have its stresses and strains and it’s understandably complicated. What’s important is that this particular relationship has passed the test of time.”

Carter hopes that moving The X-Files production base from Vancouver to Los Angeles will help ease whatever tensions were there.

Duchovny has been insisting on the move for three years and announced that if the show stayed in Vancouver, he would terminate his contract.

“I think the move will rejuvenate all of us. It may even feel like a new experience.”

Carter says that there are still no scripts for the coming season. Once The X-Files movie opens, he will begin working on them with his writers. At the close of last year’s season, the X-files branch was torched and Mulder and Scully’s official fates are left up in the air.

What happens in the film may change all that.

“Scully has all along refused to even consider the possibility of alien life forms. I think it’s safe to say that after what happens in the movie, she will begin to believe there is some truth to Mulder’s obsession.”

Carter says this next season may return a little to its monster-movie roots of the earlier seasons.

“When I was a 13-year-old boy growing up, The Night Stalker was my favorite TV show. I always wanted to make The X-Files as scary as The Night Stalker was for me.”

Carter has invited Darren McGaven, the star of The Night Stalker, to appear in four episodes of next season’s The X-Files.

As far as The X-Files movie is concerned, Carter says his conscious influences were “Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock. These are three filmmakers who’ve had the greatest effect on me. There are definite homages to each of them in the movie.”

Carter promises that fans of the series will “learn a little more about what happened to Mulder’s sister (who was abducted by aliens) but not everything.

“We need to keep people guessing into our seventh season as well.”

Fans already know that the storytelling in The X-Files is purposely obtuse and Cater hopes that general audiences will enjoy this approach.

“We only give away fragments. The viewer has to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

“When it comes to The X-Files, you can’t be a passive viewer.

“That was our one worry about releasing The X-Files as a summer movie. This is the time of year when movies traditionally ask the viewer to be inactive, but not us.”

Entertainment Weekly: Playing with Fire

Entertainment Weekly
Playing with Fire
Ken Tucker

[Original article here — Published in issue #436 Jun 12, 1998]

Now that The X-Files is a major motion picture, will questions about the cover-ups, conspiracies, and Cancer Man finally be answered? Will Mulder and Scully finally kiss? And will anyone besides the show’s viewers care? The truth is in here.

It’s the last week of shooting the X-Files: Fight The Future, and the soundstage stinks.

It absolutely reeks, right around the chair of Rob Bowman, director of the $60 million-plus feature film based on the Fox TV series. Bowman, 38, who has also directed 25 episodes of the most popular alien-abduction/government-conspiracy/ delayed-sexual-gratification drama in TV history, is battling a bad combination of exhaustion and the flu. He’s wheezing, hacking, and coughing so much, his phlegm could be used to construct a classically disgusting new X-Files enemy for FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Having gone the usual orange-juice-and-echinacea route for the past few days, Bowman has now asked an assistant to bring him some sort of health-foody, homeopathic medicine; when he snaps open a capsule of a vile liquid that looks like glutinous tobacco juice, it emits a smell worse than an average episode of Suddenly Susan.

”Ewww, jeez!” says Duchovny from a few feet away, pulling a sleeve of his shapeless black FBI overcoat over his nose. Duchovny is preparing to do another take of a scene in which he must lean over a very deep hole in some artificial snow to try to rescue his acting-like-she’s-freezing costar. In fact, however, it is a rather hot day in August on the Twentieth Century Fox lot, and so the pungent odor of Bowman’s medicine quickly permeates the warm air.

”Sorry, sorry,” croaks Bowman. ”Let’s just do this and ignore me, okay?” Everyone assumes their places. Bowman peers into the camera viewfinder, framing the shot; Duchovny-as-Mulder gets on his stomach and reaches down into the snowy hole; Anderson in turn reaches up, her face immediately assuming Scully’s typical in-jeopardy expression: helplessly beseeching yet thoroughly annoyed that she needs help. ”I’ve got you!” says Mulder, although he most certainly does not. They stretch their hands toward each other, their fingers almost touching in a sort of arctic reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and then…

”Cut! That’s all I want,” says Bowman. ”Anyone want another one?” ”Mmmm, maybe just one more?” says a voice from the shadows. It’s Chris Carter, God of The X-Files — creator, writer, executive producer, and at 41, bearer of a head of curly silver surfer’s hair no mere mortal could possess. God wants another take. One senses a score of groans being suppressed all over the stinking set. The players reassume their places. ”I’ve got you!” says Mulder again. The shot is shot. Bowman sneezes. Carter smiles. Everyone files out blinking into the bright Los Angeles sunshine, where a lunch truck that serves only fancy-schmancy iced-mocha-coffee drinks is waiting to stoke cast and crew with chilled caffeine.

Yesterday, James Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio visited the set to say hello,” says Duchovny. ”This soundstage is where they filmed a big chunk of Titanic; Cameron calculated that where our snow hole is, there was probably a flooded stateroom a few months ago.” Did Cameron have any words of wisdom for the X-Files project? ”He said, good luck, and that he bet he made Kate Winslet scream a lot more in his film than Gillian does in this one.”

Gillian Anderson giggles when she’s told of Cameron’s remark. ”He’s right,” she says happily. ”Scully may get in a lot of bad fixes in this movie, but she doesn’t lose it–if anything, it’s Fox who goes a little wilder, gets more scared, in this movie.”

Not that she’s going to reveal anything of what the film’s about, of course. The secrecy surrounding Fight the Future is its chief selling point, in the same way that the series has climbed the ratings ladder by diving ever deeper into a murky government cover-up of an alien occupation of America (see sidebar on page 29). Carter addresses the subject in only the biggest, most grandly obfuscatory terms: ”I can’t tell you the plot, I just can’t–that’s my hole card, that element of surprise. But it incorporates all of the elements of the mythology [the TV show’s periodic story lines dealing with the alien/government hugger-mugger] to date. I want the opportunity to give big answers to the big questions that I’ve been posing for the past four or five years. This is a chance to explode the show in a way that when the pieces land, it’ll reenergize the show for year six.”

And besides, as Duchovny puts it with his Princeton-honed wiseass bluntness: ”If we ever revealed the secrets behind all this, the show would be unmasked as the ridiculous little hoax that it is.”

This ridiculous little hoax, a perennial top 20 TV hit, is 20th Century Fox’s chief weapon in the summer box office war of action-adventure films. Deep Impact and Godzilla had huge openings but mediocre reviews and word of mouth; their resonance-free successes suggest the public may be tiring of loud, massive, but hollow summer movies. This could make a well-received Fight the Future–a loud, massive movie of ideas; F/X with an IQ–a satisfying triumph for its studio.

Bill Mechanic, chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, is literally banking on having the TV show’s 20 million weekly fans line up for the movie during its June 19 opening weekend, and, if there is a God besides Carter, to return multiple times to mull over the movie’s finer points. The trick will be to get non-Files fans to come see it, too.

”I didn’t watch the show regularly,” says Mechanic. ”And once we started shooting, I studiously stopped watching any episodes at all. I wanted it so when I looked at this movie, I would be coming to it cold, without any fan knowledge. If I could understand it and follow it, anyone could. And that’s what happened; this is not a cult, exclusionary movie.”

Both Carter’s camp and the Fox movie folk now say everything is ducky between them, but it was widely rumored that the studio was worried when Carter announced that the TV show’s May 17 season ender would be a cliff-hanger that led into the movie. A month would have passed from the series’ finale to the movie’s opening date; what if the plot were unclear or too dense to grab summer ticket buyers who wandered into the multiplex for the air-conditioning and a thrill ride?

From what ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY has learned, it’s likely that Carter and Bowman have done the job in a way that, as Carter puts it, “will bring new people into our ongoing story but won’t offend the hardcore viewer.” X-Files coproducer Frank Spotnitz, who cooked up the Fight the Future plot with Carter over eight days in Hawaii a year and a half ago, says the film is “an adventure story with political undercurrents, more like The Parallax View”–the 1974 Warren Beatty-Alan J. Pakula conspiracy thriller–than “a monster episode of X-Files.” Hmmm–would maybe Fox rather have a monster-style X-Files than a movie that summons up comparisons to a 24-year-old Beatty flick? Mechanic laughs. “Listen: This is a good, scary movie. Besides, we just put out Bulworth–you think I want Warren Beatty calling me if I knock a Parallax View comparison?”

The future that Mulder and Scully must fight starts in the distant past–about 35,000 B.C. That’s where we’ll get our first glimpse of a creature filled with a substance familiar to X-Files devotees–an oily-black blood. This is the very first invader, one who’ll spawn what Carter calls in a spoken-word bonus cut on the Fight the Future soundtrack album “a population of alien hybrids who would hide in plain sight.”

Getting out the truth about the alien colonists causes lots of trouble for Mulder and Scully, as well as guest stars including Lucas Black (the Sling Blade kid, who stumbles upon the prehistoric, oily ET), Martin Landau (as a fresh variation on an X-Files standby–an info-leaking deep throat), and Blythe Danner, as a tough FBI interrogator. Carter says Danner’s character “represents what Agent Scully might have become had she not been recruited for the X-Files assignment. I hope people will pick up on this.” (Apparently Anderson herself did not pick up on this. Told of Carter’s remarks, she seems genuinely baffled. “Really? Chris said that? Now I’m gonna have to go back and reread the script.”)

Plenty of stuff will happen to keep Internettlesome fans buzzing. In fact, we think a buzzing bee will interrupt a long-awaited Mulder-Scully smooch. We think Mulder, while in a hospital gown, will moon movie audiences. We think Scully will utter the F-word and that Mulder says the S-word. We think the aliens have three fingers, and Duchovny said for a fact that the one time both he and Anderson were just sick of the whole damn thing was the day “we were out in a field, really exhausted, and Gillian got hit in the eye with a sharp cornstalk,” so either there are scenes set on a farm or Fight the Future is really just a big-screen remake of Hee Haw.

A visit to the L.A. movie set enables a desperately curious reporter to walk along a long row of vertical, milky-green tubes–“cryopods,” Carter calls them–filled with milky green, half-human, half-alien beings. “You’re standing in one spoke of a spacecraft,” says Carter, “and that’s all I’m going to tell you.” It is very dark; negotiating the spoke is like walking along a narrow balance beam, and the stage crew setting up the shot looks big, mean, and out of sorts, so no tough follow-up questions are asked. Sue me.

Another professionally curious visitor to the set is parent company News Corp. president Peter Chernin. He places the equivalent of a freshly iced trout in one’s palm as a handshake, smiles blankly (is there a trace of black oil behind his eyeballs?), and takes Carter aside. A few minutes later, Carter returns, folds his arms, looks out at the set, and says quietly out of the side of his mouth, ”He’ll grin and joke with me now, but then he might go back to his office and start yelling about something we’re doing here–it’s all part of the game.”

And Carter, by now, knows how to play the game. ”You get a lot of people who can muck it up–and not maliciously,” he says. ”There are simply a lot of people in Hollywood who create value in their position by being destroyers. That is, they become part of a project by threatening it–by being the guy who acts like he’s going to be the voice of reason, or the voice of power, or the voice of veto, and who ends up draining the originality and creativity out of the process of making a movie or a TV show. There are too many of those people out here.

”That, if anything, is what’s made me, in some people’s minds, ‘a control freak.’ I’m known as a difficult person, because I’m always pushing to make it good, and the truth is, [the studio is] always pushing to make it cheap. I prefer to think of it as just wanting to keep the destroyers at bay.”

If The X-Files is a world Carter has created for himself that just happens to have also attracted the obsessions of millions of others, the show is something less urgent for the actors who’ve been made stars by it. Duchovny likes to downplay the glamour of it all–”It’s pretty workaday, people don’t seem to realize: You get up, you take a shower, you read the paper, you play Mulder.” And while the TV series will move production from Vancouver to Los Angeles next season, in large part due to Duchovny’s oft-stated desire to be geographically closer to his wife, Tea Leoni, he doesn’t seem especially psyched about plumbing new depths in Fox Mulder.

”I would’ve liked this past season to be the last,” he says flatly. He’s sitting in his trailer on the Fight the Future set, dressed in T-shirt and shorts. His Nike-sandaled feet rest on copies of Yoga Journal and the Don DeLillo novel Underworld on a coffee table. Ask about the possibility that this movie could turn into a franchise a la Star Trek, and he’s even more blunt: ”I’d much rather be involved in a franchise movie series than do the goddamn TV show every week.”

Duchovny is mildly chastened by the box office failure of last year’s Timothy Hutton-with-peroxide thriller Playing God–”It was shot in five weeks, and from the response it got, it apparently looked it”–but he’s still actively pursuing a non-Files film career. ”I’m talking to Oliver Stone about doing his NFL movie, but it shoots in October, so that would call for some tricky scheduling” around the series.

Anderson is eager to see the response she gets from her upcoming feature The Mighty, in which she has a small but reportedly meaty role as a working-class alcoholic. ”For me, it’s time to level the playing field,” she says, ”to prove that a TV actress can do good film work. I was told that one major player in The Mighty said before I was cast that she’d never work with a TV actress, so I know that prejudice still exists.” Anderson won’t say who the female acting snob was. The film stars Sharon Stone.

If the actors don’t look upon the movie as too much of a technical stretch, the main man behind the camera does. Bowman’s primary challenge is to expand The X-Files for the big screen, mounting elaborate action sequences while also finding a way to introduce faces familiar to fans–such as William B. Davis’ ever-ominous Cigarette Smoking Man, a key link in the government-alien collaboration–to X-innocent moviegoers. “It all has to do with building atmosphere,” says Bowman. “People who wander in with buckets of popcorn may not know how long and hard Mulder and Scully have fought Cigarette Smoking Man, but if I do my job right, they’ll know that this butt-puffing little bastard is an enemy to fear the moment he appears on screen.”

Bowman, like the actors, is looking beyond The X-Files; he’ll be aboard for the next TV season, but he’s also fielding offers for other features. You get the feeling that despite the hard work of everyone involved, the Files remain central only to Carter’s creative life. His way of fighting the future has always been to play out a chancy paradox: Carter is a maker of hugely popular entertainment, yet all of his crucial influences derive from cult or obscure sources. He was a surfer in the ’70s when surfing wasn’t cool, editor of a surfing magazine when being an editor–well, was being an editor ever cool, unless you’re talking Cary Grant in His Girl Friday? Carter did his TV apprenticeship on shows like the hideous ’87-’88 Joseph Bologna sitcom Rags to Riches. And he took much of the original inspiration for The X-Files from Kolchak: The Night Stalker, a mid-’70s TV flop now better known as a Carter icon than for its own highly uneven if instructively seedy charms.

When it is pointed out that what’s great about the TV X-Files is that it is an exact example of what the film critic and painter Manny Farber has called “termite art”–“art that always goes forward eating its own boundaries, [leaving] nothing in its path other than the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity”–Carter’s normal murmur rises with excitement. “Farber is one of my favorite writers and artists! People could do a lot worse than looking for the roots of the X-Files sensibility in his work.”

And when it is then suggested that the pitfall of an X-Files feature film is that it will inflate to the size of what Farber derisively called “white elephant art,” full of “recognizable details and smarmy compassion…[and] fear of the potential life, rudeness, and outrageousness of a film,” Carter grows quiet. “Yes,” he says finally. “But even if that happens, I should at least make sure the elephant steps on the right people.”

DreamWatch: Rat Poison

June 1998
DreamWatch #46
Rat Poison
David Hughes


NICHOLAS LEA waited more than a year for the comeback of Alex Krycek to THE X-FILES. But, as he tells David Hughes, it was well worth the wait…

When the latest X-FILES two-parter, “Patient X” and “The Red and the Black”- packaged for video as “File 11: Patient X” – hits the stores and Sky One screens simultaneously this month, fans of double-dealing former FBI agent Alex Krycek will get to see three new sides to their favourite character.

Firstly, television’s latest One-Armed Man gets to pay Mulder back for a series of beatings Krycek has suffered since gunning down Mulder’s father in his bathroom. “You finally get to see Krycek physically take advantage of Mulder, instead of always getting beat up,” comments Lea, relaxing in the backstage ‘green room’ at the very first X-FILES Expo event in San Francisco. “He gets to give him a little bit back – and with one hand, that’s quite a feat!”

Secondly, Krycek gets a different kind of action with Marita Covarrubias (Laurie Holden), Special Representative to the UN Secretary General. “When I picked up the script, I was like ‘What? Who am I kissing?’ he laughs. “I was excited about it because you’d never seen that side of the character before – he was almost asexual in those terms. Usually, you see Krycek show up and hurt somebody, or someone’s trying to hurt him.” As for the stormy, steamy kissing scene itself, Lea adds, “The night before, [Laurie and I] were saying, ‘Should we kiss now and get it over with, to break the ice?'”

Finally, and perhaps even more surprisingly, Krycek displays what Lea refers to as his “sympathetic side” in a scene with a Russian teenager – even though he has had the boy’s eyes, ears, nose, and mouth sewn shut.

“I was trying to bring some sympathy to the thing, because on paper it wasn’t there,” he explains. “I just sort of dispatched this kid, and it was just very cold, so I called the producers and said, ‘Look, I think it’s very important that you see that there is some sympathy or regret on Krycek’s part.'”

Not only for himself, he adds, but for the audience as well. “It’s certainly more interesting for me as an actor, but I think it’s also more interesting for the audience to see three dimensional characters, rather than just a bad guy or a good guy.”

Luckily, he says , Chris Carter, who directed “The Red and the Black,” was willing to accommodate his ideas. “Chris is really accessible,” he says. “If you have questions, he’s always there to answer them, and he also took my notes to heart and used them.”

The character of Alex Krycek has certainly evolved dramatically since his first appearance as Mulder’s new partner in the second season’s “Sleepless.” Back then, he was a fresh-faced FBI agent who turned out to be Cigarette Smoking Man’s hired gun – albeit one with a conscience, as seen in the subsequent story, “Ascension.”

“It was originally supposed to be three episodes,” Lea recalls. “And it was scripted that there would be a big blow-out fight between myself and Mulder, and then my character would evaporate. But they rewrote it, and I just ended up disappearing, and I was really disappointed because I thought, ‘That’s it? That’s how they’re going to end my character?’ And then a short time later I was back on the show, and back on again, and back on again…”

By now christened ‘Ratboy’ by internet-based X-philes – “Do I like it? I live with it. No, I’m just kidding – I get a kick out of it.” – Krycek made one of his patented comebacks on the cusp of the 1995/96 season, gunning down Bill Mulder, but botching an attempted assassination of Scully by killing her sister instead – a particularly cruel error of judgement, since the popular character of Melissa Scully was played by Lea’s then-girlfriend, Melinda McGraw.

After being betrayed by Smoking Man at the climax of this story, Krycek went into hiding, re-emerging during the third season as a powerful and knowledgeable free agent, ready to sell his secrets to the highest bidder. Having deserted the sunken ship, Piper Maru, Ratboy returned in the fourth season’s “Tunguska”/”Terma” two-parter, offering an understandably distrustful Mulder information about the mysterious ‘black oil’ which had been smuggled into the country by a Russian diplomat.

By the end of this continent-spanning story, during which he revealed that he was a fluent (or perhaps native?) Russian speaker, Alex – or should that be Alexei? – Krycek had given a new meaning to the term ‘Soviet disarmament’, having his left arm cut off at the shoulder by a fellow ‘comrade’.

“So many bad things have happened to him now, I don’t think he trusts anybody at all,” Lea says. “I think the’ character’s not just trying to stay above water – he’s trying who wronged him in the past. so there’s a lot about revenge…”

Trust Ratboy to choose revenge rather than redemption. “Well, you’ll see in [“The Red and the Black”] that Krycek actually does some good,” he allows. “He comes to Mulder and he says, ‘I’m not here to kill you – I’m here to help you!’ Okay, he says it at gunpoint,” he adds, laughing, “But he still says it!”

For Lea, another high point “The Red and the Black” was getting to play a scene with Well-Manicured Man, played by veteran British actor John Neville (THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN). “‘John is an absolute gentleman, and a very funny guy, too,” he says. “It was nice, because we sat down in the bar one night, and then in my trailer on the day of shooting, and we talked for a couple of hours about what it was we were doing. It was nice to sit down and just talk about acting, especially with someone with his experience. That’s really nice, when there’s no barrier of age. It was a real treat. He loves acting and he loves actors, so he’s just great to be around.”

“Patient X” and “The Red and the Black” also gave Lea another opportunity to practice his Russian. “This is really the second time that I had to speak it,” he says. “if it continues, I’m probably going to have to take some lessons, and try to learn at least some of the language. I don’t speak it at all right now, so what I have to do is learn it phonetically, which is a real exercise in ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’- one side is the logical, ‘remembering- how-to-speak-it properly’ side, and [the other] is the creative side, which is where acting comes from. So you’re, trying to balance the two in the same moment, and it’s a real challenge.

“I think somebody who speaks the language is going to notice immediately that I’m not Russian,” he adds. “But my hope is that the majority of the people who watch the show will feel that it’s authentic.”

Krycek’s absence from THE X-FILES might have been an unusually long one, but Lea, who turns 36 on June 22, points out that if the opportunity had arisen before “Patient X,” he would probably have been too busy in his native Toronto, shooting ONCE A THIEF, the syndicated series in which he co-stars with Sandrine Holt (RAPA NUI) and newcomer Ivan Sergei. “I was dying to get back on THE X- FILES,” he admits, “But I was working [solidly] for the last eight months, with just a couple of breaks. [“Patient X”] really happened as soon as I left the other show, so I’m glad that it’s all worked out.”

Produced by Hong Kong auteur-turned-Hollywood action director John Woo (FACE/OFF), ONCE A THIEF began with a feature-length pilot, directed by Woo and loosely based on his own 1991 action/comedy starring Chow Yun Fat and Leslie Cheung, itself an homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s TO CATCH A THIEF. But although the series, which Lea believes will debut the US on the Showtime network or HBO cable channel, will be Lea’s first leading role, he admits to being disappointed with the results. “It changed; it became a different show – much more of a comedy,” he says disconsolately, helping himself to another of the cigarettes he has been poaching since the interview began. “There are a few dramatic episodes, but mostly it’s meant to be funny.”

“Comedy and drama are both challenging to me,” he adds. “But…I think the show could have been better than it was.”

On the plus side, Lea says he was thrilled at having the chance to collaborate with Woo on the pilot show, released in Britain on video as JOHN WOO’S VIOLENT TRADITION. “I really had a wonderful time working with John,” he enthuses. “He’s a real gentleman and a talented man, and very much a contradiction in terms, because he’s quiet and reserved, warm, kind and thoughtful, and yet his movies are, like, ‘blow-’em-ups’ for the most part.”

Unfortunately, he reiterates, “he hasn’t been able to do exactly what he wanted to do. He had a lot of control over what his films were like in Hong Kong, and I think it was a bit of a rude awakening for him to find out that there were other people who were going to make those decisions for him.”

Indeed, Lea admits that Woo’s input on the show was “minimal” once a full series had been ordered, despite the fact that the show will be broadcast as JOHN WOO’S ONCE A THIEF. ‘I know he watched the show, and made notes, but for the most part it because somebody else’s show.”

Lea admits that his profile on THE X-FILES has been a boon in winning roles such as his ONCE A THIEF character. “Totally,” he agrees. “Certainly, when I walk into an audition, a lot of people already know who I am. It’s helped me immeasurably in my career, because quite often ratings come into play, and I’ll get offered stuff because they want to exploit an actor from television who the audience will recognise, you know?”

Does Lea worry that this visibility/recognition factor be something of a double-edged sword, and that he could wind up being typecast as double-crossing triple agents, assassins or even one-armed bandits? “Yeah, but that hasn’t been an issue at this point. I think that one of benefits of being on a critically acclaimed show is that people have an understanding that maybe you can act. You’re not just there because you’re on a popular show like BAYWATCH – you’re on a show that’s good, so hopefully you have some ability.”

Of course, with the higher profile comes celebrity, and its inherent loss of anonymity and privacy. Lea, however, doesn’t mind being recognised on the street – “People usually just want to tell me that they enjoy my role on the show, and that’s totally cool,” he says – but believes that X-FILES fandom is only healthy in moderation.

“I didn’t get into this business because I thought I’d be adored by thousands of fans, but because I love doing it. So when you’re approached by people who are this crazy about the show, people who go overboard with it…” he trails off, evidently searching for a way to describe his feelings without offending the show’s loyal fans. “I just think sometimes that the focus is a little misplaced,” he offers. “I would love to see everybody here take a third of that energy and put it into their family or their community, or the people on the street who need our help.”

True to form, Lea is equally candid on the subject of THE X-FILES’ imminent move to Los Angeles. “I think the show will lose something,” he says frankly. “They’ve worked for five years to accumulate the crew they’ve got now, and it’s like a well-oiled machine. People have fun but the job gets done. Plus Vancouver, as Chris has said in the past, is the perfect location for the show because of the rain, the way the sun has angled at particular times of the year, there’s forest, there’s a Chinatown, there are mountains, and prairie – it can really double as almost anyplace. So, I completely and utterly support David and Gillian’s decision to go to Los Angeles, but I think that Vancouver is the perfect location for the show.”