The “X-Files” producer reveals why the movie nearly didn’t happen
It was January 2007, and I was about to give up hope.
It was six ears since 20th Century Fox called, asking if we were interested in doing another X-Files feature film. Five years since the television series went off the air. And four years since creator Chris Carter and I labored over the story for the new movie and pitched it to the studio.
That was back in 2003. Since then, I had negotiated a deal to cowrite and coproduced the movie, and waited for David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson to close their deals—only to have the whole process derailed when Chris and the studio got into a legal dispute over profits from the TV series. Fans and reporters kept asking me when the movie would finally be made. And I kept saying I was sure it would happen, just as soon as Chris and the studio resolved their differences. But by last January, it was starting to feel like that day would never come. And then…
The phone rang. It was Chris. His dispute was settled, and the studio was asking abut the movie. “It’s now or never,” he quoted them saying. Back to work.
Which turned out to be a little difficult. We’d figured out the story by writing a description of each scene with a sharpie pen on 4x6 cars (just as we had every episode of the TV show). But now those cards were nowhere to be found. That story we’d worked so hard to figure out four years ago? We’d have to figure it out all over again.
Of course, we remembered the heart of it—a creepy, disturbing murder mystery that was different from any we’d told before. But we’d have to reconstruct the plot from scratch.
There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind, and so—fortunately, I guess—we had to work diligently to make sure the script was finished before the impending writers’ strike began last November. Reconnecting with the characters proved effortless. It was like they had been waiting there, in our unconscious minds, the whole time. I felt a kind of opening-night excitement as I drove up to Chris’ house in Malibu on the sunny morning of October 26. David and Gillian were casually standing in his living room, about to do a “table read” of the script. We quickly realized we had a problem, however: Security on the top-secret script was so tight, we didn’t have enough copies for all of us to read along. Chris and I decided we could follow along by reading the files in our laptops (see photo).
So we all sat down at the table, they opened their scripts and…it felt more like a séance than a table read. That mysterious chemistry between Gillian and David was instantly back, as if summoned from beyond. But I didn’t get the chills until two days later, when they returned for camera tests. David now had his hair cut like Mulder, and Gillian’s hair had gone from reddish-blonde to Scully-red. Forget the séance—this felt like a genuine X-Files resurrecting the dead.
Filming began December 10 in Vancouver, where the series started so many years ago. We assembled as much of our old crew as we could; it felt like coming home. Although we’d written the movie specifically for Vancouver, much of the story takes place in the snowy countryside of West Virginia. So for three weeks, we filled up all the hotels and motels around Pemberton, a ruggedly beautiful valley north of Whistler, British Columbia.
Pemberton provided incredible scenery, but shooting in below-freezing temperatures 14 hours a day was hard on the crew and the actors, whose on-camera wardrobe wasn’t as warm as ours. “Next movie takes place in Hawaii,” became a common joke on set.
Reconnecting with Mulder and Scully proved more challenging for David and Gillian as actors than it had for us as writers. After all, they’d spent several years trying to be anyone but Mulder and Scully. Now they not only had to embrace the characters again, but imagine them six years later, living under very different circumstances.
However, I think their scenes together became even more powerful because of their long separation. David and Gillian have always been incredibly disciplined, focused actors. But this was different. After so long an absence, they were determined to bring everything they could to their work together. Never more so than in their final scene, which was so powerful that it hushed the crew and brought tears to my eyes.
As I worked to finish the film thes last few months, watching these same scenes literally hundreds of times, I continued to be impressed by the enduring power of these characters. I was also struck by the thought that this whole movie seemed so close to not getting made. And grateful we never did give up.