The X-Files

The beloved-made in Vancouver series hits the big screen again this summer. Its obsessed fans don't want to wait that long.

At least this much is true: The plot of the second — and, as yet, untitled — X-Files movie, which was filmed in Vancouver and is due to hit theatres July 25, includes a good priest and a bad priest. There’s some genetic engineering and some organ harvesting in the mix. There’s a horrific disease, and a warped and twisted religious cult. There’s an 11-year-old kid in a wheelchair, and someone’s head gets chopped off. It’s all true.

Or it’s all false. Holly Simon, queen of the X-Files fans, is certain it’s all true, because she got the same information, she says, “from two sources who aren’t at all linked.” That’s as accurate as any X-Phile — as fans of the ’90s TV show and 1998 movie call themselves — can get these days, as they try to penetrate the thick wall of secrecy around the new movie’s production.

Simon’s been a fan of the show since she first tuned in at the age of 10 (she turns 25 this week). But since the first X-Files movie (subtitled Fight the Future) came and went, the web designer and animator noticed a dip in fresh information on what its creators planned to do next. Last November, she launched XFilesNews.com, a site that provides message boards, news items, spoilers, video links, fan fiction based on the series, and photos of the cast. Within weeks of its start-up, X-FilesNews.com saw 21,000 new visitors on its heaviest day. An average day sees 5,000. When “news” does break, it’s uploaded immediately to a Facebook application Simon designed herself.

Since The X-Files series faded from our TV screens in 2002, after nine seasons, there have been few worthy mimics. Sure, some programs have taken its dramatic template — Lost, with its dense, complicated storylines; 24, with its FBI intrigue; the numerous CSI franchises and their gross-out corpse imagery — but none have been able to package themselves with the same soulful intensity that created the X-Phile phenomenon. None have been able to match the high-chemistry pairing of open-minded FBI agent Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), a skeptical forensic examiner who shares a similar intellectual rigour, with a supporting cast of characters that offers evil, intrigue and humour. The storylines revolving around evolution, truth, and the intermingling of science, the supernatural, myth, alien life, and mainstream faith, have been inimitable, says Simon. “I wonder what those shows would have been without The X-Files. We were stuck into an ER-meets-NYPD Blue kind of land for years.”

Being a product of the X-Files phenomenon means Simon is just as much a product of the internet generation. The tight relationship between the web and the show is something that X-Philes and Chris Carter — the creator, co-writer and producer of the series and the movies — would agree on.

“As The X-Files was coming of age, so was the internet, so we kind of grew up together,” Carter says, in a phone interview from Southern California, where he’s editing the sequel. “I can’t remember a time on The X-Files when we didn’t have an internet relationship and when you didn’t hear immediately from the fan base. But what has happened is, it’s grown and amplified.”

Considering Carter’s not one to frequent the hundreds of X-Files fan sites — dedicated to everything from specific episodes, to Duchovny worship, to characters like “Cancer Man” and the Lone Gunmen, to Carter himself — he may not realize the breadth and depth of the sentiment and nostalgia surrounding his creation, says Simon. “I’m discovering new fans who are only in their teens, who are discovering the show on DVD,” she says. “But my age group — we grew up with it.”

Still, Simon admits this fandom can go too far. “There’s a certain type of fan that thinks the actors [Duchovny and Anderson] walk on clouds, and they are the most annoying of the bunch. The Anderson fans start poking at the Duchovny fans. It gets tiring.”

On X-FilesNews.com, and elsewhere on the ’net, fans are showing off less-than-scintillating paparazzi shots of Duchovny walking around on the set of the new movie with co-star Amanda Peet, and the more startling image of Duchovny leaning in for a kiss with Anderson. (Duchovny later told the press that the shot had been staged.) One fan rooted through the garbage bins on a movie set in Pemberton to find call sheets (vaguely written schedules of a day’s filming) and posted them on Facebook.

That same fan “admitted to climbing undetected into a car used for filming, and also to opening unlocked crew car doors,” says Mya Brown, a member of Facebook’s X-Philes fan group and a follower of the show for the last 15 years. “Fans online had a mixed reaction. We were grateful for her fruitful spoilers, but her methods threw a few of us off.”

In response to fan interference, the savvy and ever-vigilant film crew wrote fake names on their call sheets; “Frankie” and “Larry” were apparently aliases for Mulder and Scully. It’s also suspected that Carter and crew threw fans and media a bone: false information about the movie’s plot to keep them occupied while they continue their work. In response to these suggestions, Carter offers a sly, “I might have. What happens on the internet is there are a lot of voices and a lot of competition to be heard, and the way to distinguish yourself in a crowd is to be crazy or loud or radical, aggressive and extreme or relentless. You find there are those movements, and you have to be mindful of them on the internet — as you have to be mindful of them in life — to mediate them.”

With all their efforts, fans have found only slim pickings — a sign that the aforementioned wall of secrecy surrounding the movie’s production is more than sound. “There were lots of paparazzi around [during filming], so it’s funny to watch what people take as gospel,” says Carter. “It creates confusion.”

On Facebook groups, the minutiae of movie production — call sheets; aerial shots of Dead Man’s Island off Stanley Park, where part of the movie was filmed — is magnified as sacrosanct, and any cast-off souvenir seems to be worthy of a gallery photograph. Long-distance shots of cast and crew standing around are held up as hot commodities.

On YouTube, a search on X-Files brings up a number of fan tribute videos, all of them made up of cobbled-together images and footage of the actors; most of them are old enough that they plead for a sequel to Fight the Future. Online fan club XFilesUltimate.com is hawking fan-made T-shirts that read “Maybe There’s Hope: 07/25/2008” (at $26 U.S. a pop) and “Done One, Make Another” (“Done One” refers to the new movie’s code name during production).

Brown says the X-Files crew welcomed her and her friends during a visit to the movie set in Pemberton early this year, but that was before two people were arrested for allegedly breaking into crew members’ cars on the Riverview Hospital set in February. That same month, at WonderCon, a fan convention in San Francisco, Fox Studios screened the real trailer, only to hear it nearly drowned out by screams from the crowd.

No surprise, then, that on Brown’s subsequent visit to the set, a chill had set in. “After break–ins, a wild convention of screaming fans in San Francisco, and the actions of a few pushy set stalkers, when we returned the next week, the welcome was not nearly as warm.”

Tough luck, but be patient, says Carter.

“It’s become sport now — people trying to spoil your good fun, to take away the element of surprise,” he says. “My desire now is to possess the element of surprise, so the movie is fresh when it comes out. There are forces out there trying to keep that from happening — trying to bust open the truth, if you will.”

 

 

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