INT: Frank Spotnitz

After my snooping around Mulder's house failed to turn up the secret of X-FILES 2, I figured I'd go right to the source. Not Duchovny - he was too slippery. And Gillian Anderson was proving to be a tough target as well. In the back by the monitors though was a guy with a headset pulled over his shaggy hair. He had an intense look on his face. It was Frank Spotnitz, co-writer and producer of THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. He wrote the script for chrissake, he's gotta know something. With that I clicked on my tape record and let the questions fly...

How psyched are you to be back?

FS: I gotta tell you I didn’t think it was going to happen. After all these years and negotiations and working on the story, I was really positive it wasn’t going to happen. But now it’s been a dream. It has been fantastic. Working on the script was a joy. Being with David and Gillian has been a joy. A lot of the crew are people we worked with on “The X-Files” and all the Chris Carter shows filmed in Vancouver. “Millennium,” “Harsh Realm” and “Lone Gunmen.” Some of the people came up from LA. The director of photography Bill Roe did the series in Los Angeles. So it’s like a family coming together again and you rarely get to do that in this business. It’s really nice and John Bartley who was our director of photography for the first three seasons has been doing second unit photography. And Tom Braidwood, who played “Frohike,” is the first AD on the second unit. So it’s been really nice.

What was the impetus to get the movie going? Why now?

Well we wanted to do this movie well before the series ended. In 2001 actually. That’s when the Fox executives came and said they wanted to do another movie. At that time we were still dealing with the series. The series ended and we took some time. Then we began negotiations and I think my deal has been done since 2002 or 2003. That long. Negotiating David, Chris and Gillian took a very long time and then there was a lawsuit and everything stopped. The lawsuit got resolved late last year.

Lawsuit about what?

It was Chris and the studio. And honestly I don’t know precisely what it was but I think it was about money, as these things usually are. But it got settled and once that happened things started to happen pretty quickly.

Has time passed THE X-FILES by or does the franchise still have something to say about our country?

I guess I’ll leave that to you guys to decide whether time has passed us by. We feel like we very much had something to say. I think when you see the movie, you’ll see there’s nothing cynical about it. It very much comes from the heart and from who these characters are. And I think that’s why it was such a pleasure to do. We were freed of the complications and machinery of the ongoing plot, which had gotten complicated after nine years. And we didn’t have to service all of that and we could just tell a good, scary, standalone story. And go deeper into the characters of Mulder and Scully and their relationship in a way that you really can’t in a weekly series. We felt like we had a really good story to tell. How other people respond to that remains to be seen.

What is the season and setting for the movie?

It’s winter, which is going to be interesting considering it’s released in mid-summer. It’s very, very cold. And we just got back from three weeks in Pemberton, which is a half-hour north of Whistler. It was very cold. Sub-zero virtually the entire time we were shooting there but that’s what the story calls for. It’s set in the dead of winter.

This is standalone and if it does well are there plans to do more standalone films?

I guess we’ll see. I’ve had a ball doing it and I’ve always thought THE X-FILES had limitless stories to tell. We’ll see how the movie does this summer.

Would you like to personally?

I would like to. I’d be delighted to.

Are there things in this film that set up sequels?

It’s a self-contained story and if this were the end of the THE X-FILES it’d be just fine. You’re not gonna be left hanging. It’s not like EMPIRE STRIKES BACK where you’d be like, “OK, what’s next…” But it certainly leaves open the possibility of more films.

What’s your sense of how David and Gillian are enjoying being back working together?

I think they’re having a really nice time. Doing a TV series is incredibly stressful, especially a series like this where the physical demands of your two lead actors is enormous because they’re in so much material. And now to return and do this on a more civilized schedule; it’s luxurious the shooting schedule compared to a TV series. It’s been a pleasure. And now you realize how much you’ve missed each other. It had been very nice.

Have you used that extra time to rework scenes or stunts?

I think we feel pretty confident. We used to say we were doing a movie a week and then we did a movie and realized how nice it was. Because you have more time you shoot more material and have more ways to put that all together. We feel pretty confident about the script though and Chris’ direction.

This movie seems more intimate than the first. Is that true?

Yes. It’s more scary, intimate, creepy and most importantly focused on the characters and who they are. What it means to be Mulder and Scully six years later. I think that’s what really gives the movie some legitimacy. Dealing with the truth of their characters at this point in their life.

Can you say what other familiar characters might be returning?

No (laughs).

What about Mitch Pileggi?

I can’t say.

So what can you tell us about the movie?

Hmmm…. What can I say? Well Mulder and Scully are drawn back into the world of “The X-Files” by a case. That’s precious little I’m telling you. You guys are all here and we knew we’d be shooting and you’d see certain things but I’m still hoping in your articles you’ll say as little as you can. I still think people want to know but they don’t want to know. It’s more fun to go and be surprised. You see how we’re shooting this. We go through great trouble so you don’t even see the beard until it’s revealed. All that’s spoiled if it’s already read and pieces you read about are just falling into place. There’s nothing that replaces that surprise and the joy of seeing something for the first time. So I could obviously tell you everything that happens but I think it spoils something so I’d rather not mention the plot.

Can you go into the reason why Mulder’s been alone for all these years?

Well I can’t really. You’re gonna see Mulder and Scully together early in the movie but this is one of those things you don’t find out right away - what he’s been doing. What contact they’ve had since the show went off the air. So I can’t really comment on that other than to say this is where he’s been living. All I can say is that it has been six years and we’re treating it in real time.

After being away how easy or hard was it to find your rhythm again?

That’s an interesting question. I was surprised at how easy it was. I was surprised at how alive they were in our imaginations. I’d say pretty quickly we arrived at what Mulder and Scully would be doing in their lives and what has happened to them in the past six years. I was talking to someone about this the other day and for eight years I was writing and producing this show and I spent so much of my life thinking about Mulder and Scully, really as much time as I spend thinking about real people in my life. So in some sense they’re very real to me.

Who in your mind is the audience for the film? Is it made for the X-FILES fan or for non-X-FILES fans? Where’s the balance?

This is the one thing I’d say this film has in common with the first film. It’s really designed for more than one audience. We wanted to reward people who watched the show and remembered it but we’d like nothing better than to introduce the show to a new generation. People who were too young to watch the show when it was on TV.

When you guys thought you were going to do this movie in 2003 or 2004 was this the same script?

I think it was 2002 or early 2003 when Chris and I met for a couple of weeks to decide what the X-File is that would drive this movie. That has not changed. The X-File is the same X-File. But then it got tabled for all those years. So when we came back we didn’t go back to our story we just kept the basic idea and built the story from scratch all over again. Because honestly emotionally where we are at this time and where the characters would be had changed so much. That’s so much of what the movie is. Their relationship, where they are, who they are as people at this point in their lives. And we really couldn’t have done that earlier. So that part of the story remained and the rest was done this year.

What changed?

Just time. I think Chris and I have changed. We’ve gotten older and gotten some distance on some things. You have different thoughts about life and what matters. Mulder and Scully bear a lot of scars from their experiences and you can’t do a movie like this without recognizing that. That’s part of what the story is about.

Are you satisfied with how the series ended and do you see this as an opportunity to provide some closure?

You’d like everything you do to be novelistic and that has a perfect structure to it with a beginning, middle and end. But in television it’s not possible. At least it wasn’t possible for us. We thought we were going to do six years and then it became seven years and nine years. I don’t know how many people know but in the last years of the show but we had to write the finale not knowing if it was going to be the end of the series. So it was jumping forward those past years. It was as perfect as we could make it under those circumstances and the constraints of commercial television. I feel good about everything we could do that was possible. But I don’t look at this as giving it closure. Because I think we did sort of close that chapter as best we could when the series ended. I just think that these are great characters and great stories and there’s something new to say.

How do you take the X-FILES and make it more cinematic?

We always tried to be cinematic every week and we always though in cinematic terms. The first movie we really did think a lot about how we could take advantage of the bigger canvas and the money and things like that. Honestly that was less of a concern this time around. This was a more intimate film and more centered on the characters. It is cinematic and it does have a lot of creepy, disturbing images that you’d expect but that was not a difficult transition.

Was this particular X-File something you always wanted to do and perhaps didn’t include in the series to “save it” for a movie?

The reason this X-File came to us was because it was not anything that happened in the series. It was challenging I have to say after 202 hours to find something that wasn’t done. That isn’t to say that there aren’t elements. There are and there will be in any supernatural thriller. But the fundamental idea is different from anything we did on the show. But what we also wanted was an X-File that however fractured could serve as a mirror for Mulder and Scully. A case that could expose things about them. That’s what this story is about.

Would this movie have been different if there had not been a writer’s strike?

No. We rushed to finish the last set of revisions on the script but I’ve got to say they were pretty minor. We turned in revisions an hour before the strike began but nothing has come up in the months we were filming during the strike where we said, “Damn I wish the strike wasn’t on so we could change this.” We shot it pretty much as written.

Can you describe your working relationship with Chris?

From the very beginning we just had a really unusual connection. We spent a lot of hours just talking about life and from just talking about life we’ll come up with stories or things we want to talk about. That’s actually what happened with this movie. We spent ten days just talking before we even talked about how we were going to attack the story. The ideas we talked about the very first day we met over coffee at Pete’s in Brentwood, California ended up being the heart of what this film is. We’re both teenage boys in a way. We both want that super popcorn experience of being entertained, grossed-out, freaked-out, that really visceral experience that THE X-FILES is capable of providing. But then we also want it to be about something. That’s what makes all that worth experiencing. That’s part of the fun of collaborating with him. We enjoy talking about these ways to make them entertaining.



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