XFN Exclusive Interview: Frank Spotnitz

It’s been an exciting year for X-Files fans. We’ve enjoyed unprecedented access to stars and producers, made new friends around the world, and of course, got to see Mulder and Scully together again. Now, weeks before the Dec. 2 DVD/Blu-Ray release of “I Want to Believe,” our constant and touchstone Frank Spotnitz talks with XFN about critics, the year 2012, and serendipitously dining with Rupert Murdoch.

We last spoke at the "I Want to Believe" premiere in Los Angeles. Since then, what has been your impression of fan and critic reaction to the film?

The fan reaction was really very gratifying and overwhelmingly positive. There were some fans that initially were taken aback, and then upon reflection grew to appreciate it more, which I thought was a fair reaction. I did not expect the negative reviews that we got from a lot of the critics. I really thought we'd get a lot more credit for all the risks we took with the story, with the state of Mulder and Scully's relationship, and for making a fairly adult, intelligent film. And it felt like a lot of critics sort of didn't see that movie. They were reacting to the movie that we didn't make. I think a lot of them were expecting it to be like the first movie and didn't understand that we were trying to make something entirely different. I thought Roger Ebert's review was one of the best reviews written by any American critic. He seemed to understand the movie we were trying to make and liked it. The frustrating thing to me was that some people assumed that because we didn't make a movie like the last one, we couldn't have made a movie like the last one. We felt like we were doing something new by making an X-File that focused on Mulder and Scully and their characters much more than we had in the past. It was really about them more than it was about the X-File.

What can fans expect from the DVD and Blu-ray coming out Dec. 2?

We've really packed both the standard DVD and the Blu-ray with as many extra features as we possibly could. We would have put on more, but we literally ran out of space. In addition to all the featurettes, one of the things I'm particularly excited about is the interactive timeline. There are some pretty great timelines on the internet already, but we realized we had the opportunity to use images and film clips in a way that the internet really couldn't. It's just a great bonus for fans.

You’ve utilized a lot more input from fans this time around both for the DVD and on the Internet in general. How did that help?

We had a lot of help from knowledgeable fans to make [the interactive timeline] as accurate as we could. When the series was on the air, the web community was supportive of the show, and I don't think it's exaggerating to say that the early fans really helped make the show a success. Even in season 1, they were online chatting about the show and building excitement for it. When I came on in season 2, I can remember going into the newsgroups and the chat rooms and seeing what fans were saying about the episodes, especially with the mythology episodes. Seeing what worked, what was confusing, what people wanted to know more about. I didn't write for those people, but it was a really useful tool to gauge how people who were paying really close attention were reacting to what we were doing.

So we had a relationship even back in those days, but it was kind of a one-way relationship. We weren't talking back to them. But now with the Internet, which I think is still changing rapidly, it's much easier to respond. I started my website 5 years ago not really knowing what I was going to use it for,, and it really just exploded this year with the anticipation of the film. It is a community. Whether filmmakers want to acknowledge it or not, they do have a relationship with their fans.

The “X-Files” fans are the ones who are responsible for the movie being made in the first place, so it only seemed natural to communicate back and reap the benefits in both directions. It's been incredibly gratifying and fun. Chris and I, because we spent so much time traveling together promoting the film, had a fantastic time meeting all these fans. We're really honored by who our fans are. They're smart, passionate people that don't fit this stereotype that I think, unfortunately, developed during the time of Star Trek mania. You get all walks of life - a lot of very educated people. It just makes sense that people who follow “The X-Files” would be bright people.

Speaking of traveling with Chris, any fun stories?

We had a really good time. We've known each other an awfully long time, but we don't often get the chance to socialize together. When we were in New York, appearing at the Apple Store, we went out to dinner afterwards . I looked over and I said, "Is that Rupert Murdoch sitting at the next table? Is that possible?" So Chris looks over and sees two bodyguards sitting a few booths away, and says, "I bet it is!" So then Rupert Murdoch gets up, and he had been eating with Mayor Bloomberg. And we realized it really WAS Rupert Murdoch! I wanted to go up and introduce myself, but I didn't. But that was a funny moment to see the man who actually owns “The X-Files” at the same restaurant with us in New York City.

And how is Chris doing these days?

Chris is ok. He’s doing better, resting and recuperating.

What are some behind-the-scenes things we won’t be seeing on the DVD?

There were a lot of flubbed lines, not all of which are on the DVD. There's one point when all the actors in the operating room sequence break into song and start dancing around the headless body. There’s one thing that was funny on the set in Pemberton. There was this amazing coffee place called The Mount Currie Coffee Company. And we'd go there during scouts and during filming. One day I tried something they had called the Canadiano, which is like a cappuccino, but it's got a shot of maple syrup in it. So we became addicted to these Canadianos, so much so that they ran out of maple syrup. They said it was going to be a week before they got any more, but we couldn't make it a week without another Canadiano. So we bought our own maple syrup, and they put it behind the counter. And they knew it was ok to serve it if we knew the secret password, which was 'Peter Nincompoop,' which is from the TV show, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

We know a potential X-Files 3 has yet to be determined. But are you aware of the forthcoming movie, 2012?

Amanda Peet is in it, actually. But I don't think it has anything to do with what X-Files would do. It's a huge, Roland Emmerich sci-fi epic. It's not competition for us. It's a gazillion dollar blockbuster. It's not to say an X-Files movie doing alien colonization wouldn't be a big movie as well, but I just think it's a completely different move than what we would make.

We were a little surprised to see 2012 somewhere else.

I'm hearing it more and more now. Because of X-Files, I tend to spark these kinds of conversations with people who meet me, and it's becoming increasingly common for people to be aware of this 2012 date and the Mayan calendar. But I don't think it's going to be anywhere near the anticipation people had for the millennium. I think it's akin to that, like a little echo of the excitement and anxiety.

Makes you wonder what actually WILL happen in 2012.

Well, the aliens are coming back, of course.

I read that X-Files once attempted to do a crossover with Picket Fences. If you had that chance today, which show would you cross over with?

I would want to do it with Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan's show. But I did get out of the habit of watching 1-hour dramas when I was doing The X-Files because I was never around to watch them. And then, to the extent I was, it was the last thing I wanted to do. It felt like work to watch another 1-hour drama. By and large, if I'm home, I'm pretty much watching movies or documentaries. I'm a huge documentary fan. I watch all the PBS documentary series like Frontline, American Experience, and American Masters. So I know there are some amazing dramas on TV, but I'm just way behind. Breaking Bad is really the only drama I follow regularly.

What’s next for Big Light?

There are two TV projects that I'm working on. One is science fiction related and one is not, but neither has been announced yet, so I can't talk about them. But I hope you'll be seeing something on television from me within the next year.

I would just like to thank you and everybody who's been working so hard to support The X-Files. It feels like we're all part of the same team, and it's nice to know that you guys are out there and fighting for the characters and the show. When I talk about being honored by our fans, you guys are the people I'm talking about. I appreciate everything you're doing.



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