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…
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.