What's the toughest part of bringing a successful show like The X-Files to the big screen?
I think the challenge for everybody was how do we make this satisfying for the fans, who are numerous, and for the nonfans, who are numerous also? And I sat down and I actually was talking to Téa when we were doing the film, and I had this thought, which was — the people who aren't fans of the show, they are not just not fans of the show. They are actively not fans of the show because we've been doing the show for five years. We've been on the cover of every magazine there is. We've been all over the place. There's no way you could have escaped that we exist. Therefore, if you have, that means you got a look at me, you got a look at Gillian, you took a look at the show once and you said, "This stinks." Therefore, these were the people that we were actually going after, which seemed to me totally perverse that we were trying to make a movie to get people that had done their darndest to get away from us. So we will not rest until we get everybody.
So I think that the balancing act of the movie was to please the die-hard fans and these people that obviously have no interest in this kind of a show or else they'd be fans by now. And I actually think that we did in terms of story and in terms of giving fans some extra stuff that they don't get on the TV show. But also of taking care of the backstory of the movie and introducing characters that are 5 years old in a way, which is a tricky, tricky act in itself.
And, like, just an example would be like the bar scene where I'm a little drunk, and I thought OK that's a good — when I read the script I said, "That's good. I can be drunk in this and therefore the kind of self pitying, you know, this-is-my-life-story aspect of it could be handled in a way that played against itself." And then we did that and I was looping the movie about a month ago and Dan Sackheim, the producer, said, "You get up from this long speech about who you are and why you're sad, and you kind of — you kind of have this woozy moment. I'd like to put in, like, a little noise there, you know, just to drive home the fact that you've been drinking too much. So I look at it and I get up off the stool and I go, like, "uh." That wasn't so good, and I said, "My mouth's open a little. Let me throw a burp in there 'cause I thought it's perfect. It's like all this backstory's been in my stomach and now I've regurgitated it and now it's like I got it out. And I thought, OK, well, that's the most graceful backstory I've ever seen, and I was happy with that.
Gillian's was not as — she didn't have the benefit of being drunk. She had that, "Mulder, when I joined the Bureau five years ago, it was like" — [makes alarm sounds] flashing lights, here comes backstory. Unfortunately, she wasn't allowed to drink during that scene. So it was easier for me, and I don't think she burped at the end of her scene, either. I think maybe she can go back and do that.
The rumor is that you and Gillian shot a take where you kissed. True?
No, no, no. No. It was just like, we were acting like it was, like, a gross carnal coupling, you know? It was a joke for the crew and for us. The actual kissing and you know — that was never a part of the movie and so we never would have shot that, no. The only time we did that was as a joke. Gillian and I did it to our liking and then I said, you know, "Let's do one, let's do one where we — I take you up against the wall here." But that was never — there was never any thought — we were outside of the camera's view actually at that point, so that's not even on film.
What type of movies and TV did you watch as a kid?
I didn't go to the movies that often. But I remember seeing McHale's Navy, a TV franchise that became a movie [laughs]. I watched — I liked the, you know, the Saturday matinee; Sunday at home, though. Like Abbott and Costello. I watched a lot of Abbott and Costello. I liked scary movies like a lot of kids. I remember seeing a Steve McQueen movie and being moved in some way, and I remember seeing a movie about a woman that killed people and buried them in her garden. It was like — it wasn't Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. But it was like — no, it was an older woman, was the Alice woman who — it was terrifying to me. All I remember is that she smacked some woman over the head with a telephone receiver and killed her with that. That was one of her murders. [He's probably thinking of Geraldine Page in What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?] I remember walking home after that, just terrified. And my — I went to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre with my brother, and he was relentless after that. You know, he'd just come up on me and go, like [makes chainsaw noise] for months and I would jump. That was very scary to me, that movie.
Speaking of scaring kids, do you find it shocking that kids like The X-Files?
I don't think that's so shocking to me because I think that kids aren't really hung up on story. I mean, if you've ever had a conversation with a kid, you know that the beginning, middle and end is not that important. You know, it's kind of one long, "And then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then" and it's not like a narrative. It's just chronological. So if we don't have a narrative, I think it's fine for kids. I don't think they're watching it to see, "Hmm, I think that Mulder and Scully should get together." You know, I don't think they're looking at it like — or they might be in, like, the fairy-tale way of, like, the prince and the princess. They might want Mulder and Scully to be mom and dad and have children. So I can see little kids — they'd have to be crazy little kids, though, to actually go that far with it. But I do get some fan mail like that where little kids want you to get married to Scully.
But I think 7-year-olds — if they like the show, I don't think they watch it for the story. I think they watch it because it's moody, you know? And it feels scary even if they don't understand why it is. It's like it feels spooky. And I think kids like that. And I think it's even better if they don't get it, 'cause then they're not really scared. They're just kind of involving themselves with the adults. I'm not advocating that this is a good show to, you know, have your kid watch in any way. [Laughs.] We not only want your daughter and you, we want your granddaughter.
When Gillian Anderson was asked how much acting it takes to pretend Scully and Mulder have something more going on between them than you two do in real life, she declined to comment. Do you get along with each other?
You know, you have a working relationship with somebody that becomes over a period of time — it gets strained, it gets unstrained. You know, we have five years together very closely working together. And, you know, I can't psychoanalyze Gillian but I would say, you know, she just wants people to know that she's a person with her own feelings, and for her to say that "I'm more than Scully," that's one way to say that. You know, her not wanting to comment on that is like saying, "You know, I have a life going on here that is more than Scully or is more than the show and I want to be taken seriously."
[Series creator] Chris Carter said one fan told him he's closer to the truth than he realizes. Do you encounter people who can't separate you from your character or the fictional conspiracies in the show?
I don't have that many encounters anymore just because I — I'm protected by a posse, you understand. So it's hard to get to me, hard to even slip me a note. So I have less contact with those folks. Chris, I believe, actively seeks them out because it makes him feel kind of important. [Laughs.] You know, because he is important to those people. I think there are a lot of people who go further than even our show goes. And God knows, maybe they're right. I don't know.
Given that, how do you keep a straight face with some of the conspiracy-speak and other paranoid dialogue you have to deliver?
Well, to be honest with you — no, I don't want to do that. No, honestly, it becomes sometimes for me a matter of pride. Sometimes I say to Chris, "Your highest ambition, what you are always going for — and I'm the only one in the world that sees it — is you want to be in Bartlett's Quotations. You are trying — every show, you come up with a pithy little aphorism, like 'deny everything' and you just put it in my mouth and I've got to sell it like it's actual language." So sometimes it becomes a matter of pride to me.
I want it to be as chunky and as nonspoken as possible, and then that becomes the challenge to actually give it a rhythm of speech because Chris also likes to use five or six subordinate clauses in each sentence, which people do in life. But they don't do it grammatically like he does: "for which," "by which," "to which." He's a big fan of "for whiches" and "by whiches," and "whomever" he likes. And "notwithstanding" will sometimes appear in a script although it appears nowhere else in life. You know, this is not speaking out of school because I tell this to Chris every day. It becomes a matter of pride, you know, how can I make this talk? And that's actually kind of fun sometimes. And sometimes I can't pull it off, and sometimes the writing's great. Sometimes the writing plays itself. It's a function of, you know, having to write 24 of those shows and having to tell a very complicated story and having to lay it out on the line and then, you know, it falls to the actor to make it seem like, "Hmm, we're just having a conversation."
You've shown a very funny side on, for example, The Larry Sanders Show. Do you ever feel you'd like to do different things but are stuck in the role of Fox Mulder?
Sure, sure. The only problem — I say it again and again — is the fact that it takes 10 months out of a year to do. For instance, Téa's show [NBC's The Naked Truth, now canceled] took seven months. Sitcoms take seven, eight months. Other ensemble dramas take 10 months. But they're ensembles, so George Clooney can go and do Batman or do Out of Sight. He can go off and do that. Also because he lives in Los Angeles, which was one of the reasons why I was interested in bringing the show back here. It really just becomes about time, and then when you factor in, you know, that you want to have a family life or a personal life, then it becomes really difficult to satisfy the demands of a television show like The X-Files and satisfy your own creativity and your own life. So that's why I would like to see it turn into a movie franchise, because I don't want to necessarily say goodbye to it. I love the show and I love the character, but I just don't want to give it all, like I have.