On the Set of The X-Files
By Steve Pond
August in Los Angeles, It's freezing. Not outside, of course, where it's in the 80's. But here, on a huge sound stage on the 20th Century Fox lot, people are bundled up in parkas, thick jackets, boots. Eight enormous black air conditioners occupy one end of the set, pumping out cold air. Trucks bring in blocks of ice that are crushed and spewed out across the enormous platform that takes up most of the stage. "Welcome to Antarctica," says a staffer.
And across this Antarctic plain, FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are running for their life-which is to say that across the set of the film based on ‘The X- Files,' David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are running toward new careers as movie stars and not just TV icons. In a couple of weeks, they're due to head back to Vancouver, British Columbia, to shoot more television episodes; for now, though, it's time to see if a ground breaking TV show will work on a bigger screen, with a different pace.
"It's much slower," says Duchovny during a break. "Much more technical, because you've got a big screen to fill perfectly, rather than a small screen that you can kind of cheat with. You have to figure out how to pace yourself, because you can go two weeks without saying a line. Or you just say ‘Let's go!' or ‘Gotta run!' It's a mental rest. You don't have to prepare yourself to run across snow. How do you act that? You just do it."
So they do it. Mulder runs, Scully staggers and falls, Mulder picks her up and drags her. They do it again and again and again. Then they slog off the ice. "That was fun," says Duchovny.
Anderson says nothing. She looks miserable as she trudges across the wet ground, unbuttoning the parka she's wearing to reveal black pants and a white T-shirt over a black lace bra. Her hair is matted, her face pale, her lips chapped. A makeup woman spritzes water on Anderson's hair.
Anderson finds a perch at the top of a small stepladder. "I'm pretty comfortable in this movie," she says, "until about Scene 85. And then it all goes downhill."
She tries to explain without giving away what shouldn't be given away-which is to say, most of the movie. "See," she says, "we're just coming out of...some other place..and when we were in the place that we're coming out of, I was wet and gooey...and naked. So at least now I'm wet but clothed."
Dry and clothed, ‘X-Files' mastermind Chris Carter sits in a warm trailer and says he doesn't really remember when it occurred to him to make the move, though a crucial moment came when he saw an episode projected on a big screen at the Museum of Televison and Radio. Twentieth Century Fox, he says, was amenable to moving one of its most valuable franchises to film; sill, negotiations bogged down late in the film's pre-production.
"They were holding me to a tight budget," Carter says, "and there were some other negotiations that were not spelled out to everyone's liking." Carter had already sent a second-unit crew to British Columbia to, but that crew couldn't begin work until the contractual issues were settled. Then Carter learned that Fox had gone behind his back and told the second unit to begin shooting. "In other words," he says, "they didn't want me to know that they had already said yes, in a way. They were playing Hollywood games."
After Carter learned Fox's secrets, he began to keep a few of his own. "I've gone to CIA lengths to protect the material," he says of the story line. Of course, Internet devotees have long since disseminated what they claim are some plot details; Carter responds that he has been putting out misinformation as well. In other words: Trust no one. Maybe the truth is out there; then again, maybe not.
"What we're trying to do [in the film]," Carter says, taking refuge in generalities, "is expose some of the myths, create some new myths, answer a lot of questions that are posed. I can't just leave it open-ended here, the way I can on the show."
Back on the set, director Rob Bowman (a veteran of many ‘X-Files' episodes) sits in a chair that reads BLACKWOOD. Storyboards are propped against a nearby railing. EXTERIOR SPACESHIP, they read.
"Without going into too much," says Bowman, "this is a tale of Mulder and Scully searching deep into the heart of the conspiracy and coming to an understanding of what the plan is in it's entirety, who and what are involved, and how they're executing their plan. And if I told you the whole story, you'd still be wondering about it."
A few feet away, Anderson takes a seat in Duchovny's chair. "It's OK," she says of her minor bit of trespassing. "He won't hit me."
And if he does, it'll be all over the Internet tomorrow.
This perks her up. "What are they saying about me on the Internet these days?" she asks eagerly.
Well, for a while they were saying that Anderson and Duchovny weren't speaking. And then there was a report that things must be OK, because they were spotted having lunch together.
"When did we have lunch together?" Anderson asks. She shrugs. "What else?"
That she and Al Roker are having an affair.
"Al Roker? Who's that?" she asks.
A weather man for ‘The Today Show.' Middle-aged. Overweight.
"What a great rumor," she says, pleased.
Many folks on the Internet are troubled by some of the leaks.
Specifically, they're worried that Scully is being reduced to a damsel in distress who needs to be saved by Mulder.
Anderson nods thoughtfully. She doesn't say anything for a long time. "I can't speak to that," she says finally. "I don't know how to speak to that."
Scully, she adds slowly, "has changed in many positive ways. That's what I'm trying to focus on. And ultimately, I have no control. If I had more control, things would be a little different. But I don't It's just..." She shakes her head. "There's so much room for huge leaps forward."
Nearby, Anderson's parents watch the filming. Carter, Bowman and Duchovny are engrossed in a discussion about what would happen if the floor (i.e., the ice plain) were to drop out from under you. Would you slip, flail, throw your hands up? They try it. They try it again. Then they take a break. Duchovny heads to his trailer, where he strips off his heavy clothes. He lies on the couch wearing black long johns and at tight black undershirt. A picture of his wife, Tea Leoni, sits on the table.
Duchovny considers one rumor swirling around the movie: Mulder and Scully nearly have a sex scene and then something happens-the rules of the relationship are changing.
"The rules?" muses Duchovny. "Yeah, well, what happens is that Scully gets a gift of that book ‘The Rules' from her mother. She reads it and then she gives Mulder a copy of ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,' and the rest of the movie basically plays out like ‘My Best Friends Wedding' with stunts and without Ruper Everett."
Duchovny shakes his head. "Chris [Carter] is gonna kill me for telling you this," he says, "but in the last scene, Mulder and Scully are in bed together. She's reading ‘Bridges of Madison County'; he's reading ‘The Horse Whisperer.' And they're bot weeping because of the profundity of those masterworks. I'm getting a little choked up just talking about it. And then they turn to each other, and no words need to be said. We fade out."
The truth is out there, all right-way out there.
Transcript appears courtesy of US Magazine.