Interview - The X-Files' Chris Carter Wants You To Believe
X-Files Creator Chris Carter Interview
When it comes to X-Files: I Want to Believe, the truth may be out there but that doesn’t necessarily apply to any of the secrets surrounding the highly anticipated sequel. Due out in theatres on July 25th, creator Chris Carter took some serious, and some might even argue Area 51 level, precautions to ensure plot details remained classified.
“When we gave out the scenes, they weren’t necessarily scenes from the script, but scenes from the television show which were roughly representative of the character,” explains Carter. “We only let key people read the script and it was under a watchful eye. We put them in a room with video cameras and that script is under lock and key. It seems like overkill but people have tried to keep movies a secret before and failed. So many people have seen it now, so many people worked on it too but so far, we’ve been able to keep the plot a secret. We learned from doing the first movie what didn’t work.”
“We didn’t give scripts out; people had to check them in and out every day. The hard part of making a movie where you are taking these secretive measures is a lot of people working on the movie have never read the script and only worked off of sides. They were only told what to do by the people who read the script. That is not the best way to work.”
For those requiring a quick refresher course, the X-Files debuted in 1993 and gradually emerged as a cult phenomenon. Over its spooky eight year run, Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully peeked into the corners of the unknown, often investigating cases involving the paranormal, the existence of extraterrestrials, and bizarre monsters and mutants. Towards the end of those adventures, two new characters, John Doggett and Monica Reyes, took center stage until the series went off the air in 2002. Despite constant rumors of a follow up to 1998’s X-Files: Fight for the Future film, many devoted viewers feared they had seen the last of Mulder and Scully.
“Back when the series ended six years ago, Fox came to Frank Spotnitz and me a year later and said ‘Are you guys interested in doing another movie?’” recalls Carter. “It actually had been spoken about and something we toyed with even as the series was still going on. So when Fox came to us, we came up with a story, went back to Fox, they liked it, went into negotiations, and then there was a ‘contractual dispute’ over a television show sponsor participation and that ended up becoming a lawsuit. It ended up being a continuing negotiation that took years. When that was resolved, five years had passed. Then Fox came to us and said ‘Look, if you are interested in doing this movie, it is now or never.’ They saw the writers’ strike looming and believed it could go on for a year or more which meant it would be two more years before we got an X-Files movie in the theatre and that would be too long. Over the last year, we wrote, prepped, filmed, and now finished the movie.”
Reprising their iconic roles are actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson and while some online outlets have reported their Mulder and Scully reunite to solve a mystery involving abducted women and bizarre medical experiments, what Carter guarantees is that this is not another alien heavy conspiracy movie.
“We did not want to tell a mythology story,” notes Carter. “We felt we had already done that with the first one. We wanted to do what we mostly did on X-Files, which is tell a stand alone story that did not require a knowledge of the mythology arc. There were a couple of reasons for doing that. Firstly, we thought it was an opportunity to tell a scary story. Secondly, we think there are a whole lot of people out there who really don’t know the X-Files and that was something that struck me when talking to college age campuses who were too young to watch the show. If you are 20-years-old now, the show first came on when you were 4-years-old. We thought there was a way to reach them and introduce the show to a whole new audience while giving the hardcore fans what they seemed so enthusiastic for. This movie was made because of those hardcore fans and it’s made for them and a whole new audience as well.”
Nonetheless, Carter knew what needed to be addressed was who Scully and Mulder were at this point in their lives.
“That was the big question and we wanted it to be honest to the characters and passage of time so we find them six years later,” reveals Carter. “I can’t tell you where we find them because it’s what I call the element of surprise, but I put a lot of thought into this.”
Besides the two leads, one fresh face sucked into all this madness is Dakota Whitney.
“She is an FBI agent,” explains Carter. “Dakota is very good at her job. She’s a woman in a position where roughly 90 per cent of the FBI are men. She has to be strong, bold, and tough if she is going to lead those men.”
As for Skinner, Krycek, The Smoking Man, or the Lone Gunmen, Carter won’t confirm if any of those beloved characters will be stopping by.
“We definitely saw it as a chance to have a reunion but certain people had to be excluded,” says Carter. “It was probably more a feature of telling a stand alone story than a willful exclusion.”
No matter what the changes, after both friends and foes have consistently warned the agents to “trust no one” and that “the truth is out there,” at least one of those issues still holds true.
“The truth is out there is obviously the abiding theme of the show so it always applies because it is the search for meaning, reality, truth beyond science and over the horizons,” says Carter. “That is an area we always play in which helps to make the story scary and wondrous. Trust no one applies less now because we are not dealing with a government conspiracy. The title of the movie, "I Want To Believe", takes the place of trust no one. It was actually the title we wrote on the front page of the script and that was what I wanted from the beginning. It applies to the story and is also so emblematic of Mulder’s quest that I thought it was fitting and would harken back to the very roots of the content.”
To further maximize its frightening and dark mood, the X-Files went back to their old stomping grounds, namely Vancouver, where they filmed the majority of the series. “It was wonderful and everyone was looking forward to it,” states Carter. “If you look beyond the stars of the show, which are Mulder and Scully, there are certain things and people I would credit. The music is one thing and the look of the show is another, meaning the look the directors of photography and production designers gave it. Vancouver could be considered one of the stars of the show if you will because it gave us what I’d call free atmosphere. It gave us a tone and look to the show that set it apart and helped to make it that much better.
"We went up there originally because of the forest and David has said it was two weeks that turned into five years. We never went up there for economic reasons although we stayed there for them. I would say we never saved money; we just put that much more on screen. I also think there was a huge benefit to me and the show that came out of the work ethic of the people in Vancouver. They were completely invested in it, they worked long hard hours, often times in extreme conditions, and never flagged. That was one of the reasons we were looking forward to going back, to see if we could put the band together and to a large extent, we did.”
The location may have once again been familiar but that didn’t make production any easier.
“No, quite the contrary,” admits Carter. “Frank and I wrote a story that takes place in a snowy environment so we knew we had to go north of even Vancouver to get it. Going up there and working nights in the snow is probably the hardest thing you can do. It was just very difficult.”
And he should know from personal experience. Rob Bowman helmed the original X-Files movie but I Want To Believe marks Carter’s return behind the camera.
“When I write, it is from pictures in my head,” he explains. “If you are a visual person, the most satisfying thing is to see if you can realize the images in your mind. That is the main reason I directed but I believe in the collaborative process. Often when you do turn your work over to someone else, it makes it better. That certainly is the case for X-Files. In this case, I just wanted the chance to direct again and realize those images.”
At the time of this interview, it is still months before X-Files: I Want To Believe opens yet with all the buzz surrounding it, speculating about a third installment doesn’t seem too premature.
“It is not too early to be considering it but it would be foolish to really plan for that because everything hinges on the success of this movie,” notes Carter. “Even though we know there is a hardcore fanbase out there that is looking forward to it, you don’t know if it will crossover or if everyone who was an X-Files fan will go to see it. Hopefully, we have given those people the kind of movie they will come out for.”
That wish is not so far fetched. While out promoting the X-Files over the last few months, it became evident to Carter that the fandom hasn’t faded away at all but is still very much alive and thriving.
“I have to say, going to the conventions just blows me away with the resiliency and longevity of the show and how much those characters mean to people,” concludes Carter. “You have people come and say how the X-Files changed or even saved their life. It is almost unbelievable. It is completely unexpected, surprising, but wonderful.”