Interview -The Minds Behind the X-Files - Spotnitz & Carter

X-Files Spotnitz & Carter Interview

As with all things X-Files, the new feature film The X-Files: I Want to Believe was shrouded in a veil of secrecy that kept even crew members and actors in the dark about the film’s storyline. Now, with the film due to arrive in theaters July 25th, the film’s writer-director Chris Carter and writer-producer Frank Spotnitz say it’s a relief to finally lift the veil on the project.

“We spent the last eight months avoiding talking about the movie and it’s nice to finally get to talk about it,” says Spotnitz, one of the more prolific writers and an executive producer on the original series.

While the return of The X-Files was delayed by what series creator Carter calls “contractual problems” that took several years to work out, another unexpected obstacle was that the pair had lost the story notes that they had worked out for the film back in 2003. While they were able to reconstruct the story, they found their emphasis changing to focus on the lead characters of former FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

“We realized that, to be true to the characters, that their relationship could not have stood still. It had to have changed,” says Spotnitz. “And we saw it much more emotional than we did immediately after the show ended.”

The first scene in which the iconic characters appear together was a particularly tough nut to crack. “That was the hardest scene in the movie, I think, because, what do you say after six years?” Carter says. “How do you have these characters have a conversation that is true to the story but is also the first time we’ve seen them in a room together after such an absence?”

Joining the film as a defrocked priest who claims to have psychic visions is Scottish comedian and actor Billy Connolly. Carter says he wrote the role with Connolly in mind without the slightest idea of whether the actor would be available or interested.

“I got to actually be sitting in front of him, telling him what a big fan I was of his and how I thought he could do anything,” Carter says. “He was honored, I think, and flattered and he took the script, which I wasn’t giving out to people, and I gave it to him without all the forms that we usually make people sign. And he took it with him to New York, he read it on the plane and he wrote me the nicest note, which I will have framed on my wall: ‘When do we start?’ And it was that simple.”

The film returned to the show’s original locations in and around Vancouver, with many of the outdoor winter scenes shot at the Whistler ski resort. Carter says directing in the snow poses huge logistical challenges.

“In the snow, you’ve got to get snowmobiles and sleds and it’s loud and it’s smelly and it’s time consuming,” he says. “The way you direct actors in the snow, because you don’t want to trample the beautiful snow between you and them, is you yell the direction at them. More of that! Less! More! Directing becomes, I would call it, by semaphore. It is a just a different experience and nothing prepares you for it until you do it.”

Finding an ending for the movie was one of the most difficult things to do when writing the script because, Spotnitz says, he and Carter couldn’t quite agree on how to do it.

“Chris is a person of faith and I’m a doubter,” says Spotnitz. “I’m very interested in faith, in the question of faith. But when it came time to resolve this movie and coming up with an ending, we were at an impasse. And we actually went to script not knowing how to resolve our personal differences. And the ending that we came up with, which I think is really the only ending.”

Spotnitz says he found the final film to be an unexpectedly emotional one, whose plotlines resonate with each other in compelling ways. “The more you think about this movie, the more parallels you’ll see between what the bad guys are doing and what Mulder and Scully are doing,” he says. “So it just felt emotionally right.”

Looking back on the final two seasons of the TV show, in which Duchovny reduced his role and new characters and storylines were added, Carter says he’s proud of those shows even if the conventional wisdom is to dismiss them. “Some of the best storytelling came in the last four years of the show, I would say, because we hit our stride,” he says. “I’m glad we went nine years.”

Spotnitz agrees, though he gets why those seasons are less popular with die-hard fans. “I understand why a number of fans just couldn’t get emotionally invested without Mulder there,” he says. “That makes total sense; the show was built around Mulder.”

While die-hard fans will surely flock to see the film in theaters, the planned DVD and Blu-Ray release will be an event of its own. Spotnitz says both versions will feature an extended cut of the film, which he says will be only slightly longer but more explicit and a little more emotional. The rest of the disc will be packed with bonus features, including multiple commentaries, a gag reel, a making-of feature and some kind of online component that is still being determined. They also will be trying to take advantage of some of the more advanced capabilities of Blu-Ray, Spotnitz says.

Carter says that he knows the film won’t please all the fans. And while there probably as many ideas about what this movie should be as there are fans, the film’s story is representative of the vast majority of the series, where only about 20 percent of the shows touched on the complex alien abduction mythology. And if the film does well, more X-Files movies are a definite possibility. “If it’s successful, we will talk about another movie,” he says.

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