Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 14 News List

The truth is still out there

It has taken 10 years for 'The X-Files' to finally return to the big screen. Director Chris Carter reveals what in the heavens took him so long

By John Patterson  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

So The X-Files’ Mulder and Scully — the rational man who “wants to believe” and the skeptical Catholic doctor — can we construe them as symbolizing conflicts or debates in your own mind?

“Oh, very much so, yes.”

In the past five years, the chances of another X-Files movie seemed slim, thanks to a long-running lawsuit with Fox TV. “We talked about another movie as far back as the last one, 10 years ago. But Fox approached us in 2003 and said, ‘Let’s go.’ We were ready to go, but then there followed what I would call a contractual thing over the series’ profit, and what started out as a negotiation had to turn into a lawsuit — it’s complicated — in order for me to protect my right to negotiate. It took years to settle, and at that point I didn’t think there could ever be a second movie. Then, after everything was resolved, Fox called and said, ‘Remember that movie you had in mind? You’d better get ready to do it now or never, because there’s a Writers Guild strike looming.’ So it was years of stasis, and then a mad rush.”

Of course, in the interim, his stars had been doing other things as well. David Duchovny has recently been seen leaping naked from bedroom windows as the charismatic cad Hank Moody in Californication. Gillian Anderson, meanwhile, has reinvented herself in the UK (where she spent a long period in her teens), carving out a new identity in period dramas such as Bleak House and the House of Mirth, where her John Singer Sargent-style looks serve her well. How was it for them, returning after such a long hiatus?

“They’ll tell you it was hard, but I felt they stepped back into it with a facility that they both developed through so many years of doing the show. I think what you cannot discount is how much those 202 episodes did for them as actors. They brought back an artistry beyond technique, with these other roles and experiences enriching, deepening them, stretching them. Then they had to come back into shape, as it were, back to the original roles.”

One particularly eye-catching piece of casting is the use of comedian Billy Connolly in the “monster of the week” role of Father Joe, a pedophile priest — more sympathetically depicted than one might anticipate — whose supposed psychic abilities help Mulder and Scully disinter a series of murder victims but also place him under suspicion. (It’s bracing to hear Anderson say things like, “Well, let’s not forget, he buggered 37 altar boys.”) Is Connolly an X-Files fan?

“No, he’s not, actually,” Carter says. “I’m a fan of his, and we wrote the part especially for him. I saw him in Mrs Brown and I thought he was fantastic. When we were filming in Vancouver, we found he’s a lot more widely known outside the US. There’s a much more direct connection to British culture in Canada, and everyone knew The Welly Boot Song. But I loved Mrs Brown, and I also heard him on a George Martin record [singing Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite], based on the Beatles song. And between noting those two things, I’d spent some time down in Baja California, and someone told me — another Scotsman who lives down there — that he had seen Billy Connolly down there, by himself, walking down a road literally in the middle of nowhere, and I thought, ‘That is so bizarre! Somehow Billy Connolly and I are meant to work together!’”

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