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Top Ten Behind The Scenes Secrets from The X-Files: Event Series

(2016-07-13 22:48:06)


As you know, the latest release of The X-Files on home video included the documentaries "43:45" and "Season X." We had been waiting for months to see what they would bring, and see what documentarian Julie Ng had captured during the Revival shoot.

For weeks, we've monitored Tumblr and so many other social media platforms to see the reaction; there's just so much curiosity about the behind the scenes of the latest season and so many details to get into. The frenzy was everywhere. So, Julie Ng had a great idea when she noticed all of you disecting every frame... Let's give them some of the behind-the-scenes of the behind-the-scenes!

So grab some pizza and coffee, maybe even some wine and enjoy this thorough tale of the Top Ten of what it was to be the biggest undercover X-Phile on set.

Ten Stories Behind-the-Scenes that Didn’t Make it in the Behind-the-Scenes

By Julie Ng.

I have found myself making behind-the-scenes documentaries and producing DVD supplements for well over a decade now. Having said that, I have been a die-hard x-phile since 1994, long before I did this as a profession. Working on the revival was a unique, if surreal experience. Never have I had an opportunity to focus so closely and so intensely on a title that I had been such a passionate fan of myself. Now that The X-Files: Event Series has finally been released on DVD and Bluray in most parts of the world, it’s been equally surreal getting to communicate with fellow fans about this labour of love.

One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been asked is: "Why were only two deleted scenes included on the set?" The truth is, that’s all there was. The Raincoat Woman scene ("My Struggle I") and the unfinished Toddler William scene (in "Founder’s Mutation"incorporated into "Season X") were the only scenes that were filmed but outright axed. Did the odd line of dialogue within a scene get excised? Yes. Probably several. That’s the nitty-gritty minutiae of post-production work between Chris Carter, Glen Morgan, Darin Morgan, Jim Wong and the editors, Heather MacDougall and Rob Komatsu. To meet runtime, to pick up the pace, joke not hitting, narrative clarity, continuity? These are the usual guesses as to why, but I can’t speak to those creative decisions.

Just recently, I watched my BTS documentary, "Season X" off the actual Bluray for the first time and it evoked many memories. I couldn’t help but think in contrast, the heaps of footage shot and of anecdotes, soundbites and minor details that I’d liked, but cut for various reasons. Many are pretty frivolous, a couple are legitimate regrets and obviously, none are nearly as exciting as the prospect of more actual deleted X-Files scenes. But, I thought that there might be philes out there who’d be interested in some of the “deleted”bits and pieces that didn’t get used behind-the-scenes, and that if I’m going share these stories, I best do it soon before these memories fade, my next project begins and the media gets archived and locked up on a high shelf in the Pentagon.

Note: This super-long edition of XFN’s Top Ten Tuesday might make a bit more sense if you’ve already listened to the “Mulder & Scully Meet the Weremonster” commentary and have watched the extras, in particular, "Season X."

1) Scully in Motion

Throughout "My Struggle II"there are many mouthfuls of expositional science-jargon. While we touch on this in “scully likes science”, what we weren’t able to emphasize as much were the efforts by Chris Carter in his blocking as a director and by Robert Komatsu as editor to keep the episode from stagnating with too much talking. Scenes like Mulder’s fight with CSM’s henchman amped up the action, but "My Struggle II"is ultimately Scully’s struggle.

Rob KomatsuTo keep this episode energetic, we never let Scully rest. If she came up with an idea and says ‘I need to report this to Einstein’, we’d just cut right to her bursting through the doors. So we always tried to keep that momentum going. Einstein gets weak and has to lay on a gurney. Mulder looks like he’s on the verge of death. Miller looks like he’s about to pass out. You have all these people on the streets with masks on and they’re looking sick. But Scully, she never has that luxury. She’s always walking and talking, or driving on sidewalks, running on the bridge. So she was always the propulsive element of the episode to get us to the finish line.   

Stunt Coordinator (also occasional-Scully-stunt-double), Melissa Stubbs had some ideas about that too, maybe better suited if Gillian actually got to replace Daniel Craig in James Bond 25.

Melissa Stubbs:There’s gridlock, there’s no way through. I said to Chris Carter, ‘you know, if I was Scully… and I’m not… but… I would steal a motorcycle and that’s how I would get through the city. He goes, “It’s not very Scully.”  And I’m like, “No, it isn’t. Scully would never ride a motorcycle unfortunately. So, she drives her Ford Explorer and has to get out of gridlock in the city any which way she can. Drive over benches, drive over sidewalks, through people, without running over people. So we have to simulate gridlock and Scully finding her own path. It’s like one of those days when you’re stuck in traffic and you’re late for work and all the things you’ve wanted to do.  You see an opening and you go for it. Any way possible to get to the person that you love, that you care about and save their life.” 

CameraOperator, MikeWrinch enjoys the spacious legroom in Scully’s Ford Explore

Take after take, Gillian did all her own driving in the race to get to Mulder. I remember Chris asking if she was sure, since Melissa was standing by to double her if need be. Gillian was sure: “I have to make up for backing up into the fucking pole!!!” 

So, there you have it. Congratulations to the three of you still reading that have reached the end. Thanks XFN for this unique opportunity to share a bit of my thought process. Usually I’m able to put a project to bed after delivery and move on, this one was so personal that it’s been a little harder to ‘let go’. This helped. None of my rambling would even be possible though if not for the trust and support of Chris Carter, Gabe Rotter, Morgan(s) and Wong, the indomitable cast and crew and of course, the gang at Fox Home Entertainment. It was the most challenging, most rewarding job I’ve ever been a part of. Words are not enough to express my gratitude.

2) Cut the Mystery Crap and Get To the Science[of the Spartan Virus]

Dr. Anne Simon visited the set during the filming of "Babylon." She graciously agreed to an impromptu interview and I quickly discovered her enthusiasm for the life sciences and got a small sense of how fun it might be to attend her classes (she is a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Maryland). For “making of” docs, my bias tends to lean heavily towards the creative process in relation to character development, production challenges and craft. What is CRISPR/CAS9 gene editing, what makes DNA scientifically “alien” (6 nucleotides!), how common is genome sequencing? These are equally fascinating topics too, but I felt that to properly go deep into the real science within "My Struggle II’s" plot, or even into the labyrinthian mythology would require their own individual featurettes to do any real justice.  Ann has had the opportunity to speak about many of these same ideas in print, with the Washington Post, here at XFN and even in the realm of podcasts, on the Not Another X-Files Podcast.

Chris Carter shared story credit on "My Struggle II"with Ann and her colleague, Dr. Margaret Fearon for working out the epidemiology of the Spartan virus. This virus, sitting dormant within everyone’s small pox vaccination, is a new, science-heavy plot development to the “2012 invasion” but it still has strong ties to early mythology threads set up as far back as "Anasazi"(something to consider before accusing Scully of jumping on the anti-vaxxer bandwagon). It’s also an idea that I definitely benefitted from Ann explaining to me in layman’s terms. 

Dr. Ann Simon, science advisor to Chris Carter.

Ann Simon:Over the seasons we discovered that Scully had alien DNA incorporated into her DNA and she thought that this would be detrimental to her health. What we’re doing [in episode 6] is we’re introducing this brand new way of being able to specifically target DNA, cut very specifically, pieces of DNA. We’re using this technique called CRISPR/CAS. We’re using it to actually go after the immune system. 

One thing that most people know is that if you’re born without a particular enzyme, adenosine deaminase, or ADA, that you lose your immune system. This is the “boy in the bubble” syndrome. What we’re doing on the show is introducing a way to get rid of people’s ADA -something that they got in their smallpox vaccine.  With the smallpox vaccine, you’re given this other virus, the cowpox virus. Tagging along with that virus now is another virus [the Spartan virus] and this virus contains this CRISPR/CAS. It detaches and goes throughout the body and infects all the cells, including, importantly, the germ line cells - the egg and sperm cells that give you the next generation.  So the next generation and generations after that have a hidden virus waiting to be activated, that will eliminate immune systems, slowly. Now, all of the sudden, the common cold can kill you. Flu can kill you.  Any germ that normally your immune system gets rid of can literally kill you. If this happens, there would be a worldwide panic. And the question of course now is, how does Scully figure out that the alien DNA that she fears, actually protects her from this CRISPR/CAS taking the ADA gene out of her genome? 

3) Julie Misses it All (Or:a trio of hijinx,none of which I managed to get on camera)

It was the morning of August 12. I was asleep in a 10th floor apartment and instead of my alarm, I woke to the sound of… clucking pigeons. The night previous I’d left the balcony door open a little too wide and two of them had managed to fly inside. They were now stumbling all over the place like a couple of drunk birds. Long story short, the pathetic extended comedy of me trying to shoo them back out into nature made me late for work. We were on Episode 5 (at the time, that meant "Founder’s Mutation"). Based on the call sheet, the first scene up was an establishing shot of Scully driving up to park in front of Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital. Ok, no big deal, I thought, I wouldn’t be missing much. Except, apparently I did. When I arrived on set, Nadine, a key set PA, grabbed my arm. “Julie! You just missed it”! She pointed to Scully’s SUV parked off to the side. It had a fairly sizeable dent on its rear bumper. When your express job is to shoot what happens behind the scenes, the last thing you want is someone running up to you yelling, “You just missed the funniest thing ever by ten minutes”! Even David and Gillian asked if I’d shot it and I still didn’t even know what the hell had happened yet. Instantly, I was pissed at those pigeons.

Jim Wong [writer/director of Founder’s Mutation]Here’s what happened. We do a take, and [Scully’s] supposed to drive up and park in front of the hospital. She does. I decided to go for another take. I don’t know why we didn’t have the transportation guy back the car up, but Gillian decides to back the car up [to first position]. As she’s backing up, I really see that she’s heading in the wrong direction. But she stops! And it’s like, “Oh, thank God, she sees that she’s about to hit the pole.” And then, just a beat later, she steps on the accelerator and goes directly into the pole. I don’t quite understand what happened, the thought process between stopping and going again, but obviously it was not to turn the wheel…

Gillian Anderson:It was a large, tall pole that I should have seen, but I was concentrating on the Teamster in my left wing mirror and the location PA in my right mirror and trying not to hit them. I didn’t look into the rearview mirror and I slammed pretty hard into it. And actually experienced some whiplash for the next couple days.

David blindly feels around for an invisible pole

he following day, August 13. I wasn’t late to set, but was chasing down shots for Fox’s Green Initiative PSA. I was literally shooting inserts of healthy snacks at craft service (shots I could have gotten any time of the day over a period of 3 months) and somehow, I missed this too…

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Jim Wong: I’m talking to the director of photography, and I look up and David [is walking onto set]… He has a neck brace around his neck. I think, “Oh my God, we’ve lost a day! I can’t shoot with him literally like this [see Wong’s photo]”. He looks at me and sees I’m about to freak and he goes, “It’s a joke, it’s a joke. Don’t say anything! I’m going over to show Gillian. I only saw from the corner of my eye, but I heard Gillian scream.

I later read an article where David shares this prank and says he wishes someone had filmed her reaction. Man, I wish he had found me. I wish I wasn’t off filming celery sticks. This wasn’t even the most absurd thing to happen that day. First scene that day had Mulder & Scully coaxing mental patient, Jackie Goldman (Rebecca Wisocky) to talk. I stood at video village just outside the room to capture the point of view of Jim Wong at the monitors. That’s where I was when Rebecca chucked an apple into Gillian’s chest. David had some good zingers: Apple in the boob! Down goes Anderson! He joked for his stand-in, Steve Kiziak, to sit in for him for the next take, which got the biggest laughs from the crew. Rebecca kept apologizing profusely. All the while Gillian’s uncontrollable laughter was echoing from the floor where she had collapsed in shock. It was indeed hilarious, but I was also berating myself. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time that day. I did the best I could to convey “the story of the apple” with dailies, thanks to the camera operators who had kept rolling after it had all gone awry, but obviously, I wish I had been beside them to get the angle I’m sure everyone wanted to see (you know, for posterity sake). That was quite a 24 hour string of unfortunate events for Gillian and all joking aside, I hope she recovered okay from all of them. My thanks to her and Jim for having a sense of humour about it all and their willingness to recount these stories in our final interviews.

4) Platonic Activity

There’s a point David Duchovny makes when he wraps up the discussion about nostalgia in “getting the band back together”. He emphasizes the need to be true to time passage and how that plays on the characters: “That was always important to me, if we are going to keep going to not try to play the exact same characters doing the same things ‘cause, 22 years have passed.”That’s the context in which I interpreted the controversial decision to break up Mulder and Scully. I ship those characters pretty hard, so needless to say I was curious to see how this would be developed, however, I never saw this as an attempt to reset to the unresolved sexual tension of the early seasons. For me, this development felt consistent based on the relationship issues that were hinted between the two in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Even then, Scully was having problems coping with Mulder’s obsessive behaviour; pushing him away as she struggled to communicate her own insecurities. Maybe I’m just a sucker for angst or longing (most storytellers would also confirm that conflict = drama), but I actually think some of the most revealing, if bittersweet character moments and acting performances have come when Mulder & Scully were at odds. Consider that brutal final beat in "Never Again"the “missing a Molly” scene from "Three Words", the locker room fight in I Want to Believe. Here was the opportunity to get to see David and Gillian play with the new dynamic of a separated couple going through a rough patch (I think Chris Carter has since referred to their relationship status as “a bump in the road”). These break up undercurrents are mostly explored in "My Struggle I", and most explicitly during a fight on the porch of the house they once shared.  

Desire is the devil’s pitchfork!

What a privilege it was to observe David and Gillian’s acting chemistry up close, whether they were working out that porch fight, stealing secret glances at each other or verbally sparring at the morgue (see bloopers for “Hallast and Ballast!”)I had hoped for “platonic activity” to go a bit deeper in exploring this infamous chemistry. I dropped the ball here by not pursuing it harder during interviews, I didn’t get all the pieces, and as a result, the segment winds down with these visuals from "Babylon" of Scully hugging Mulder, but it doesn’t provide the intended context for why this is there. The original plan was to see if some of the romantic moments or subtext between Mulder and Scully might actually be added more by the actors rather than dictated by the scripts or direction. How much of that, of these moments, were then incorporated into the episodes? How much needed to get pulled back in editorial?

So many turning points in the Mulder-Scully relationship are teased but quite deliberately left off-screen ("How the Ghosts Stole Christmas", "all things", "Per Manum", even Mulder finding out about William’s adoption occurs off-screen). It was a true feat that the producers were able to keep this going for eight years, allowing instead for the audience to project their own imaginations on “the scenes in between”. It’s also probably why this show has a healthy population of fan-fiction authors still out there after all these years. As a filmmaker, I find this restraint freakishly admirable, but I also hoped for some insight as to how heartbroken Scully went from walking down the steps of that porch, away from Mulder, to the two of them launching off of it hand-in-hand together, four episodes later in the final scene of "Babylon."

Chris Carter[In] Babylon, we’re talking about big things and in talking about big things I think it draws Mulder & Scully closer together because they are big things that they share in common… one of them is love. And it draws them, at least for that episode, closer together. Their talk deals with some profound subject matter which is a time to be vulnerable.

During a take, Mulder raised his arms up to the sound of trumpeters that only he hears. It played for a long beat without anyone calling cut, and eventually, Scully curled into him in an embrace. I didn’t remember reading that in the script. Had I just witnessed one of these mythical “actors trying to sneak stuff in” moments? Turns out, this actually wasn’t the case here.  

Vulnerable co-workers

Gillian Anderson: I think I had suggested a hug at the end because it seemed like, if the final shot was going to be a crane shot from up above, that it might be a more interesting visual to have us embraced than having Mulder standing with his arms outstretched and me looking at him like <confused expression>, “what are… what’re you doing”? I think that was more my thinking at the time, and less to do with wanting to wrap up or show a certain degree of intimacy. The fact that we’re walking and holding hands and having a pretty intense conversation while strolling casually in a field is in and of itself, pretty intimate compared to what else we’ve done as a team or duo in the rest of this series so far.  I mean, I have a feeling that there’s a lot going on between the two of them that goes on in the way they communicate that will be evident; that’s not necessarily overtly relationship-oriented or romantic-oriented but that exemplifies their feelings for each other.

5) Poor Skinner

When last we saw Assistant Director Walter Skinner on the show, he was helping Mulder escape from military prison death row ("The Truth"). His brief appearance in the 2nd feature film, I Want to Believe, suggested that he still held rank at the FBI, so somehow he managed to keep that jail break on the downlow. Fast forward another 8 years, he’s re-instated Mulder & Scully on the X-Files and they are back to reporting to him in is office. Some of the furniture configuration has changed and there’s a portrait of Obama on the wall instead of Bill Clinton, but overall… same old, same old? I wondered if Mitch Pileggi had done his own private work and was willing to share any backstory that would fill in all that time unseen.

Mitch Pileggi: What’s transpired over the last 13 years? Well, obviously he’s not in favour with the people at the top of the FBI because he’s been an assistant director for almost 25 years now! I think a lot of that perhaps has to do with his relationship with Mulder and Scully. I think that may have influenced the way that he has not progressed within the FBI. You know, it is what it is. He still considers himself a company man. <pause> He grew a beard!  

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I did point out that at least he wasn’t kicked to the curb by the FBI, and he laughed. He remained endearing in his defence of Skinner’s integrity and his affection for the two protagonists.

Mitch Pileggi: Yeah, he’s still go a job. Guy’s gotta eat! [But] I think that Skinner is very much a man of principles and morals. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. And at a certain point he realized that what these two agents were trying to do was to bring the Truth out… eventually he became their champion within the FBI. He put himself at risk, he almost died several times fighting the battle for them. But I mean still, you know, there was a line in one of the episodes, Mulder asks, “Where do you stand?” and Skinner says, “I’m standing on a line you keep trying to cross.” And I think that really is a great summary of their relationship. I’ve also developed this thing and I think it played, and a lot of fans have indicated that it did play, that I think Skinner had a huge crush on Scully. And I think because of her relationship with Mulder, I think he resented Mulder a little bit. Maybe quite a bit. He was smitten with that little redhead. So I think it’s a very complex relationship between the three of them. 

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Considering this, did he think Skinner would ever dare make a move on Scully now that it appeared she and Mulder were no longer a couple?

Mitch Pileggi: Perhaps they’re taking a little bit of a break and maybe Skinner’s got a little bit of a chance. Maybe he’ll sneak in there? Nah! I think they love each other, ultimately, and that’s the way it should be.

                                                                                                                                     (To Be Continued.....) 


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