All Articles By Jonathan McDonald
February 8, 1998
Chris Carter would make a fine magician. You watch his face, looking for a lead on the latest trick. You watch his hands, figuring they can't truly be quicker than the eye.
But try to find the definitive answer to The Mysterious Disappearing X-Files. Go ahead. It can't be done.
After all, Carter is the ultimate post-modern Houdini -- able to extract himself from any public relations bind.
So, Mr. Carter, come right out and say it. No more pulling punches. Are you, Scully and Mulder packing your bags for Hollywood?
"I don't know that we are or not," says Carter during an interview at the North Shore Studios, where the series' executive producer, creator, chief writer and surf fanatic bunkers in a darkened office, pounding out the scripts. "I'm actually working on a plan to keep it here, so I can't say with any honesty that there has been a formal decision."
A plan. Mmm. But before fans of the ratings success get their hopes up, they should understand that said plan will remain a mystery -- and they shouldn't hold their breath.
"It's too early to tell," the soft-spoken Carter says of the possibility The X-Files could shoot its sixth season in Vancouver come fall. "If the plan were to work it wouldd be, but right now I wouldn't even lay odds on the possibility."
Lay better odds on Los Angeles, where locations are being scouted and Carter offered what was perceived as an ominous, read-between-the-lines tribute -- "This one's for you, Vancouver" -- after winning his third Golden Globe for best drama in January.
"I wanted to dedicate it to Vancouver," he says, "not because this was so long, adios, goodbye, here's looking at you. It wasn't that.
"Now I realize it's being interpreted as that but I just think it's because, people right now are believing we are leaving town."
Despite what Carter says, it certainly appears to be the case. David (Mulder) Duchovny has expressed his desire to return to California to be with actress wife Tea Leoni, Gillian (Scully) Anderson added that it has been a long road trip, and Fox executives have hinted, anonymously, that the move's a done deal.
The boss won't bite. Not only are the posters still up on his office wall -- a variety of X-Files memorabilia, as well as a movie poster celebrating "The Great Carter" but he doesn't talk like a man who's ready to move on.
"I like making the show here," says Carter. "David knows that. It's been good for the kinds of stories that we tell. I love the acting pool here, I love the crew -- they're very dedicated. They've made the show good in ways that are often unanticipated.
"The weather adds to the show. The quality of light adds to the show. I always say -- and I say this, being careful not to ever take anything away from David and Gillian -- Vancouver is actually one of the stars of the show."
The fact is, Vancouver was never meant to cameo, let alone star. It helps to be reminded that, back when the pilot was being shot in 1993, Carter couldn't find a suitable forest. Enter Vancouver and they've never left.
But the idea of leaving has always been at the back of their minds.
"It's been an ongoing discussion," says Carter of a years-old dialogue. "It's not like there was an ultimatum. It was part of a long ongoing discussion about whether we might go home again."
Going home seems to be a fait accompli for the show, which will leave behind an experienced crew, a dark, moody look and an area that offers a location double for almost anywhere in North America.
The final decision will be Carter's -- after all, here's a man who can field a call from the Emmy Award-winning Anderson, say he can't chat, and tell her to call back -- and he certainly bristles at the idea that a successful series and stars he created might shove him on to the back burner.
"That's a misconception," says Carter, who, usually careful and precise with his words, wastes no time clearing the air. "I've always made decisions based on what I think is right and what my closest advisers think is right. I would never let the direction or fortunes or important creative decisions of the show ... I would never leave those to anyone else."
Carter may yet pack but he's not really going anywhere -- personally. Since his contract on The X-Files and Millennium is up this spring, and he hasn't made any decisions beyond the projected May 4 wrap, he could be around for a while.
"I'm looking at real estate up here now," he says. "And if I create another TV series, it would be with the idea of shooting it in Vancouver."
Chris Carter has high expectations of himself. But he's no James Cameron.
Carter, who's overseeing the final editing, special effects and marketing of The X-Files movie, feels good about its upcoming release even if it won't touch that flick about the sinking ship.
"I won't make any predictions because you just don't know what people's reaction to something will be," said Carter, who's on schedule for a June 19 launch after finishing filming back in the fall. "Do I think we've done a good job? Yes. Have we been true to the original motive for doing this? Yes.
"But I wouldn't want to go out on a limb and say, 'You know, I think this is going to be the next Titanic. That's a very loaded answer. But it's going to be certainly worth your $8."
The movie, which features the explosion of a government building and has a cast that includes Oscar-winner Martin Landau, has been shown to the studio -- which, Carter says, recently gave thumbs up.
But what about the people who don't watch The X-Files because they don't get it or can't get into the show?
"If those people go to the theatre and have a choice between three, four or five things and see the lines are there for The X-Files or that people are excited about this movie, I think that excitement will help not only the movie but the show as it goes along."
If she didn't already have to contend with Chris Carter's creativity, now the super sleuth's on the receiving end of another Stephen King vision of evil.
The frighteningly prolific horrormeister wrote -- along with series creator and executive producer Carter -- tonight's episode (Global, KCPQ, 9 o'clock), his first for episodic television.
The episode, Chinga, interrupts another Scully vacation -- you might recall her last holiday, around Christmas, wasn't much of one at all -= as a strange little girl causes other people to hurt themselves.
Fox has come out guns blazing during the February sweeps period. While NBC tnd ABC have pretty much raised the white flag against the onslaught of CBS's Olympics coverage, Fox sent King and cyberpunk author William Gibson into Vancouver to shore up The X-Files line.
Still, Chinga -- part of a Mexican slang phrase that can't be translated in a fami1y paper -- was anything but a fait accompli for King.
"Chris is a real gentleman, but basically he came back to me and said, 'This isn't what we wanted,'" King tells this week's U.S. TV Guide.
So he did his rewrites, although he says he preferred his work to that of Carter's (Carter says he enjoyed the collaboration). And tonight's episode - which Entertainment Weekly, without seeing it, refers to as a "potential classic" might not be the last one you see from King.
He hopes to pen another X-Files script before 1998's up.
Coming face to face with shifty Agent Alex Krycek in an abandoned airplane hangar doesn't sound like much fun. Not to worry: The worst Krycek will do is offer his autograph.
"They're making a real event of it," says Krycek's alter-ego, Vancouver actor Nicholas Lea, after learning he'll be attending The X-Files Expo, a touring exhibition that kicks off in San Francisco on March 7 and runs 10 straight weekends in U.S. cities.
It will hit major markets -- including New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago -- but gets no closer to here than northern California.
"They're doing it properly," Lea says of the production, which is headed up by The X-Files. "It's all first-class."
Lea's offered his services to such conventions previously. But an in-house show -- influenced directly by series creator Chris Carter -- will make all the difference.
"(The other exhibits) were a lot about merchandising and selling T-shirts," Lea says. "This is more for the fans. You can see Chris feels a responsibility to the audience."
In the meantime, Lea shacked up in a local hotel for nearly a week, waiting to shoot an upcoming episode. And, in true X-fashion, he won't say any more about it than he has to.
"We find Krycek again in Russia, speaking more Russian," says Lea. "He's also being really evil."
Some things never change.
Blanketing the town with the series: "If someone wanted to do an X-Files tour bus, we've shot this city up. If people were interested to see those locations, you could easily make that a two or three-hour tour. [MQ's note - there was recently an ad in the van.jobs newsgroup asking for applicants for such a company.]"
The aftermath of David Duchovny's joking comments about Vancouver and his very serious comments about missing wife Tea Leoni: "The whole thing was completely blown out of proportion. When I heard a talk-show host say really unforgivable things about David's wife, I thought that was a low point for us here, especially after I had been very complimentary -- as had David -- of this city, It was painful for everybody."
His favorite episode: "I very much liked Post-Modern Prometheus (black and white episode, Nov. 30, 1997). I took non-actors and put them into pretty big starring roles. I took a lot of faces that I'd seen in the talent pool here and cast them as extras and what really became starring parts. I pulled one guy out of Delaney's, where he's a busboy. Another was a snake wrangler on the movie. The kid who played Izzy I found on the street in Los Angeles. I went up to him and said, 'I want to bring you in for an X-Files part.' There were a lot of things that provided joy because there were a lot of risks."
Vancouver's only drawback: "The one thing I miss here is access to good surf. It takes more time and neoprene than I have up here."
His favorite character: "Bill Davis (Cigarette-Smoking Man) was a character wgi was cast in the pilot episode as a guy who would never speak, and now he's become one of tour most interesting and important characters beyond Mulder and Scully."
On Millennium having what it takes to move to the next level: "I think it does. It's funny, because X-Files was on Friday nights at 9, which is a very small night of television viewing audiences. You're actually trying to get a slice of a smaller pie, and X-Files created an audience. That audience went over to watch it Sunday nights. Some of them stayed to watch Millennium. Millennium is actually a demographics hit. It's got a very strong key of 18-49 demo. It hasn't picked up the household numbers to bring it into the top of the heap, but that's mostly a matter of Friday night viewing habits and it's a show that, by its concept, excludes certain demographics.
Moving Millennium, just like The X-Files: "I've said that my autobiography would be called Fridays at 9. I do like that timeslot. I like the chance and opportunity to create an audience. Millennium, if people would give it a chance -- and people haven't given it enough of a chance -- would tune into a first-rate murder mystery."
Three other ideas for series he kicks around: "They're not fleshed out or formed enough to talk about or even pitch at this point, but they are different from The X-Files or Millennium. One is a much more fanciful science-fiction show, one is more hard-core science fiction, and the other is a period piece which would work nicely in Vancouver."