My night as an X-Files X-tra

Our reporter discovers it takes a really long time to shoot a little film

by Dana Gee
Staff Reporter
The Province
April 23, 1998

Close to 12,000 people turned out at GM Place Tuesday night to be extras in the final X-Files episode to be shot in Vancouver. Staff Photo by Les Bazso

Staff photos by Les Bazso / Gillian Anderson (bottom right and right) is mobbed as she answers questions from her devoted fans. She said she loves Vancouver and plans to keep her house here. Staff Photo by Les Bazso

Gillian Anderson Staff Photo by Les Bazso

Nick Lea takes questions from fans at the filming of the X-Files final Vancouver episode. Staff Photo by Les Bazso
If the truth was really out there, someone in the crowd of 12,000 or so X-Files fans should have smelled a fake, a poser, a non-fan in their midst. Me.

Thankfully, the crowd was too caught up in doing its bit for the Vancouver finale X-Files episode to notice me sitting just a few rows up from the director's chair Tuesday evening at GM Place.

For almost six very long hours, I was an extra, part of the crowd on hand to watch a big chess match where a hotshot kid beats this Russian champion just before a sniper's bullet, intended for the kid, kills the Russian

Vancouver, a real chess hotbed, plays itself for this one.

I arrived at the stadium around 1:30 p.m. A good thing too, because by 3 p.m. the lineup circled the stadium and spilled all the way up to Hamilton Street.

At around 4:45, the crowd was let in.

As we checked out the smoky set -- a square, lit-up platform where a table, two chairs and chess board sat -- the eerie silence was broken by the booming voice of our host for the evening, Howard Blank.

"Hello, Vancouver, welcome to the X-Files shoot. We're gonna have a great time," he said a la WWF. "Lots of prizes. Special guests. Did I mention David Duchovny is coming down?"

Imagine my surprise when the crowd booed. It seems they've still got issues with David over moving the show to L.A. so he can be with his wife, Tea Leoni.

Well, Howard was having none of that. He gave us a stern talking to, then mentioned Duchovny again and this time the crowd cheered.

I had a great seat near the Canucks' bench. I don't know if it was the whole paranormal thing but I swear I saw the ghost of Trevor Linden spitting water on the floor.

The seat was also a primo location for watching cast and crew, a mike boom away from Bob Ludwig's [sic] director's chair and show creator Chris Carter.

I watched Carter eat his dinner. The way he peeled back the tinfoil and balanced his plate with one hand was pure genius. I was hooked.

Filling the seats on either side of me were Chance Graves, 18, and Taran Britto, 24. When I confessed that the 10-minute video montage they just showed was the most X-Files I had ever seen, they were a bit taken aback, but I convinced them I was excited to be there.

Around 6:30, Blank blasted the news. Duchovny was in the building.

A few rebel extras booed but mostly it was a big round of cheers.

Chance and Taran were in the "Duchovny's selfish for making them move the show" camp on this one.

Taran even shouted at Duchovny when he stood right in front of us.

"Why L.A.? It sucks."

"I love L.A.," said Duchovny, his Randy Newman joke lost on the teenage girls panting nearby.

Around 30 minutes later, a bland Duchovny said goodbye and thank you and headed for the door.

My new pals and I discuss the levels of sexual tension between Scully and Mulder.

"It's what keeps a lot of people watching," said Britto.

"For sure, that totally works," added Graves.

With plenty of time between takes, people watching was a good distraction.

It seemed as if a call had been made to central casting for a stadium full of giddy teenage girls clad in flare jeans and tank tops.

Funny, I didn't see any Canucks as extras. They were free, weren't they?

Ludwig sets up the next shot. It looks just like the last one.

The thing you have to know about filming is it takes a lot of people a really long time to shoot a small amount of film.

It's 7:45. Blank alerts the crowd that Gillian Anderson is coming in.

Anderson is shocked by the crowd's cheering standing-O.

Memo to Duchovny: A smile goes a long way. People love this woman. She shakes hands, takes pictures with fans and actually seems to enjoy answering questions from the crowd, albeit the majority of them marriage proposals from teenage boys.

Another shot is blocked and ready to go. Anderson doesn't take this opportunity to turn tail and run. No, she sits down in the director's chair right in front of us.

Shot done, Anderson's back in action, meeting and greeting before putting on a Mountie hat (of course, for the U.S. viewing audience, the Mounties who rush in when the Russian has been shot are wearing the formal red tunic) and drawing a ticket stub from the big Dialling for Dollars-type drum.

After four hours of watching the Russian get shot, I was hoping the assassin in the rafters would turn the gun on me.

No luck. I had to be content with trying to poison myself with a disgusting concession-stand burger.

Back in the stands, it was time for shocked and dismayed looks but after tons of takes, bored and tired was easier to muster up.

Next up, around 9:30, a parade of other X-Files cast members began. William Davis (aka Cancer Man) was in the house. Found out he smokes herbal cigarettes when filming.

Chris Carter was next. Wow, he is as popular as his stars.

The girls lost it when hunkish Nicholas Lea (evil agent Krycek) worked the room.

Back to more prizes (we didn't win anything) and more crowd shots.

All right, Mr. Ludwig, we're ready for our closeup.

One of the final shots involved an overhead of the chess board. Cameraman couldn't seem to line the shot up right. Someone from the crowd yells. "Move the board."

They do. Problem solved.

Us extras, we're not just pretty faces.

It's almost 11 before I leave the building. And it's almost midnight by the time the feeling returns to my butt and legs.

Hey, that's showbiz.


The End

When: May 17

Where: Global and FOX