The X-Files ends with a bang and tears after five years

By Alex Strachan,
Sun Television Critic
Vancouver Sun
Friday, May 1, 1998

STARS: Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny bound for L.A.

THE LONG GOODBYE: X-Files director Chris Carter.
The X-Files ended with a gunshot. At 1:06 a.m., early Thursday morning, in a tiny, cramped corridor at Riverview Hospital's Crease Clinic, an actor in a prison guard's uniform turned and fired his sidearm into one of the cells. There was a hush. For a moment nobody heard the word "cut." Then there was resounding applause as the straggling survivors of a 15-hour shooting day marked the end of The X-Files' five-year run as the highest-profile TV series made in Vancouver.

It was the end of an emotional, gruelling day that began at 10 a.m. the previous morning under a blistering hot sun, with a staggering 32 camera set-ups facing a crew that was instrumental in making The X-Files the most glossy, technically crafted series on television -- and the first series made outside the U.S. to break into the top 10 in the U.S. Nielsen ratings.

The day's ironies were not lost on a crew accustomed to months of 14-hour days in the rain, often in dank, clammy environs of the GVRD Seymour Demonstration Forest in North Vancouver.

The title of the final episode was The End.

On the hottest day of the year, they were working indoors.

The final scenes were filmed in an abandoned wing of a mental hospital, prompting plenty of gallows humour about padded cells and losing one's grip on reality.

But the hardest thing for many to deal with was the rising tide of emotion and sense of loss that crested at 8:16 p.m. when actor Gillian Anderson finished her final scene and, fighting back tears, called the crew together.

"I wish there was something that could express the way I love you all," she said softly. "You made it so special. I will miss you all so much."

Filming was interrupted for nearly an hour as she hugged each crew member in turn.

Actor David Duchovny left the night before after finishing scenes with the show's second unit. He also had a hard time maintaining his composure, according to crew members who witnessed the scene, nearly breaking down on several occasions as he handed out signed, personalized basketballs to the crew.

"I think he finally realized he was leaving," said director Robert Goodwin, who is leaving the show himself after five years as The X-Files' Vancouver-based executive producer and crew boss.

Anderson presented the crew members with specially made bathrobes with the inscription, "1993-1998. Goodnight everybody. I love you -- forever. G.A."

Barry (Bear) Horton, a burly, bearded Teamster driver with colourful tattoos all over his chest and arms, doubled as Anderson's trailer driver, unofficial bodyguard and personal protector of her three-year-old daughter Piper for the past five years.

"I've worked with Richard Gere and Sharon Stone and plenty of others," Horton said, "and I can tell you that Gillian is the most genuine person I have ever worked with -- and the most genuinely talented."

In all, 117 episodes were filmed in Vancouver. The X-Files now moves to Los Angeles, where many observers believe the show's look and feel will change dramatically.

X-Files creator and executive producer Chris Carter showed up unannounced shortly after 9 p.m. and handed out commemorative sweatshirts to the crew.

"It's strange," Carter said. "There's an odd feeling tonight. It's sad and yet celebratory, marking kind of a milestone, at the same time. We're so used to getting the work done, going home and getting back the next day. David flew to L.A. last night, Gillian's flying to L.A. in a minute and I'm flying to L.A. tomorrow morning. And none of us will come back up here for work on The X-Files ever again. That is a very strange feeling, and I haven't quite come to terms with it yet."

Carter admitted the transition to Southern California will be difficult.

"First of all, there's a work ethic here I've never experienced before," he said. "They feel it is their show and they take great pride in their work. It is their show. I can only hope to duplicate the quality of the work. But the work ethic is something that, in my experience, will not be possible to duplicate anywhere."

For less public crew members like Helga Ungurait, The X-Files' continuity supervisor since 1994, key grip Al (Doom and Gloom) Campbell, a five year-veteran of the show, and gaffer Richard (Bucky) Buckmaster, the end was bittersweet.

"I think I'm spoiled," Ungurait said. "There was a strong vision, a real sense that the people who were making this show wanted something special, and that's not always the case.

"We work in an industry where you're always thinking about going on to the next job. But those of us who've been here for a while, today's been a day of reminiscences -- remembering where we started and where we've come from. It's just like the last day of high school or university. When I think of what Gillian was like the first few years, and David, and myself, all of us -- we've all grown with the show. And, yes, it's tough to walk away, to let it go."

Campbell said he was gratified that the show evolved into a pop-cultural phenomenon during his five-year tenure. That is something that anybody who worked on the show will never have taken away from them.

Wearing a T-shirt that read, "I Survived the Deep Freeze, 4x24" -- in reference to last year's fourth-season ending episode which was filmed on a North Shore soundstage chilled to -17 degrees to simulate the inside of an ice cavern -- Campbell said his fondest memories will be the ones that seemed bizarre at the time.

"No more nights in the rain," Campbell said, laughing, belying his nickname. "Just a lot of stories from now on. 'I remember when.' Stuff for the grandkids. God, what a ride. What a wonderful five years. That will always stay with me."

Anderson was reflective.

"It's a weird feeling on set right now," she said, struggling to keep her composure. "Very melancholy. I feel close to everybody on this crew. It's just hard. Very hard. I'm trying to keep it together. I have a tendency to just stare at people and reminisce.

"I will never forget these people."