The X-Files Lexicon's exclusive interview with Glen Morgan.
Conducted by Matt Allair (10/27/2011).
Page Editor: XScribe
It wasn't really all that long ago, if one considers hindsight, the general perception amongst a segment of the Phile fan base, that Glen Morgan was probably unwilling to speak about his years with being involved with The X-Files or Millennium, due to some fan speculation about creative bad blood between Glen Morgan and others within the Ten-Thirteen Productions camp. I recall only a few years earlier that there were still fans entrenched in a 'which writers helped The X-Files' debate, and the speculative arguments of a fan proxy war from a percentage of Morgan / Wong proponents. I always found these divisions unfortunate and unnecessary, driven by fans that held little understanding with how the television and film industry works. An industry that is driven often by creative differences, yet these creative differences, while perceived as a negative, can compel all of the parties involved to deliver a better end result. Frequently, this seemed to be the case during the early years of The X-Files, and later on, Millennium. So, it's difficult to not address the impression of creative bad blood between certain parties, and the intent and hope of the following interview was to help set the record straight. While some of those past tensions were indeed genuine, there also might have been some hyperbole between certain fan segments over how profound those creative tensions were. Very often the truth lies in between different points of view.
Yet, circumstances change, and I personally always held optimism that Glen Morgan would become accessible at some point. The tragic passing of director Kim Manners, might have been what prompted those circumstances to change. When Glen appeared at the LAX-Files book signing event last May, it seemed a sign to me that this was an ideal moment to approach him for an interview. His important place within the fandom and television history has already been assured.
Having come from the Stephen J. Cannell school of television writing, Glen Morgan and his writing partner James Wong, helped to establish an important template during The X-Files first and second seasons. Then, after their brief creative spell of working on Space: Above and Beyond, the Morgan and Wong team returned to the X-Files fold, to again redefine the series in the fourth season. Around the same period, they would help to define a new direction for Millennium's second season. The pedigree of their work prior to The X-Files included 21 Jump Street, The Commish, and Wiseguy. Yet, once the team became a household name, they were able to launch a feature film career that was varied, and interesting. Those films include Final Destination, remakes of Willard, and Black Christmas, and The One, in addition to developing other television programming, including Nortorius 7, Wonder Cabinet, and countless other titles.
It is with a sense of historical occasion that this interview happened; there had been a lengthy gap between Glen's access to on-line fandom, one of the exceptions being the podcast interview from the team of Back to Frank Black, the on-line Millennium petition campaign in 2010. So, I must profoundly thank Erica Fraga for helping to start the process by connecting me to Glen Morgan to begin with and Glen for being so accessible in spite of being in the midst of shooting an episode in Hawaii, and willing to set aside time from his schedule.
During our conversation, Glen revealed aspects to his past that were refreshing to learn. There has always been a frankness to Glen, as well as a sense of humor based on his past interviews, that made the interview a pleasure to experience personally. I was left with the impression that he was going through a period of reflection and nostalgia, with a dose of humility that was interesting to witness. I found Glen to be candid, with a relatable, conversational approach that left me feeling that I was in on a secret. He was gracious, patient, good-humored, and willing to be fair in his recollections.
The interview proceeded as follows...
Matt Allair: Thank you for taking the time to chat. To start off with, which writers, either in literature, or film have influenced you as a writer?
Glen Morgan: Well, Robert Towne. That's a tough question to answer because [they're] like influences, but I'll never come close to them. Robert Towne and Paddy Chayefsky and Preston Sturges, Richard Matheson...There'[re] a lot of various people along the way I really, really respect. I respect Steve Zailian nowadays. I guess I could answer that if you ask directors, I'd go, "Oh this guy." When you're growing up, you're not as aware of writers, and I'm not that smart. Books I read were mainly assigned to me in school.
Matt Allair: Growing up, were there any particular films that inspired you to work in the business?
Glen Morgan: Oh yes, it's endless. The first five Marx Brother's movies, all of the Universal Monster movies, even the cr**py ones, even the ones [like] Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and all that kind of stuff. The Planet of the Apes movies, all of the Kubrick movies, the Coppolla movies, Hal Ashby movies, absolutely. Even as a little kid when I didn't know who Hal Ashby was, I liked his movies. Later I would go, "that guy's in all of them." John Ford, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, you know. Spielberg, Scorsese, Taxi Driver. I watched that. I can't tell how many times Darin and I would watch Taxi Driver on cable or Cuckoo's Nest, as well.
Matt: You and Darin seem to have such different approaches to story telling. I wanted to ask about your childhood. Aside from sports, were reading and writing encouraged within your family, or something you both just fell into on your own?
Glen: Yes, that was something we just fell into. When we moved from Syracuse, we had gone to El Cajon Valley High, outside of San Diego, and there was a teacher, Howard Roberts, who allows us to write our own skits and do our own shows. He was one of those people that directors and writers are always talking about. If it wasn't for that one teacher in high school, I wouldn't be doing this--or Darin.
Matt: I understand you were a theatre usher in San Diego and did some theatre in school: have you ever had the desire to write for the stage?
Glen: No, I only did that for a job, and to be able to do that stuff, I like telling stories through pictures.
Matt: I wanted to ask you about Patricia Witcher and what role she played in jump-starting your career. Were there any other peers from your college that went into the film industry?
Glen: Well, Jim and I went to Loyola, and there we had [a] friend, Dave Witz, who's a big line-producer who was married to Patty for a while. I haven't come across anyone since 1983. I know that what's his name--Brian Helgeland--I think he was there when Darin was there. So, that was our circle of friends, Jim and I, Dave, Patty, and a couple of other guys. Patty, I don't know how, but she got a job at Sandy Howard*, and she started hiring Dave and Mike. They needed runners and so I think, at first, she hired me to answer the phones and I think she fired me by noon, but I was just a runner. But Patty and I haven't worked together since then.
Matt: I heard that initially you didn't want to work on 21 Jumpstreet when you first were offered it; what changed your mind?
Glen: Well, I hadn't seen the show and Fox had marketed it. I think it was the same thing with Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise at the time. The way that they were marketing it, was like 'hunks,' and that's why I assumed the show was just a stupid, [beefcake] thing. But when I finally did see the episodes, and that they were really about the problems the kids were having at that time, then I was totally up for it.
Matt: Stephen J. Cannell seems to have played a pretty important role with your career. What was the most invaluable thing you learned from him? In light of his passing, do you have any recollections about working for him?
Glen: I hesitate to answer because when you're there, which [was] almost twenty years ago, it was absolutely like a graduate school. It wasn't him, because he was never around Jumpstreet. I worked with him later, but because Cannell respected writers, it was always the writers casting their own shows, and cutting their own shows, and were very involved with the Vancouver shoot. They were the ones in charge, and so, that little, tiny studio that he had, a great number of really good writers came out of there because of that. But now that I'm older, there were times where Steve would really conk me on the head because I gave him lip, like, "That's not how it should go. No, no, come on. Get with it old man. This is how it is now," and I see myself doing that now and I could hear Steve laughing at me with, "No, no, no, this is how you do it," and a younger guy is going, "No," and I am like, 'am I the old fart in here or what?' I think he taught me, years later, without knowing it, when I reflect back on it, to respect your elders.
Matt: On a related note, among fans you're known as a character-driven writer, is there a writer who influenced your thinking about characterization?
Glen: You know, in a lot of ways, it was my dad. You don't know who these writers are when you're growing up in Syracuse and New York, and not really seeing them. In fact back then, you didn't have video tapes. I was not exposed to a lot of great classics at that time. It wasn't until I got into my college days that VHS came out, and I moved to Los Angeles where they had revival theatres where you could see all of these great movies. So, it was really my dad, who would say, 'Hey, the best monsters are the one's who don't want to be.' The werewolf, Lawrence Talbot, was just walking through the woods, just minding his own business when he got bitten by a wolf. So, you start from there.
Matt: I have heard that you initially had The X-Files script in your office, and weren't interested. How important was Peter Roth as far as getting you and James involved with the show, as well as with your career?
Glen: Yes, Peter Roth and actually Marilyn Osborn, who is now a writer that I worked with, was working for Peter Roth at Steve Cannell's. She had come across a script that Jim and I wrote. She was very instrumental [in] bringing us to Cannell. What happened was that there was a show coming out as a pilot called Moon Over Miami, and Harley Peyton, who'd worked on Twin Peaks, was saying it was the greatest thing ever made. That was supposed to be the big, hot pilot. It was a romantic comedy, believe it or not, that was what Jim and I wanted to do, and so like, "Great, we're going on that." We hadn't seen the pilot or anything, and in the meantime my agent said, "Hey, Peter Roth wants you to watch this X-Files pilot," [and I said,] "Hey, we're going on this show." – "You owe Peter, you have to watch it." And so we went to CAA, and that's where I probably had The X-Files script, and once we felt we were going over to the Moon Over Miami, I was like, 'there's no need to read this.' Then we saw the pilot and it was great, and we were like, 'oh oh,' and so, 'well, let's go across town and watch the Moon Over Miami pilot and that will take care of that because it will be great too.' It wasn't so great, so we reversed course, met with Chris, and Peter was like a father figure to us, and it just made sense. It all worked out.
Matt: Chris Carter has commented with the early X-Files episodes that the process was painstaking because the directors didn't have a clear idea with what the writers were aspiring for. When "Squeeze" was being filmed, were you and Jim heavily involved with the director? Would you give directors a lot of latitude with blocking scenes? Would you suggest approaches on how to film sequences?
Glen: That episode, like with any show that's getting going, very often is way out to lunch. I really think that, like on The X-Files, maybe even "Ice" or something sooner than that, about the forth of fifth episodes, there'[re] good things in the first few, and then everybody figures it out, or they don't. That episode, the director, Jim, and I just did not get along. Jim and I left. You have a location [tech] scout with all of the department heads where everybody rides around in a van, and you go to all of the locations, and sets. Everybody talks about what is going to happen. He went out of his way to be very belittling to us, and left the tech scout, so we went down to Vancouver and had lunch in Chinatown, going "Well, we're fired from this show. What are we going to do?" So he filmed it and there were problems, but Jim is like an outstanding editor, and so we resolved those problems in editing. There was stuff in there, with that show, that could have been so much better. But anyway, with that director we did not get along. Again it took awhile. Jim and I had to kick and scream to get (David) Nutter in there because he was perceived as a Cannell guy, which at the time, was seen as a lesser kind of TV show. Same with Kim. They wouldn't let Kim (Manners) in there because he was a hardcore Cannell guy**. It wasn't until some guy fell out that they let us get Kim (Manners) for "Die Hand Die Verletzt." It just takes a while to find your way.
Matt: Rob Bowman had previously commented that he preferred directing the mythology episodes over the stand-alones for The X-Files. As a writer, did you have a preference?
Glen: You know, I preferred to stay away from [the mythology]. One, because I didn't think we knew what we were doing (laughs), where we were heading, and I didn't want to create a bigger problem, and it just seemed like Chris had a handle on that. I don't really recall writing that many, but my memory is gone. I don't recall writing mythologies for that reason. That seemed to work out that Chris handled Mythology, Howard and Alex handled, and then just Howard, handled weird science things, and Jim and I handled monsters or [did] something with Mulder and Scully, the dynamic.
Matt: I understand that Fox seemed concerned that "Beyond The Sea" seemed too similar to Silence of the Lambs, as well as other challenges. Did you sense The X-Files had reached a 'make or break' point when you started writing that episode? Did you write the episode with Brad Dourif specifically in mind, or was the casting a pipedream?
Glen: When we started the show it was very much, 'if Scully ever sees an alien, the show has jumped the shark,' or 'it's over.' We had those kind of ideas, all of us, when we started. But I think we were all aware that David--he's so charismatic, he's funny--he's a guy believing in all of this weird stuff, and Scully would just go, 'No, no, no,' and she was becoming a drag. I was feeling that people involved with the show were blaming Gillian, and I thought she was great, and that Scully needed something, to witness something paranormal, and I felt like watching what my mom went through with her dad's death years before, that the death of a family member would immediately cause you to let loose of your skepticism. So, that was all designed, and then Dan McDerment had that reservation. He was the head of Fox network at the time, and I understood where he was coming from, but it just seemed so great, and that movie, we were trying to avoid that. Now somebody brought up Brad Dourif, and I had mentioned Cuckoo's Nest. I love that movie. Darin and I used to watch that endless[ly] at one point. He was more [concerned about] money, and Fox didn't want to pay the money. I said, 'I will give my script fee to have this happen,' and hearing that, Chris got motivated, he called Roth, I believe, [during] Thanksgiving dinner and he said, 'yeah, yeah, okay.' It was a very significant amount. More than what we were paying guests. But I really believe it was well worth it, because once Brad Dourif did it, I mean we always had good casts. Rick Millikan had done the casting, had done a great job, but once you had that, other people would go 'Whoa, this show seems serious,' and we got a good caliber of guests on it.
Matt: I wanted to ask you about "Little Green Men." How often would you write something that never developed and would cannibalize it later for another show?
Glen: Not that frequently. "Little Green Men" was a script I had written, and it was never going to get made, and I was like. "Oh, this stuff would make sense to be an X-File." I can't really recall anything else.
Matt: As a writing team, I wanted to find out how your collaborative process worked with James Wong. Would one of you come up with an idea for a story, and then write a treatment, and the other would write the script? Or would you split up the work on the writing based on what each of your strengths were?
Glen: A lot of this with a partnership that is almost like a marriage, there'[re] some things for that couple just to know. Back in the good old days, you didn't have to write treatments and stuff. Nowadays, it's ridiculous. You have to do sixty page outlines and it just makes me crazy. What we would do back then, all of the stuff we ever did with TV through Millennium and everything, was to have a corkboard, and write down on index cards, 'this happens here.' We sat down together and plotted it out, and then somebody would take it off and write it, and another guy would re-write it, or it depends. I mean, sometimes like on Space [for example],I did the bulk of the writing, and he did editing and he had to be other places. The one year we went back to The X-Files, he was heavy duty on Millennium. There'[re] episodes of Millennium that have my name on it that I don't think I've seen, where Jim just totally did it, and then I would do those X-Files. It just sort of became that way. The point being, there's this dynamic that there wasn't ever a specific way every time we [did] it.
Matt: You previously commented that Kim Manners had influenced what David Nutter, and others who had been doing with The X-Files. Do you recall if this was impact noticeable in the second season?
Glen: My memory would have only been there before Kim; if they got influenced, it was just later by being around him more. Just the energy and passion that that guy brought to everything he did, you know. No, Nutter and I'm pretty sure Bowman [were] there. I can't say enough about Kim Manners. I think out of anybody, besides Chris, he understood that show. I really thought he could do anybody, whoever wrote it, you know? He did great Chris episodes. He was the first one to do an episode of Darin's that everybody thought, "What the Hell is this?" You know, that guy was just vital to that series.
Matt: You have been known for writing some pretty edgy material, with "Home" being a kind of benchmark, as well as Final Destination. In light of such films as Hostel, the Saw films, or The Human Centipede, or A Siberian Film, as a writer who has worked in horror, is there a line you won't cross? Do you ever self-censor? Does it just depend on how an idea is treated?
Glen: I think it's how the idea is treated. I don't know if I succeed. I prefer the horror to arise usually out of a non-horrific situation, you know. Ellen Burstyn is going through a divorce in The Exorcist. Janet Leigh steals forty thousand dollars, and that in a way, gets her to Norman Bates' hotel. So, it could be something grounded and real that we could all go through, experience, that launches us into this horrible effect. So, that's kind of more my issues with those things. With Hostel, maybe your trekking through, maybe stopping at a place. My memory is, it didn't really seem to be a character piece. It's just horrific s**t that I'm not going to ever experience, and so I'm not afraid of it. Whereas I can still be afraid of things that happened on the Twilight Zone. It's black and white and thirty minutes long and it really freaked me out because they tapped right into a specific issue that all of us are concerned about. But no, I think you can cross any line, but I prefer it to be crossed because of a theme or a character motivation.
Matt: Chris Carter didn't believe in story bibles, yet I noticed in the first season of The X-Files, and to a lesser extent in the first season of Millennium, there were episodes with character back stories. Did Chris allow writers the room to develop character back stories, or would Chris drop hints about a characters back-story?
Glen: My memory is that, if you were there writing it, you just kind of did it. You know, I've been in shows since where they insist on a writer's room and we didn't have that. We all got along, but it was just so crazy that I don't know how often we spoke. You know, it's like 'here's the story' or 'I need help.' and you'd go in with the other guy. But you've got to realize the information about where the show is going off of the script, the next that came in.
Matt: Was there anything in particular that inspired the idea behind Space: Above and Beyond?
Glen: Peter Roth wanted [us]. He knew that Star Trek was working on Starfleet Academy and Peter was like, "Oh, we should do that," and I was like, "The fans of that show will hang me. No, it's ridiculous." So, we talked about that he liked me and he wanted a space opera. I was like, "Well, the events of World War II, why don't we do world war II in space?" and he liked that idea and that's kind of where that came from. That we would be doing Twelve O'clock High and Guadalcanal Diary and stuff like that.
Matt: You are known for this technique of using pop music in a very subversive way in television and film; was there a particular filmmaker, or someone else who influenced you in using that technique?
Glen: Probably the first time [that] had an affect on me was Close Encounters; Johnny Mathis is playing when they come to get the little kid. Obviously it's been used before, but I just loved that technique. It is just so terrifying. You got to find the right song, it's got to be a little obnoxious, and it's got to be one that everybody kind of hates. I thought that Johnny Mathis thing on "Home" was like perfect. Even the whole scene comes to mind from hearing it, you know what I mean?
Glen: I mean, I heard that song, and I was like, "This would be great on the episode, guys."
Matt: A lot of attention was paid by fans to the passing of Kim Manners, and rightly so, but Randy Stone passed on at around the same time. What is your recollection of Randy Stone? Do you have any stories about him?
Glen: You know, I really appreciate you bringing up that question. Kristen and I met in his office; he had a passion for certain people, for certain ideas. He taught me so much about not giving up on things. I believe this. He said he read The X-Files and said: 'David Duchovny' and I think he didn't know who Scully was, and he talked David into getting out of movies and [told him] this is the thing for the moment. He just had extraordinary taste, and so much heart. The whole stuff he did with the Trevor project at the time, it was really tough for him, gay teens, and he didn't care. This was an important subject, and he set that up. He was just a great friend, it was just horrible. Just being in a room with him, your energy level, you just felt like you could do anything. He kind of passed away with a kind of damage***, which is ironic. We have stories of him...When you're casting, you know, actors have two or three choices for each part [to] audition in front of the network. On [the casting of] Morgan Weisser on Space: Above and Beyond, we were walking down the hall, and he shook me, and said 'You better fight for this!' No one else fought and he just scared the hell out of me, and I got into that room with the network, and I brought it for Morgan Weisser, but I was totally behind Morgan, but I was scared sh**less of Randy. It all worked out, and he's really greatly missed.
Matt: Darin Morgan's work is really beloved by the fans. When you and Jim were leaving The X-Files after season two, do you know if Chris Carter already had a lot of confidence with Darin Morgan? Did you have to convince Darin to carry the torch and continue with the show?
Glen: I thought about that over the years, and I don't know what the hell happened. He was working with us. I thought Darin was a great writer. We brought him in to work on--I think it was the third episode of the second year--"Blood," and something came up where they needed that script right away, and so we all just worked on the story, and I think Jim and I wrote it. The next thing I know, Chris took him away to be Flukeman, and I thought – "Why's Darin Flukeman? I would have thought Flukeman would have been some skinny really dude." We still don't know why. Then I think around that time, we were only there for eleven episodes that second year, and we left. I don't really know how that just happened. I just think Chris had an instinct about Darin, and kept him. Jim and I brought him in because we knew Darin specifically, and all of the stuff he did at Loyola, but Chris had an instinct that Darin had something special.
Matt: I understand that you and especially Jim faced some challenges while working on "Musing of a Cigarette-Smoking Man;" were you surprised by the reaction? My impression was that CSM was such a chronic liar, even to himself, that one couldn't take the episode at face value. Was that the intent? Or was it actually meant to be factual?
Glen: At the time I would have said one way, now I'd like to say, let's take it. I would have wanted it to be more factual. Chris did not want [that]. That episode ended with the Tom Braidwood character getting shot in the head, and that's my annoyance, whether he believed what his life was, or whether it was actually factual, I think that episode was mind-blowing for him to kill one of the Lone Gunmen, and my argument was that you had the Cigarette-Smoking Man around for four years and he didn't do anything, except lay out some noir-ish dialogue and that when the hundredth episode, or the movie, or whatever, that the Cigarette-Smoking Man and Mulder had guns on each other, you would remember that he shot Frohike. So, when he goes, "I can kill you, but not today," that makes me nuts. But you know, Jim and Bill Davis, they did a great job. Whatever happened then, I don't know. I was looking at it recently for some other reason, and I was like, "Man, that one came out pretty good." (Laughs)
Matt: Was there ever an episode that you and Jim wrote that David Duchcovny or Gillian Anderson had issues with regarding their characters?
Glen: Not that I can recall, by and large. David would call and say "I don't want to say this," or "Why don't I say this?"or whatever. That's natural, you work that out. I don't think [so] overall. I think in "Never Again," Gillian would have initially preferred another actor, and we had a fight over that, but then we made up.
Matt: When you came in to show-run for Millennium in the second season, you have commented before that you and James wanted to focus on the Millennium group. If you recall, was there a particular secret society or fringe religion that you were referencing from?
Glen: No. You know, I didn't even know that there were. I was just, "Let's do the group, what's going on with them." Then we started researching, going 'Hey, there's a couple of these things.' Of course there's the Illuminati and the Masons and the Knight Templar. Now it's all Dan Brown stuff. But, I also didn't know the amount of apocalyptic literature in every religion that's sort of steered us one way and I just didn't care [for that direction].
Matt: Lance Henriksen had creative differences with the direction that Millennium was taking in the second season. Have you reconnected with him since then? Has he personally expressed to you that he's reassessed the direction that you and James took the show?
Glen: No, but those guys, Troy and the guys from Back To Frank Black website, they had said "Oh, Lance had said to say 'hi.'" You know, Lance is a hard guy. Jim and I were sitting next to him in a first class lounge. I don't know where we were going, but Lance just sat there and it wasn't like he wasn't speaking to us, he just didn't know who we were. We didn't go, 'Hi, Lance,' but it wasn't like I hated him. But, time goes on, and you know, and Tom Wright is a great friend of mine, and Tom uses Lance in a lot of episodes, and goes "Lance says 'hi'", so, if there was animosity, it's long gone, hatchets are buried. I just did this show that was in Hawaii and Michael Katleman was the director who did the "Shadows" episode of The X-Files, and he had just used Lance, and he was like, "Lance says 'hi,'" so, it's all fine.
Matt: You've mentioned before that when you wrote the season two finale for Millennium, that you'd written in some "escape hatches;" what direction would you have liked to have taken Millennium if you could have worked on season three?
Glen: You know, I don't remember what those escape hatches were fifteen years later, but I think I would have continued that. You know, we all forget now, it's been eleven years, but there was the Y2K bug and what was going to happen. I think it would have played, the kind of stuff that people were freaking out over. It seems like less now, but the 2012 kind of stuff, I would have liked [to see] what's coming, what's going to happen. You had a show called Millennium, which would have been unique on television, that you were there, it was on TV when it became 2001. I would have done that, I would done what's going to happen.
Matt: You weren't really involved with The Lone Gunmen spin-off; did they have your blessing to do it? Did you ever watch the show? Would you have wanted to go in a different direction?
Glen: Of course they had our blessing. I didn't really see [it]. I don't know if we were doing Final Destination or what. It's tough. You get in on other projects and you don't have time to watch stuff. I think what they did was probably the right thing to do. Vince and Chris are great writers.
Matt: I understand that Thomas J. Wright had worked on Night Gallery in the 70s. Did Tom Wright have any stories about Rod Serling that you could share with us?
Glen: On iTunes they have Rod Serling lectures. They're basically question and answers from the late 60s, early 70s, and one of the questions is who [did] the paintings for Night Gallery, and it was Tom. I was driving, going "great", and then Rod Serling goes "a very talented young man, I'm really not remembering his name," and I'm like, "No!" Tom just said that he would have lunch or meet with Serling, and he would say, "This is what the episode is going to be like, maybe something like this," and then Tom would show him the stuff, and he would go, "You know, great." Tom did storyboards for Frenzy and Family Plot. He has great stories where he would be called in every day on the Universal lot into Hitchcock's office, and Hitchcock would say to his assistants, "Sue, Tom is here and he would like a glass of champagne, and since it's rude to drink alone, I should have a glass too." And she would say, "Your doctor said you can't do that," and Hitchcock was like "Well, I don't want to be rude to Tom." She would bring champagne, and he'd go, "Well, it's wrong to drink champagne without a cigar," and she'd go, "Well, you're not supposed to drink with a cigar." He'd go, "That would be rude to Tom." So, Tom was Hitchcock's ploy to have a glass of champagne and a cigar every day at three o'clock.
Matt: Great! I wanted to ask about your process as a director. During pre-production do you believe in the storyboard process? Is there an example in television or film where you really depended upon storyboards?
Glen: I use them because I was insecure about it. I do most of them myself unless it's a visual effects sequence and other people have to make sense of what's going on. I did them very much on Willard, and then I did all of the second unit stuff on Final Destination 3. The nature of that kind of work is, "Well, here'[re] these certain shots you got to get; they can only be shot this angle," but you're also trailing the first unit so if Jim missed it, I would pick it up, so I was little less reliant on storyboards, and then going into Black Christmas I went back into it a little bit, but then on set, it was a little easier to get away from it, and so I understood, the times even working with Jim, where the little bit I had worked with Spielberg to talk about getting away from storyboards that were really necessary, when other people need to know visual effects questions or stunts. Once you get into it, you can't know how you're going to do it without drawing it all out, if it makes any sense.
Matt: As a director, when breaking down a script, do you have a preferred method? Are you focused on technical blocking, or seeking subtext for an actor?
Glen: Better directors than I, you're trying to get the whole ball of wax. You go up, and "I'll move him here to there for this reason, this character doesn't want [this], this character is making a move on this other character, or is disgusted by [another character] and wants to move here." Then if you do that, then the shot you set up should reflect that feeling. So, all of it should go hand-in-hand I think.
Matt: As far as working with actors, do you believe in rehearsing with the actors before production? Does it depend on the scale of the project or the time limits?
Glen: I think it depends on the scale, the time, the nature of the piece. A guy like Crispin Glover doesn't like to rehearse that much, I think Lee Emery liked to rehearse, and so how do you balance that out when basically in the movie all their scenes are together?
Matt: I wanted to ask about your re-makes of Willard and Black Christmas. What was it like working with Crispin Glover on Willard?
Glen: I think the world of him. I think he's great. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Matt: The tone of Black Christmas seemed a little schizophrenic to me, or that was the impression I got. Were you happy with the end result of Black Christmas?
Glen: No way, and it's schizophrenic because Bob Weinstein**** came in and urinated on it. Really, there was a time where torture porn was the hot thing. You know I became friends with Bob Clark. You can throw that movie ***** into one of your first questions. I loved that movie, and also Christmas Story and I learned a lot from Bob, and had his blessing that we were trying to make a version that he didn't get to deal with the background of the killers, and stuff like that. When Bob Weinstein came in and saw that, [he] was like, "We need to drag Michele Trachtenberg down the hall by her eyes." And I was like, "Oh, Lord," and I talked to my agent and lawyer, and Kristen about it. It was humiliating, it was horrible. I stayed to try and protect the cast and crew, friends of mine, and ended up taking it on the chin.
Matt: You've had a long history with Kristen Cloke. What was it about her as an actress that particularly struck you when you first met?
Glen: One, she's smart and so everybody that came in to audition for that that were first seen, they were being really cutesy-pie. I like smart women. I like smart people. Someone who is going to stand up for themselves under any circumstances, and she just had that. Then you get to know each other and it was meant to be.
Matt: You've been known to really champion certain actors in the past. Is there a current actor you are working with that the public should really pay attention to?
Glen: I really, really like this kid Drew Van Acker who was on Tower Prep, and now he's doing--I don't know if he's recurring or what his status is on Pretty Little Liars, but I think he's a really good kid. When I was on Tower Prep, I wasn't involved with the pilot and the first couple of shows with Drew, I was like, "What the hell did they stick me with?" The level that he brought to [the show]. He did episodes with Darin. He was terrific with comedy, he had the tough guy thing, he's a great-looking guy. I think good things for that kid.
Matt: Are there any projects, other than Tower Prep, that you are working on that you're willing to discuss?
Glen: Well, Tower Prep ended a year ago. I just did some time on this show, it will be out mid-season, called The River. It will be on ABC, and so that is why I was in Hawaii.
Matt: A colleague of mine wanted to ask, with all the things written by Morgan and Wong, did any of the stories originate from a direct experience by at least one of you?
Glen: Well, you can have something as obvious as "Beyond The Sea," with watching how devastated my mom was by her father's sudden death by a heart attack, and the weird thing is that I had to watch her go the same way, so you wrote this thing, and then you look back, later on, you look at it and go, "Wow, there was a foreshadowing to it." That's just one obvious [example] and then on Space: Above and Beyond there was an episode called "Angriest Angel," that's just about the McQueen character fighting the bad guys, and I just look at it and go, "Oh my God, this is so much about my divorce, it's embarrassing." And no one else would ever know [that] by seeing it.
Matt: Thank you again for your time.
Glen: Any time.
At the tail end of our conversation, Glen spoke a little about a few of the personal challenges of the last few years, the deaths of family members and professional colleagues, related an anecdote about Brad Dourif, and told me an amusing story about a recent visit to an adult venue with his brother, Darin Morgan. It does seem as though that Mr. Morgan has gone through several challenges over the past couple of years, and I hope he will be moving on to brighter horizons in the future. I hope fans will take a look at Glen's efforts with The River on ABC on the upcoming schedule.
As I mentioned, the truth is somewhere in the middle. The X-Files wasn't just Glen, James, Howard, Alex, or Chris Carter's show. There was a vast pool of talent, all great technicians, who all played pivotal roles in the development of this classic series. The fact that all of this pool of talent converged around the same series, and at that particular moment, was simply a miraculous set of circumstances and good fortune. We might not see the like of that kind of a convergence again for a long time.
* Sandy Howard ( Aug 1927 – May 2008 ) Mr. Howard was a producer, writer, director who started out as a publicist for Broadway before breaking into film and television, Producing such films as A Man Called Horse, The Island Of Dr. Moreau, Meteor, and Street Justice.
** Some context should be offered over Glen's comments 'Cannell guy' and the early bias. One has to remember that The X-Files was unlike any series on television in 1993, not only visually, but also in terms of approach to story telling. Many shows had a set or canned formula to how their episodes were written and directed. Chris Carter was looking to break from that formula, and Mr. Carter might have been leery about bringing in Nutter, Bowman, and Manners due to the sensibility of Cannell's approach, without realizing the degrees to which Nutter, Bowman, and Manners would respect Chris's feature film sensibility, and excel at furthering that vision.
*** I'm a little uncertain what Glen is referring to, when he cites 'damage' regarding multi-award winning casting director Randy Stone, unless he is referring to the 1998 incident when Randy Stone was terminated by Fox television, and Stone filed a complaint with the California Labor Commission, claiming he was discriminated against due to sexual orientation, after he had headed Fox Television casting department for many years. Stone was gay, and founded the Trevor project that very year (1998). Randy Stone began his career, after being a child actor, in 1981 casting for Gimmie A Break and Cheers, and eventually casting such features as Jaws 3-D, and Cameron Crowes' Say Anything. In later years he was a producer for Jodie Foster's Little Man Tate, and co-produced Trevor, which inspired the name for his foundation. He died in February 2007 at his home in Beverly Hills of heart disease.
**** I'm not really surprised by Glen's comments on Harvey and Bob Weinstein, I had heard they had a reputation at Miramax studios of interfering with the creative vision of talent. In addition to a trend of buying the distribution rights to foreign films, even ones with American and British actors, and then sitting on the titles and not releasing them to the American market, only to release them on DVD with no promotion.
***** Black Christmas (1974), the original starred Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, John Saxon, and Margot Kidder, and was produced and directed by Robert Clark. A highly rated cult horror thriller that predated many of the slasher horror films at the end of the seventies. Only Mario Bava's Bay Of Blood (1971) predates this film within that genre.
Interview with Sarah Stegall
Interview with Jeff Charbonneau
Interview with William B. Davis
Interview with Alex Gansa
Interview with Glen Morgan
Interview with Mark Snow
Interview with Amy Donaldson
Report from LAX-Files book signing
Interview with Erica Fraga
Interview with Howard Gordon
Report from Vancouver TV Forum
Interview with Gabe Rotter
Interview with Robert Shearman
Report from Believe Again event
Report from X-Con 2009
Interview with Jana Fain
Interview with R.W. Goodwin
In Tribute to Kim Manners
Interview with Matt Hurwitz
Pemberton Set Report
Paley Festival Interviews
Interview with John S. Bartley
Report from Wondercon 2008
Interview with Howard Gordon
Q&A with Chris Carter
Interview with Doug Hutchison
Interview with Frank Spotnitz