The X-Files Lexicon's exclusive Wonder Con 2008 Report, Date: Feb 23.
Written By Matt Allair between 2/24 - 3/02
Once word had circulated several weeks back of this X-Files Panel that would be appearing at Wonder Com in San Francisco, it was quickly seen as historic in a sense. Yesterday might very well go down as one of the smartest public relations moves as of yet in the future marketing of this film.
Amongst television viewers and, to a lesser degree, within fandom, there has been the question raised if there would be any interest in this film--whether the X-Files is still seen as 'relevant' after a six year absence. Considering that Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Frank Spotnitz are still right in the middle of shooting this X-Files feature, it was rather amazing they were so gracious as to take the time away from filming.
It seemed relevant to share my experience of attending the Saturday event. After arriving at 8 am and joining the huge line in progress, many were ushered inside into a holding area on the lowest floor, to help regulate the traffic of people. It was here that I meet a great young woman who became a kind of Convention 'partner in crime' for the day's events, before we shuffled off to the airline hanger-sized hall known as 'Hall A'. While waiting within this holding area, I had great conversations with several avid X-Files fans. This was my first barometer that many present were here in anticipation of the X-Files movie. There was one woman who mentioned attending a convention where Chris Carter made his first appearance back in the mid nineties, back when the show was very new, and the Fox Network was undecided if the series would be renewed. That first convention appearance, she claimed, had a dozen avid fans of interest. It reminded me of the story of the little train that could. The X-Files has always been at its best when seen as an underdog.
After entering the main hall, a building of impressive size that basically held a continual cold draft throughout the day's events, everyone hurried to the centralized and best seats. While many of the program segments were interesting, it felt rather formal. It took a while for the public to build up a lot of interest. The panels included cast and crews from 10,000 B.C., Get Smart, as well as promotional representatives from Lucasfilm regarding the animated Clone Wars feature and series. Visual effects and animation producers came out and showed clips from Pixar's Wall-E and Disney's Narnia follow-up, Prince Caspian.
The panel for Shutter had to go on before the main event, and the public seemed polite but impatient. At 2:00, from the moment that the name cards started to be laid out for Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, the cheers became electric. The crowd went increasingly wild as the host simply stated, "You might want to see this."
The lights dimmed and images rushed by the public, difficult to fully absorb. It struck me that the visuals seemed to take a nod towards the Howard Hawks production of the film, The Thing, as well as a nod towards the Carpenter remake.
FBI Agents walking in a line in snow banks of a mountainous area, each with some kind of marker. One of the agents shouts, "Hold the line, gentlemen."
We see an obsessive and white-haired Billy Connolly, muttering "It's here..."
We see the first pan up, foot in snow, of Mulder. We see another agent, perhaps Amanda Peet, shout out "Give him room."
Once Connolly shouts out, "It's here," we see a quick succession of images; our first cut of Gillian Anderson, helicopters and agents racing in the snow banks, a glimpse of a circle of doctors performing a medical procedure, Mulder driving and getting hit by another car from the side, interior shots of Mulder running in a garage, a man with scratch marks on his face, FBI agents clearing away an ice patch to reveal something human or inhuman frozen in the snow that causes a female agent to jump. The build-up of music cuts to black and the date July 25th, 2008 fades in, with an implied X in the background.
The thousands present went into a roar of cheers. It was first sign that the question had been answered, was there interest in this? Was the X-Files still relevant? The response was a resounding, "Yes."
From the moment the panel walked out, there was a standing ovation. Chris Carter looked genuinely bemused as he started taking photos of the crowds, while a torrent of pictures were being taken of this all star panel. David Duchovny also seemed amused and stunned by the reaction.
The format of the panel events involved members of the public standing in line and asking select questions. The first question was, considering the ten year wait, would the movie be worth it? Would it be scary? Chris confirmed it would "Scare the pants off of you.". Another audience member asked if there would be more movies. "Right away," Chris assured. Another person asked Gillian about getting back into the role of Scully. Gillian admitted she had trouble the first couple of days. She believed it would be easy stepping back into the role, but she sucked for the first 48 hours during two scenes and hopes they will dissolve into the rest of the film. Co-star David Duchovny ribbed her. "Maybe you should tell them which scenes you sucked in." Thus set the stage for the kind of light-hearted, flirtatious kidding the Wonder Con attendees were treated to. David also admitted to experiencing a similar problem, explaining that the first instinct of an actor is to improvise, which you can't do as much in characters that have a huge back story.
When an audience member asked Chris Carter about getting back into writing the characters, he admitted it was surprisingly easy. "Writing the names Mulder and Scully, which I hadn't written for 6 years, was the most natural keystroke you could imagine." Chris also confirmed that Mark Snow would be writing the score.
Another question was asked about the pre-9/11 Lone Gunmen episode. "I'm not going to touch that one." Carter commented. Instead, he passed the question over to Frank Spotnitz. Spotnitz explained that he was physically stricken when he learned about the events, believing some crackpot had drawn inspiration from the pilot, but felt let off the hook when it was revealed the plot existed long before the episode aired.
Another audience member raised the question about the overall religious subtext that ran through the show. "I always saw THE X-FILES as a search for God," Carter replied, pointing out there was no particular religion. Mulder's poster distilled it all: "I want to believe.", When someone from the audience asked,if they were still shooting the film, Carter explained that in fact that they had been shooting all night, took a flight and stayed awake to attend the panel.
Duchovny commented that he puts a lot of emotional weight into the Mulder / Scully scenes because he sees them as the heart of the movie. Chris then briefly spoke about the roles for Amanda Peet and Billy Connolly, explaining that Peet plays an FBI agent named Dakota Whitney, and the Connolly plays "a man with very long hair". When asked about what subject would Gillian have liked to have explored in the series, she replied: "I always thought that Mulder should...I don't think we ever did this...but, die of auto-erotic asphyxiation." This, in reference to Clyde Bruckman's prediction regarding Mulder's eventual demise. The panel further explained why they didn't continue the mythology story arc: "When we did the first movie, we had an ongoing TV series, so we had to be true to the series and mythology arc...We didn't have that problem this time."
When asked, Gillian replied that Bad Blood was her favorite episode. David playfully teased her about the admission. Others on the panel listed Clyde Bruckman as a favorite. Carter explained that the sequel was made because Gillian and David wanted to make it. The lawsuit with Fox stalled it but everyone at the studio and Chris realized it was "either now or never".
Another audience member brought up the date of 2012--if that story point would be brought up in the future. Chris thoughtfully responded, "We've talked about it and we want to be true to the series, and the mythology, but we wanted to make sure we made the best movies we can and do what feels right, like we've always done. Having said that, that 2012 date is looming in our minds."
The most awkward and humorous moment came when a bearded man wearing a green elf/merry men outfit asked, "What do you like to believe?" Chris Carter playfully responded, "Can I ask you a question? are you from Sherwood Forest?" When he explained he was a character known as Link, there was a pause from Duchovny before he asked, "Who?" which added to the cheers and laughs from the audience. Gillian chimed in. "Is this a fetish?" she queried, Facing David, she asked, "What do you believe in?" to which David interjected, "I thought we circumvented that..."
Another audience member told David that Evolution was his all-time favorite movie and wondered if there ever was a sequel, would Gillian be considered as the co-star, While David expressed doubts a sequel would happen he did add, "I think Gillian is terrific and we'd be lucky to have her." When another audience member asked if Krycek would ever return, David made some teasing remarks about his missing limbs. Chris diplomatically remarked, "We are keeping a secret and I think you'll all appreciate we are... about who all is going to appear in the movie, besides David and Gillian, of course...So, I'll just say to you...nobody's really ever dead in the X-Files..."
Immediately after the panel, backstage, Silas Lesnick from IESB Movie news managed a brief video interview with Gillian Anderson and Chris Carter. Gillian commented further about getting back into the role of Scully: "This is the first time that I had this experience and it was harder than I anticipated. I expected that getting back into Scully was going to be like flipping on a light switch, and it took a lot of effort on my part (Laughs). But, I think we got there in the end." When pressed further about if the film picks up after the series finale, she explained, "The movie is picking up from the time that has passed at the end of the series, so it's real time." She paused, realizing she probably couldn't add anymore. "I can't answer that question."
Mr. Lesnick then brought up the internet rumor about the werewolf hoax photo. Gillian initially acknowledged it, but surprised, brought Duchovny into the interview. Both seemed very amused about this on-line revelation. All she supplied, however, was no comment--neither a denial nor confirmation.
When Mr. Lesnick spoke with Mr. Carter about the Werewolf rumor, he seemed somewhat bemused by the topic. "You shouldn't have seen that werewolf. The monster is being kept a secret. Don't believe anything you see, believe everything you see. My mantra has always been deny everything. I'm going to leave you with that." When asked about the title, Chris replied, "There will be a title for this movie and were not giving it out just yet. [We'll] save it for closer to release." Mr. Lesnick then brought up Millennium and the rumor about the Lance Henriksen appearance. "As far as the rumors go, I won't confirm or deny. I'd love to work with Lance again." When pressed with the question if a Millennium movie will be made, he replied, "It would be great to do a Millennium film. I actually have ideas about that [film] if we ever get the opportunity. That would be a very good movie."
By the end of the panel when the last questions were raised, it seemed that the public was letting this panel of Carter, Spotnitz, Anderson and Duchvony know in no uncertain terms there was interest in this film. After a question about the Simpson's appearance from many years ago, David Duchvony commented: "People have asked Chris and I, and Frank and Gillian of course, 'do you still think there's an audience out there for the show?', and I know it's a cheep applause line that I'm going for, but personally it's very...it feels very nice to see you guys here and to know... you know, we thought you were still out there, and we're convinced now you are..." Chris then closed by adding: "This is very, very exciting to see you all out there. We are working blind right now--working very hard to make a great movie--hoping that there's a big audience and we can make more movies."
It's a real tribute to those fans who remained faithful with their waves of on-line petitions and letter-writing campaigns. July 25th may very well turn out to be the rebirth of this phenomenon known as the X-Files.
This report was written from personal notes while attending the convention. Additional sources, to confirm quotes, were taken from AICN, XF News, and personal transcripts from IESB Movie News.
Thank you to all who contributed or assisted in providing material.
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Interview with William B. Davis
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Interview with Glen Morgan
Interview with Mark Snow
Interview with Amy Donaldson
Report from LAX-Files book signing
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Interview with Howard Gordon
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Interview with Jana Fain
Interview with R.W. Goodwin
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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