©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co./Frank Ockenfels/FOX
©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co./Frank Ockenfels/FOX

20 Truths About The X-Files

©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co./Frank Ockenfels/FOX
©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co./Frank Ockenfels/FOX

Is the truth really out there? The X-Files began its original nine-season run on September 10, 1993. Though Fox Mulder and Dana Scully returned to our televisions in 2016—and will be returning for an 11th season tonight—here are 20 facts about the iconic series that will make you a believer.

1. THE IDEA FOR THE SHOW ORIGINATED WITH A PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY.

Chris Carter’s interest in the paranormal was piqued when he read Pulitzer Prize-winning writer/psychiatrist/Harvard Medical School professor John E. Mack’s analysis of a 1991 Roper Poll survey, which stated that at least 3.7 million Americans may have been abducted by aliens. “Everybody wants to hear that story,” Carter told Entertainment Weekly. “[Abduction] is tantamount to a religious experience.”

2. CHRIS CARTER WAS INSPIRED BY ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (AND SEVERAL OTHER SOURCES).

When asked about his intentions in creating The X-Files, Chris Carter told Twitch that, “I'm a child of the Watergate era, so I question authority and mistrust it, that was in my blood. One of my favorite movies is All the President's Men; the most amazing thing about it, and it's watchable time and again, is that we know the outcome. Watching it, is where the entertainment value lies. So I knew I would be exploring these things, though I didn't know I would be doing it for nine years.”

In the more than 20 years since The X-Files made its premiere, Carter has cited a number of movies and television shows as helping to inspire its style and tone. Among them: Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Twin Peaks, The Thin Blue Line, Prime Suspect, Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, and The Silence of the Lambs.

3. SCULLY WAS PARTLY MODELED ON CLARICE STARLING.


Fox

Carter has been vocal about his admiration for Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning film The Silence of the Lambs and the influence it had on The X-Files. “It's not a mistake that Dana Scully has red hair like Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs,” Carter told Smithsonian magazine.

4. JODIE FOSTER MADE A CAMEO.

In the fourth season episode “Never Again,” Jodie Foster (who won an Oscar in 1992 for her role as Clarice Starling) provided the voice of Betty, a homicidal tattoo (yes, a homicidal tattoo).

5. DAVID DUCHOVNY PUSHED FOR JENNIFER BEALS TO PLAY SCULLY.

David Duchovny and the Flashdance star became acquainted when the two attended Yale. “I used to see David on the street—he tried to pick me up on several occasions,” Beals recalled. “And I said, ‘Um, I’m living with somebody.' And then I ended up taking this acting class in New York and who walks in the door but David Duchovny. And he’s like, ‘I swear I am not stalking you!’ And we became really good friends. He’s a real sweetheart … When he was doing The X-Files he had talked to me about doing that, but I think Gillian was much better suited for that part than me.”

6. IN REAL LIFE, SCULLY IS THE BELIEVER.

In a 1994 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gillian Anderson admitted that Duchovny was a skeptic and she was the believer. “Psychokinesis appeals to me,” she said. “ESP, telling the future, I love that stuff.”

7. ANDERSON AND DUCHOVNY DID NOT GET ALONG.


Fox

Though Anderson and Duchovny are tight nowadays, that friendship—while based on the work they did together—didn’t really come about until after The X-Files ended. “The crucible of doing that show made monsters out of both of us,” Duchovny told Variety, saying that it wasn’t until filming the 2008 movie The X-Files: I Want to Believe that the two really clicked. “Once we got to step back, it was like, ‘Oh, wow, we really like each other. I didn’t know that was going to happen.’ The way we work together has changed. Whatever rapport we have as actors, we earned. It’s nice to be able to play that without ever even feeling like you’re playing it.”

“Our relationship has definitely become a proper friendship over the last few years,” Anderson added. “I think we’re more on each other’s side. We’re more aware of the other’s needs, wants, concerns, and mindful to take those into consideration—and just sharing more about our experiences in the moment, under the sudden realization that we’re both in this together, and wouldn’t it be nice if it were a collaboration?”

8. SCULLY WAS WRITTEN AS THE CENTER OF THE SHOW.

While it’s often stated that Carter’s goal in creating Mulder and Scully was to subvert gender stereotypes, he says that wasn’t a conscious part of the plan. “It just made sense to me in an instinctive way, that she would be the scientist,” he said. “I don't know what that says about me, but I always saw it that way.”

“It was always a man and a woman,” Carter added. “I'm interested in strong women characters. For me, Scully is the center of our show, she is the skeptic in all of us. Science is at the root of science fiction, so Mulder, while he seems to be often right and it might seem to be his show, I always think of Scully as the grounding influence and the thing that keeps the solar system of the show in place.”

9. SCULLY’S CHARACTER HAS HAD A BIG INFLUENCE ON THE TELEVISION LANDSCAPE.

Anderson told the Chicago Tribune that Carter “fought tooth and nail to get me rather than what used to be the version of women [on] television back then, which was very different. And ironically it had an international effect on women and on television and how women were not just perceived but how they behaved … This funny old series we were doing had a huge influence on the history of television in many ways, from the lighting on television to the kinds of stories that were being told to the characters. The amount of things you see right now where they even just have a male and female as investigators. It’s almost a joke. It’s like, somebody should come with something different now!”

10. CARTER DIDN’T THINK OF THE SHOW AS SCIENCE FICTION.

“I actually resisted the ‘science fiction’ label in the beginning, because the show is actually based in science,” Carter told WIRED. “If it weren’t for Scully, I think the show could be just kind of loopy. So the science and the accuracy of the science is all-important to the success of the storytelling. I think Steven Spielberg called Close Encounters of the Third Kind ‘speculative science’ and I would say The X-Files, for me, has always fit more into that category.”

11. THE SHOW EMPLOYED A NUMBER OF SCIENTISTS.

In an effort to make sure the series got its science right, the producers hired a number of scientists as consultants, including University of Maryland microbiologist Anne Simon, who was hired at the end of the first season, and came back aboard for the tenth season reboot.

“You’re not there to tell the writer, ‘Chris, you can’t have a Flukeman that’s half-man, half-worm,’” she explained of her role in the production. “But you want to come up with something reasonable.” (Simon is also the author of The Real Science Behind the X-Files: Microbes, Meteorites, and Mutants.)

In addition, Carter has looked to his brother for help. “He’s a professor at MIT, and so I went to him for a lot of technical stuff,” he told WIRED. “A lot of the things that are in the pilot came directly from him. I had written something about time and space, and he corrected me on my terminology.”

12. THE CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN WAS ORIGINALLY CAST AS AN EXTRA.


Carin Baer/FOX

When actor William B. Davis first appeared on The X-Files, it was as a background actor with no dialogue. At that time neither Davis nor the producers knew that he would end up becoming the show’s main antagonist. “There was a time when I wasn’t in any episodes, then all of a sudden I had a line or two and I thought, 'That was interesting,’” Davis told the Palm Beach Post in 1996. “And that just gradually increased. Then, finally I had a big scene where Mulder comes after me with a gun. That was the turning point where the producers decided this character is really interesting and I guess they felt I was OK to handle it.”

“The character is very simply written and William is called upon to carry a lot of the weight of the character,” added writer/executive producer Frank Spotnitz. “He is utterly convincing. Even before he had words, he had looks where you could see his mind processing what he was watching and you could see there was intelligence behind his eyes.”

13. THE CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN WASN’T A SMOKER.

At least he wasn’t when he was cast in the role. But he had been. He had kicked the habit nearly 20 years before taking on the role, after smoking for 25 years. Though he eventually was given herbal cigarettes to play the part, the cigarettes were real for his first few appearances, and the job required him to inhale. “That was beginning to wake up some long buried desires,” Davis said.

14. MITCH PILEGGI’S SHAVED HEAD ALMOST COST HIM THE ROLE OF WALTER SKINNER.

Pileggi auditioned three times to land the role of FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner. "I thought, this guy [Chris Carter] either hates me or I must be a totally bad actor,” Pileggi recalled. “But he told me later it was because my shaved head was too extreme for an FBI agent.”

15. SKINNER MARRIED SCULLY’S STAND-IN.

Pileggi met his wife, Arlene Warren, at work; she was Scully’s stand-in. The couple married in 1997. From 1998 to 2002, Warren made a number of appearances on the show, playing Skinner’s assistant.

16. LUCY LAWLESS WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE A RECURRING ROLE.

In 2001, shortly after Xena: Warrior Princess came to an end, news broke that Lucy Lawless had signed on for The X-Files. Though the plan was that her character, Super Soldier Shannon McMahon, would be a recurring one, a high-risk pregnancy forced her to bow out after appearing in just two episodes. On May 7, 2002, Lawless gave birth to a healthy baby boy (but did not return to the series).

17. IT LED TO A SHORT-LIVED SPINOFF.


Fox

The Lone Gunmen, a trio of conspiracy theorists who ran their own magazine, proved popular enough with audiences that they were given their own series in 2001. Just 13 episodes aired before the show was cancelled, though they were given the unusual opportunity to address the series finale’s cliffhanger in the ninth season of The X-Files.

18. THE X-FILES GAVE BIRTH TO BREAKING BAD AS WE KNOW IT.

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan (who also helped to create The Lone Gunmen) logged several years as a writer on The X-Files. Among his many credits on the show is the season six episode “Drive,” which stars Bryan Cranston as Patrick Crump, a “Monster-of-the-Week” who kidnaps Mulder. Cranston’s performance stayed with Gilligan over the years, and is what led to his being cast as Walter White on Breaking Bad. "You don't have to like him,” Gilligan said of the character. “But you need to sympathize and feel empathy and sorrow for him at the end of the hour.”

Other future Breaking Bad stars Aaron Paul (Jesse), Dean Norris (Hank), Raymond Cruz (Tuco), Danny Trejo (Tortuga), and Michael Bowen (Uncle Jack) also appeared on The X-Files.

19. ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY PRONOUNCED THE SERIES D.O.A.

In a preview of the 1993 fall television lineup, Entertainment Weekly declared that “This show is a goner,” citing its genre and Friday night time slot as two indicators that the series wouldn’t last. Today, it’s one of the longest-running sci-fi series in television history.

20. CARTER WANTS TO BELIEVE.

“I'm definitely a skeptic,” Carter told Twitch of his belief in extraterrestrials, “but like Mulder, I want to believe.”

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Karl Walter, Getty Images
When the FBI Investigated the 'Murder' of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor
Karl Walter, Getty Images
Karl Walter, Getty Images

The two people standing over the body, Michigan State Police detective Paul Wood told the Hard Copy cameras, “had a distinctive-type uniform on. As I recall: black pants, some type of leather jacket with a design on it, and one was wearing combat boots. The other was wearing what looked like patent leather shoes. So if it was a homicide, I was thinking it was possibly a gang-type homicide.”

Wood was describing a puzzling case local police, state police, and eventually the FBI had worked hard to solve for over a year. The mystery began in 1989, when farmer Robert Reed spotted a circular group of objects floating over his farm just outside of rural Burr Oak, Michigan; it turned out to be a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super 8 camera.

When the camera landed on his property, the surprised farmer didn't develop the footage—he turned it over to the police. Some local farmers had recently gotten into trouble for letting wild marijuana grow on the edges of their properties, and Reed thought the balloons and camera were a possible surveillance technique. But no state or local jurisdictions used such rudimentary methods, so the state police in East Lansing decided to develop the film. What they saw shocked them.

A city street at night; a lifeless male body with a mysterious substance strewn across his face; two black-clad men standing over the body as the camera swirled away up into the sky, with a third individual seen at the edge of the frame running away, seemingly as fast as possible. Michigan police immediately began analyzing the footage for clues, and noticed the lights of Chicago’s elevated train system, which was over 100 miles away.

It was the first clue in what would become a year-long investigation into what they believed was either a cult killing or gang murder. When they solved the “crime” of what they believed was a real-life snuff film, they were more shocked than when the investigation began: The footage was from the music video for “Down In It,” the debut single from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the supposed dead body was the group's very-much-alive lead singer, Trent Reznor.

 
 

In 1989, Nine Inch Nails was about to release their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which would go on to be certified triple platinum in the United States. The record would define the emerging industrial rock sound that Reznor and his rotating cast of bandmates would experiment with throughout the 1990s and even today on albums like The Downward Spiral and The Slip.

The band chose the song “Down In It”—a track with piercing vocals, pulsing electronic drums, sampled sound effects, and twisted nursery rhyme-inspired lyrics—as Pretty Hate Machine's first single. They began working with H-Gun, a Chicago-based multimedia team led by filmmakers Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes (who had created videos for such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks), and sketched out a rough idea for the music video.

Filmed on location among warehouses and parking garages in Chicago, the video was supposed to culminate in a shot with a leather-jacketed Reznor running to the top of a building, while two then-members of the band followed him wearing studded jumpsuits; the video would fade out with an epic floating zoom shot to imply that Reznor's cornstarch-for-blood-covered character had fallen off the building and died in the street. Because the cash-strapped upstarts didn’t have enough money for a fancy crane to achieve the shot for their video, they opted to tie weather balloons to the camera and let it float up from Reznor, who was lying in the street surrounded by his bandmates. They eventually hoped to play the footage backward to get the shot in the final video.

Instead, the Windy City lived up to its name and quickly whisked the balloons and camera away. With Reznor playing dead and his bandmates looking down at him, only one of the filmmakers noticed. He tried to chase down the runaway camera—which captured his pursuit—but it was lost, forcing them to finish shooting the rest of the video and release it without the planned shot from the missing footage in September of 1989.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a drama involving their lost camera was unfolding in southwest Michigan. Police there eventually involved the Chicago police, whose detectives determined that the footage had been filmed in an alley in the city's Fulton River District. After Chicago authorities found no homicide reports matching the footage for the neighborhood and that particular time frame, they handed the video over to the FBI, whose pathologists reportedly said that, based on the substance on the individual, the body in the video was rotting.

 
 

The "substance" in question was actually the result of the low-quality film and the color of the cornstarch on the singer’s face, which had also been incorporated into the press photos for Pretty Hate Machine. It was a nod to the band's early live shows, in which Reznor would spew cornstarch and chocolate syrup on his band members and the audience. “It looks really great under the lights, grungey, a sort of anti-Bon Jovi and the whole glamour thing,” Reznor said in a 1991 interview.

With no other easy options, and in order to generate any leads that might help them identify the victim seen in the video, the authorities distributed flyers to Chicago schools asking if anyone knew any details behind the strange “killing.”

The tactic worked. A local art student was watching MTV in 1991 and saw the distinctive video for “Down In It,” which reminded him of one of the flyers he had seen at school. He contacted the Chicago police to tip them off to who their supposed "murder victim" really was. Nine Inch Nails’s manager was notified, and he told Reznor and the filmmakers what had really happened to their lost footage.

“It’s interesting that our top federal agency, the Federal Bureau of [Investigation], couldn’t crack the Super 8 code,” co-director Zimmerman said in an interview. As for Wood and any embarrassment law enforcement had after the investigation: “I thought it was our duty, one way or the other, to determine what was on that film,” he said.

“My initial reaction was that it was really funny that something could be that blown out of proportion with this many people worked up about it,” Reznor said, and later told an interviewer, “There was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive.” Even though—in the eyes of state, local, and federal authorities—he was reportedly dead for over a year, Reznor didn’t seem to be bothered by it: “Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something,” he reasoned.

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Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
West Side Story Is Returning to Theaters This Weekend
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM

As Chris Pratt and a gang of prehistoric creatures get ready to face off against some animated superheroes for this weekend’s box office dominance, an old rivalry is brewing once again on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. West Side Story—Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s classic big-screen rendering of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical—is returning to cinemas for the first time in nearly 30 years.

As part of TCM’s Big Screen Classics Series, West Side Story will have special screening engagements at more than 600 theaters across the country on Sunday, June 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you can’t make it this weekend, encores will screen at the same time on Wednesday, June 27. The film—which is being re-released courtesy of TCM, Fathom Events, Park Circus, and Metro Goldwyn Mayer—will be presented in its original widescreen format, and include its original mid-film intermission. (Though its 2.5-hour runtime is practically standard nowadays, that wasn’t the case a half-century ago.) The screening will include an introduction and some post-credit commentary by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz.

West Side Story, which was named Best Picture of 1961, is a musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet that sees star-crossed lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) navigate the challenges of immigration, racial tension, and inner-city life in mid-century Manhattan—but with lots of singing and dancing. In addition to being named Best Picture, the beloved film took home another nine Oscars, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress (for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno, respectively), and Best Music—obviously.

To find out if West Side Story is screening near you, and to purchase tickets, visit Fathom Events’s website.

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