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20 Truths About The X-Files

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©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co./Frank Ockenfels/FOX

Is the truth really out there? After a thrilling nine-season run, The X-Files aired its original series finale 15 years ago today, on May 19, 2002. Though Fox Mulder and Dana Scully have since returned to our televisions—and will be returning for an 11th season in the near future—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.

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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.

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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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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

Michael Ochs Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually break away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write the “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ Could Have Been a Meat Loaf Song
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Imagine a world in which Bonnie Tyler was not the star performer on the Royal Caribbean Total Eclipse Cruise. Imagine if, instead, as the moon crossed in front of the sun in the path of totality on August 21, 2017, the performer belting out the 1983 hit for cruise ship stargazers was Meat Loaf?

It could have been. Because yes, as Atlas Obscura informs us, the song was originally written for the bestselling rocker (and actor) of Bat Out of Hell fame, not the husky-voiced Welsh singer. Meat Loaf had worked on his 1977 record Bat Out of Hell with Jim Steinman, the composer and producer who would go on to work with the likes of Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand (oddly enough, he also composed Hulk Hogan’s theme song on an album released by the WWE). “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was meant for Meat Loaf’s follow-up album to Bat Out of Hell.

But Meat Loaf’s fruitful collaboration with Steinman was about to end. In the wake of his bestselling record, the artist was going through a rough patch, mentally, financially, and in terms of his singing ability. And the composer wasn’t about to stick around. As Steinman would tell CD Review magazine in 1989 (an article he has since posted on his personal website), "Basically I only stopped working with him because he lost his voice as far as I was concerned. It was his voice I was friends with really.” Harsh, Jim, harsh.

Steinman began working with Bonnie Tyler in 1982, and in 1983, she released her fifth album, Faster Than the Speed of Night, including “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It sold 6 million copies.

Tyler and Steinman both dispute that the song was written specifically for Meat Loaf. “Meat Loaf was apparently very annoyed that Jim gave that to me,” she told The Irish Times in 2014. “But Jim said he didn’t write it for Meat Loaf, that he only finished it after meeting me.”

There isn’t a whole lot of bad blood between the two singers, though. In 1989, they released a joint compilation album: Heaven and Hell.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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