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''X-Files'' writing duo tries a horror flick

”X-Files” writing duo tries a horror flick–Glen Morgan and James Wong move to the big screen with ”Final Destination”

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When Glen Morgan and James Wong were approached with the task of turning a horror treatment called Flight 180 into a film, they laughed. Seems the writing- directing team — whose celebrated stint on The X-Files included the scripts for ”Tooms,” about a taffy-limbed serial killer, and ”Home,” the infamous tale of homicidal inbred farmers — thought the premise of high schoolers hunted by a scythe-wielding grim reaper was a wee bit ridiculous. ”I only read half of it,” scoffs Morgan.

Yet New Line Cinema persisted, and their agents pushed. So the two pitched a more self-respecting version, one where Death isn’t some razor-fingered Freddy, but imperceptibly employs everyday occurrences and clutter — public transportation, shower curtains, even a glass of vodka — to do his shadowy work. ”To our shock, they said, ‘We love that!”’ says Morgan. ”It’s so rare to walk in, say ‘Here’s what I think it should be,’ and someone goes, ‘I agree.’ How can you walk away from that?”

With Final Destination (the name was changed to avoid a disaster-flick vibe), Morgan and Wong become the latest X-Files alumni to matriculate into filmmaking. The results for their colleagues have been mixed: Rob Bowman scored with 1998’s The X-Files movie (he’s now reportedly attached to the Fox action flick Riptide), while David Nutter flopped with the 1998 teen shocker Disturbing Behavior (he’s now shooting the pilot for Dark Angel, a sci-fi show James Cameron is exec-producing for Fox).

”What Glen and Jim do almost better than anybody,” says producer Craig Perry, ”is create an atmosphere of dread that hits close to home.” But The X-Files didn’t just teach the duo — whose other TV credits include creating Space: Above and Beyond and exec-producing Millennium — how to be creepy. Wong says the show was great prep for films because its genre is ”inherently cinematic.”

What The X-Files didn’t teach them, however, was how to adjust to the film world’s strictly defined divisions of labor. Friends since bonding over girls and The Exorcist in high school, Morgan and Wong function as a symbiotic creative entity, even though, technically, Wong is the director and Morgan is the writer-producer. ”We’re sort of like the guys on The Muppets, the hecklers,” says Wong. ”We know what each other is thinking.” Adds Morgan: ”When you get into movies, where the director’s king, it’s like the producer’s a goof, and the writer is worse. The first few weeks, no one really listened to me. But they came around.”

Wong and Morgan, who are currently producing NBC’s psychic-friends thriller The Others, hope that Destination won’t crash at the box office, as they’re itching to do more films (they have a script set up at Jodie Foster’s Egg Pictures). While they know The X-Files has given them a hook, Morgan and Wong pray it’s not defining. Says Morgan, ”When I’m 60, I hope I’m not just answering questions about how Tooms squeezed into the chimney.”