Playing with Fire
It’s the last week of shooting the X-Files: Fight The Future, and the soundstage stinks.
It absolutely reeks, right around the chair of Rob Bowman, director of the $60 million-plus feature film based on the Fox TV series. Bowman, 38, who has also directed 25 episodes of the most popular alien-abduction/government-conspiracy/ delayed-sexual-gratification drama in TV history, is battling a bad combination of exhaustion and the flu. He’s wheezing, hacking, and coughing so much, his phlegm could be used to construct a classically disgusting new X-Files enemy for FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Having gone the usual orange-juice-and-echinacea route for the past few days, Bowman has now asked an assistant to bring him some sort of health-foody, homeopathic medicine; when he snaps open a capsule of a vile liquid that looks like glutinous tobacco juice, it emits a smell worse than an average episode of Suddenly Susan.
”Ewww, jeez!” says Duchovny from a few feet away, pulling a sleeve of his shapeless black FBI overcoat over his nose. Duchovny is preparing to do another take of a scene in which he must lean over a very deep hole in some artificial snow to try to rescue his acting-like-she’s-freezing costar. In fact, however, it is a rather hot day in August on the Twentieth Century Fox lot, and so the pungent odor of Bowman’s medicine quickly permeates the warm air.
”Sorry, sorry,” croaks Bowman. ”Let’s just do this and ignore me, okay?” Everyone assumes their places. Bowman peers into the camera viewfinder, framing the shot; Duchovny-as-Mulder gets on his stomach and reaches down into the snowy hole; Anderson in turn reaches up, her face immediately assuming Scully’s typical in-jeopardy expression: helplessly beseeching yet thoroughly annoyed that she needs help. ”I’ve got you!” says Mulder, although he most certainly does not. They stretch their hands toward each other, their fingers almost touching in a sort of arctic reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and then…
”Cut! That’s all I want,” says Bowman. ”Anyone want another one?” ”Mmmm, maybe just one more?” says a voice from the shadows. It’s Chris Carter, God of The X-Files — creator, writer, executive producer, and at 41, bearer of a head of curly silver surfer’s hair no mere mortal could possess. God wants another take. One senses a score of groans being suppressed all over the stinking set. The players reassume their places. ”I’ve got you!” says Mulder again. The shot is shot. Bowman sneezes. Carter smiles. Everyone files out blinking into the bright Los Angeles sunshine, where a lunch truck that serves only fancy-schmancy iced-mocha-coffee drinks is waiting to stoke cast and crew with chilled caffeine.
Yesterday, James Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio visited the set to say hello,” says Duchovny. ”This soundstage is where they filmed a big chunk of Titanic; Cameron calculated that where our snow hole is, there was probably a flooded stateroom a few months ago.” Did Cameron have any words of wisdom for the X-Files project? ”He said, good luck, and that he bet he made Kate Winslet scream a lot more in his film than Gillian does in this one.”