Interview: Frank Spotnitz Still Believes

On Tuesday SciFi Pulse was given the opportunity of a phone conversation with writer/producer Frank Spotnitz who is best known to science fiction fans for his work on this...

Spotniz

On Tuesday SciFi Pulse was given the opportunity of a phone conversation with writer/producer Frank Spotnitz who is best known to science fiction fans for his work on this years movie X  Files: I Want To Believe, which is due out on DVD and Blu Ray disk on November, 24.

The thing that made the recent X Files different from the series and the 1998 movie was that it was more a character driven procedural than it was a conspiracy story, and there wasn’t a single alien in sight. Spotnitz revealed this was always the plan.

“We’d made a movie back in 1998 when the series was still on television, and that movie pretty much had to deal with the alien mythology storyline because there was so much demand for it.

“If you watched the series a vast majority of the episodes were procedurals. Or stand alone scary investigations. We were free to do anything we wanted this time, so we thought, ‘Lets do one that’s really what the series was.’

“What was interesting was that we started work on this in 2003, but got interrupted by a lawsuit. So we didn’t really write the script until 2007. After that long absence we found that we were really more interested in Mulder and Scully as characters and their relationship than we were in The X Files. So there’s a creepy disturbing X – File in this movie, but it’s really more about Mulder and Scully than about The X File.”

One of the more interesting aspects of X Files: I Want To Believe was the challenge that was presented to Scully, when she encountered Father Joseph Crissman who claimed to be a psychic, but was also a reformed Paedophile.

“I don’t remember if he was a paedophile back in 2003 when we first started working on the story. It really appealed to us as a story device because, first of all Scully classically is a sceptic. So after all she’s seen and done we needed a reason for her to be a sceptic in this movie. Scully is also Catholic, and so to have a paedophile priest come forward claiming to be a psychic, it felt organic and natural for her character to be sceptical of a man like that. Who is making claims like that.

“So that was one very powerful reason for that story point and the other one was that we were very interested in the idea of redemption and forgiveness, and that’s about the most despicable crime we could think of. So we thought it was very interesting to consider whether someone like that is capable of redemption and can be forgiven. One of the interesting things about this movie is that we leave it for the audience to decide.”

Although it originally centred mostly on Mulder and Scully. Some opportunities did pop up for other characters to come in from the series, though sadly we didn’t see anything of The Lone Gunmen.

“If there are more X Files movies I’d certainly look for a way to bring The Lone Gunmen back. They allegedly were killed in one of the last episodes. But no one really dies in The X Files. They could well make another appearance if there are more X Files movies.

“At one point in this movie we didn’t have anybody from the old days at all other than Mulder and Scully. It was going to be purely about them. It was in the writing of the script actually Chris [Carter] got to that part in the movie when he realised. We had another character originally who was going to help Scully, and we realised it was a great opportunity for Skinner to return and we were all delighted to find a way to bring him back into The X Files, and we realised it’d be a great surprise for the audience who at that point in the movie would have given up on seeing any familiar faces. We felt like it would be a pleasant reveal.”

When asked if there was a temptation to do a storyline based more around an Alien Conspiracy, Spotnitz revealed that they were absolutely steadfast in their pursuit of a more character driven film. However that doesn’t rule out a re appearance of aliens should there be a third movie.

“The Alien mythology is very complicated and has a lot of parts to it. It was very liberating to be able to do a story that was just stand-alone and didn’t depend on any of that complicated back-story. Having said that if there is another X Files movie my vote would be very strongly to delve into the Aliens.

“I think a lot of people. Especially the more hardcore X Files fans are most eager to see that. There’s a date looming in X Files mythology, which is December 2012. Which is when we say the Alien colonisation is going to take place. So if there were another X Files film it would pretty much have to deal with the Aliens. ”

What’s interesting to note here is the fact that there are a number of conspiracy theories going around that claim the world will end in 2012 and Spotnitz is quick to point out where they’re all coming from.

“It relates to the Mayan calendar which ends in 2012 and it’s growing in popularity as we get closer to that date, and there’s actually a big movie called 2012 coming out, one of the things Chris had in mind from the very beginning of X Files was that the aliens would come on that date.”

One of the newer shows that Spotnitz has had a hand in is the ABC teen drama Samurai Girl. Spotnitz as many people who’ve followed his career will know was born in Japan, so did his childhood in Japan aid him at all for his job on the new teen drama.

“That was one of the things that attracted me to that. I actually tried as best I could, even though it was sort of a comic book youth orientated concept to make sure it was not wildly inaccurate and laughable to the Japanese.

“I was born in Japan and spent the first four years of my life there. My Father was a Doctor in the Army. So he was stationed at an American Army Base there. I’ve not been back since I was four years old. It occupies a huge place in my imagination, but a pretty minimal place in my real life memories, but I do hope to return one day.”

A couple of years back during the legally imposed hiatus on production of X Files: I Want To Believe. Spotnitz set about re-imagining the classic but short-lived Night Stalker series. Sadly it never made an impact with the audience, which to this day is somewhat of a disappointment.

“I was sort of in a tough situation as I realised the only way to do the show was to not remake it, but to re-invent it. To re-imagine what Night Stalker was all about. Which was the only way to get a show like that on the air for Network Television in 2005.

“I instantly knew I was going to get a lot of heat because you are taking a beloved title and then you’re monkeying with it, pretty radically I have to say. I knew the initial critical response from a lot of people was going to be sort of knee jerk negative, like this is not Darren McGavin.

“When you take on a show like that, which is beloved from peoples past. You’re playing on their affection for the old version.”

Spotnitz revealed some understanding toward the original Night Stalker fan base by saying, “I think I got what I deserved on that one to be honest.”

“What I hoped and what I believed was that in time people would see that I was doing something very different that had its own integrity. Which I was, but unfortunately the show didn’t last that long. So I was just on the air long enough to get slammed, but not on the air long enough to reap the rewards for taking a radically different approach.

“It’s a shame, I think it was a great lost opportunity because I really think that show had an enormous amount of wonderful things going for it. Sadly the show never had time to prove its self.”

Spotnitz feels that another reason Night Stalker failed was due to it not being right for ABC’s schedule at the time, which was focused more on light entertainment.

Another project that Spotnitz has been working on is a movie called A Philosophical Investigation, which is a project he has been sharing with X Files creator Chris Carter. Unfortunately this project has fallen on hard times as Spotnitz explained.

“It’s actually somewhat in limbo. We actually wrote that script before X Files for Paramount and it’s a very interesting concept. It’s based on a novel by Philip Kerr.

“It’s set in a future London and I’d very much like to see it get made, but it’s one of those things that was a script and adaptation, which had been kicking around Paramount for many, many, many years… And they’d spent millions of dollars on different screenplays and nobody could quite crack it. Then they came to Chris and me, and we wrote the script while Sherry Lansing was the head of Paramount, and when we turned it in, she was gone and Gail Berman was head at Paramount and it wasn’t the movie Gail Berman wanted to make. Now Gail’s left and somebody else is there, but it’s just one of those things where the studio really has to want to make it, but no other studio can afford to because of all the screenplays that were done before me and Chris.”

When I suggested he try the BBC Spotnitz revealed it would not be that farfetched of an idea to approach them with the project.

“It’s interesting and possible. I mean that’s kind of one of the things that’s starting to happen. It’s really only early days for this, but I think your starting to see more blurring of international boundaries. It’s a possibility we might start seeing more American projects being done in England or as co – productions with English talent and American writers and producers, and I’d love to see that happen.”

In recent months a certain J.J. Abrams has been promoting his new series Fringe, and though fans and critics have said it is similar to X Files, the talent behind Fringe have said its more based on the work of David Cronenberg. I asked Spotnitz for his thoughts on this.

“I haven’t watched it to be honest. I know it’s about the supernatural and that it’s on the Fox Network in the United States, and it does involve the FBI. So I think comparisons to The X Files are inevitable. But I strongly believe that it’s going to have to rise and fall on its own merits. It seems to be finding an audience and has been successful. So I think that it must be something quite unique that has its own identity, and I’m all for more good shows in this genre. So I say god speed and good luck to them.”

In regards to a third outing for Mulder & Scully at the Cinema or on TV, Spotnitz is taking a wait and see approach.

“I don’t think a TV movie is possible. The economics of American television just doesn’t toy with making TV movies anymore. They really don’t happen on Network Television unless they’re done as pilots for a series.

“A feature film I think is an open question. Unfortunately we got hammered by The Dark Knight in the United States. I don’t think anybody could have anticipated the historic phenomenon that movie was going to be.

“We’re really proud of the movie. I think the studio is too, and we’ve made far more overseas than we did domestically. I think it did almost three times overseas what it did on domestic release. So I think it’s certainly possible, and I think they’re going to wait and see how the DVD does and then decide whether they want to take the risk or not on a third feature.

“I would certainly be in favour of it, and I think there’s more stories to tell, especially with an Alien mythology storyline, which has a pressing date to address.”

SciFi Pulse would like to thank Frank Spotnitz for his time.

By Ian M. Cullen

Ian Cullen is the founder of scifipulse.net and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: www.scifipulseradio.com When he is not writing for scifipulse.net Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of scifipulse.net You can contact ian at: ian@scifipulse.net
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