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David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in 20th Century Fox’s ‘The X-Files: I Want to Believe’ Updated Thu. Jul. 24 2008 7:30 AM ET Constance Droganes, entertainment writer, CTV.ca

dvxV8L7prKIs the truth still out there? Moviegoers will find out once “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” storms theatres on July 25.

Surrounded by more secrecy than King Tut’s treasury, this latest addition to “The X-Files” brand promises a return to that scare factor that made the famed television series (1993-2002) a pop culture phenom.

“The best part of ‘The X-Files’ was that it was creepy. It could make you afraid of anything,” says “I Want to Believe” producer and co-writer Frank Spotnitz. “This new movie is a stand-alone film. Audiences will get it without seeing the series. But it follows in that ‘X-Files’ tradition of scaring the pants off people.”

Joining “The X-Files as a writer in 1994, Spotnitz worked on the acclaimed series for eight of its nine seasons. The Golden Globe winner also co-produced and co-authored the story for the 1998 movie “The X-Files: Fight the Future.”

Spotnitz won’t reveal much about this highly anticipated sequel. According to what little fans know, Agents Mulder and Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) are drawn back into the world of the “X-Files” by a case replete with disappearing bodies, maddening circuitous clues and a disgraced priest (Billy Connolly) who has questionable “visions.”

Mulder’s new quest for truth is played up by the film’s title. The words “I want to believe” were seen by fans for years on a poster featured in Mulder’s FBI office.

“I was glad to return to these characters. For years they were all I thought about. It was easy to pick up where we left off,” says Spotnitz.

The same can’t be said for stars Duchovny and Anderson.

“Chris and I had a much easier time getting back into the groove,” says Spotnitz. “David and Gillian spent years trying to push themselves away from their ‘X-Files’ characters. As actors they wanted to do something different. But consciously reconnecting with Mulder and Scully was not easy for them.”

Getting this sequel made was no cakewalk either, says Spotnitz.

In 2003 Spotnitz and Carter created a story for this movie and pitched it to studio executives. The film was green-lighted for production. Then a dispute arose between Carter and the studio concerning the profits from the TV show.

“That stopped everything,” says Spotnitz. “The issue dragged on for years. I started to think that this movie might actually never happen.”

In January of 2007 the dispute was settled. As Spotnitz says, “Literally the next day the movie was back on.”

Vancouver: Where X still marks the spot

Spotnitz and Carter headed back to Vancouver, the original home to the “X-Files” series,” shortly thereafter. “Vancouver made us a success. We wanted to return to it before we did anything else,” says Spotnitz.

Long considered the silent star of the “X-Files,” Vancouver’s appearance in the TV series was documented in the 1999 book “X Marks the Spot” by Louisa Gradnitzer and Todd Pittson. In the pilot, for example, the graveyard Mulder and Scully visit is Queen Elizabeth Park. The psychiatric ward is really the Riverview Hospital. The list of locations goes on and on.

Vancouver’s unique light, or lack thereof, helped to create that “X-Files” look viewers universally perceived as “mysterious” and “alien”

“Coming back here has been amazing. It’s was like reuniting for family,” says Spotnitz, who, along with Carter, wrote the script to take place in and around Vancouver. Whether that reunion will be well received at the box office has yet to be seen.

“This new ‘X-Files’ film fits in with the tried-and-true way that Hollywood is going right now,” says Canada AM movie critic Richard Crouse. “You’ve got ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘The Hulk.’ Both movies have characters made very famous by TV. The ‘X-Files’ movies follow that trend.”

Yet people have short memories, as Crouse points out. “Pop culture moves very quickly. The ‘X-Files’ has been off primetime TV for years. Gillian Anderson hasn’t really been seen for a long time. People like David Duchovny in ‘Californication’ but he’s not a big draw in theatres. The ‘X-Files’ brand is strong. But if there’s one sure thing in Hollywood it’s that there is no sure thing.”

The conjecture doesn’t bother Spotnitz. “Time does pass and people and characters change,” he says. “Chris and I are older. So are Mulder and Scully. But I think that brings something new to this movie that hasn’t been seen before.”

As for rumours about sexy new love scenes between Mulder and Scully, Spotnitz says skin won’t be in for this PG-13 flick. “Scully and Mulder do have some romantic time on screen. There’s has been a lot of conjecture about how far they take it. We can promise you suspense in this movie, not racy sex scenes.”

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