Transcript of the DVD Audio Commentary by Kim Manners for the episode 'Max'

Transcribed by: Libby
Edited by: X_Follower

Hi, this is Kim Manners. This is part two, Max, and I directed this one.

[Mulder has swum down to the bottom of Great Sacandaga Lake and encounters twisted wreckage and the body of a gray alien. Suddenly there is a bright light from flashlights carried by divers. Mulder takes off his air tank and swims to the surface.]

This was shot in a very, very small tank across the street from North Shore Studios in Vancouver. We used wide lenses because they didn't have really a long way to swim and it really worked well, it looks like they're really covering some ground but in fact they probably only swam maybe ten or twelve feet.

[Mulder, followed by the divers, has reached the shore but then a truck approaches him. The divers tackle him to the ground and men from the truck run up and point their rifles at him.]

You had to hand it to these stunt guys, this was Indian Arm, it's an inland body of the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver and it is freezing cold, and I think you can tell there it's raining in the light of the ship and the stunt guys they were just frozen. David could run like a deer but he was so cold, look at him, he's so stiff he was just miserable. When we did the episode 'Tunguska' I think David almost outran two horses chasing him and I'll never forget it, he almost outran those two horses, but this night there was no way, he couldn't get any gear at all, it was too cold.

[At the pub in Washington, Garrett shoots at Frish but hits Pendrell instead. Scully fires back, hitting Garrett in the leg. While Scully checks on Pendrell, Garrett escapes.]

I felt actually guilty when we did this sequence because I killed Pendrell, and this kid, he had such a good time working on The X-Files and he loved it, and we read this script and realised that his character was killed off. He was heartbroken. I think, in the back of his mind somewhere, there was a little bit of a crush on Gillian in real life and he just loved working with her, as we all did, and when he found out his character was gonna die he was very depressed, and I was very depressed having to kill him. I guess that's why they say "that's showbiz", huh?

[Police arrived and Scully requests an E.M.T., then goes back to Pendrell.]

This was a bar in Vancouver, that was Val Stefoff right there, the man in the blue shirt. He was another assistant director and when Tom Braidwood became one of the Lone Gunmen, Val Stefoff said, 'you know, I can act', so I had to make him the bartender. (laughs) I think these guys wanted to do the acting just so they didn't have to work with me for a couple of hours.

[The paramedics arrive and Scully gives them instructions, then notices her nose is bleeding.]

Scully's cancer. This was a really, really tricky thing to do because we would be in the middle of a shot and then her nose would have to start to bleed. Well, let's... can't just run a tube in a lady's head and start pumping blood, so Laverne Munroe, our makeup lady, would run in and right in the middle of the shot we'd say, 'OK, now' and Laverne would run in and put a little blood in, and Gillian would stay in character so she wouldn't break and then I'd give her a second 'action' and then bang, she'd find that blood.

[Scully goes back to Frish who asks how his whereabouts were known. Scully checks that he didn't tell his girlfriend that he was in D.C. and concludes that an insider is helping Garrett. Skinner arrives saying he got a call about a federal witness being transferred - Sgt Frish. Scully says a federal marshal was supposed to be there to put Frish into protective custody.]

It was very hard in Vancouver to find bars that looked like American bars. I don't know what it is, but I think there might have only been one in the entire city of Vancouver that actually had a bar where people would sit on stools in a line. I guess it's an American thing, or it's certainly not a Canadian thing.

[Skinner says that order was countermanded because Frish is to be put under military arrest for suspicion of murder and providing false testimony. And Mulder has been arrested by the military on charges of interference in the military investigation of the plane crash. Scully asks what the story is the military is telling. At this point, Skinner notices the bloody tissue.]

What is their story? This entire story actually came to Chris Carter's attention from our special effects man, Dave Gauthier, who thought it would be cool to build a mock-up of an airplane and abduct a passenger out of it in mid-air. And this whole story idea for 'Tempus Fugit' and 'Max' evolved over many months of David Gauthier and his special effects team actually built this mock-up that you're going to see in this episode. It had 400 gallons of hydraulic fluid in it. It was about ten feet off the ground. I think it held 80 passengers. It would roll 22 degrees to the left, 22 degrees to the right, and it jumped up and down about four feet. And we were in it for days doing the abduction sequence, camera operators wearing helmets, extras never complaining. Interesting in the way these episodes evolved when your special effects man has an idea, a little toy he wants to build, and it suddenly becomes a two-part episode of The X-Files.

[Scully goes to the Air Force base where Mulder has been held. Mulder relays the military cover story that bad coordinates were given to a fighter pilot, causing the collision. Mulder shows her some small radiation burns on his forehead, saying that he got them at the second crash site at Sacandaga Lake and that what collided with the plane was a UFO shot down by the military.]

David and Gillian, they were absolutely brilliant. They get to a scene like this, it's nothing but exposition, telling the audience what are we doing here, where are we in this story, and they always found a way to make it interesting. My hat's off to them. They always made a scene like that sing.

[Scully says the man running the investigation hasn't been able to find any physical evidence of a collision. They walk out of the building.]

I think one of the secrets of this show was making the totally unbelievable believable, and David and Gillian really delivered on that. So did Mitch, so did the entire cast. They invested themselves in making the unbelievable totally believable. It surprises me to this day how they did it.

[Scully tells Mulder that Millar found Sharon Graffia wandering in a daze at the first crash site and that she is not Max's sister but an aeronautical engineer who has spent time in mental institutions where she met Max. Then she tells him that Pendrell is dead.]

You know, Chris and Frank, they always had a way to bring to every scene a certain gravity, a certain emotional content and I think that's why all this exposition worked, because they would button their scene with an important human moment.

[Mulder and Scully go to Max's trailer.]

Again, this is a classic example. Max is not here but you learn so much of him just from the way Graeme Murray, our production designer at the time, decorated this trailer. There's so much story to be told about the character just in the set dressing.

[Scully switches on the music player - Soul Coughing's 'Unmarked Helicopters'.]

This song, Unmarked Helicopters, is just defines Max, this whole space defines Max.

[Scully asks what they're looking for. Mulder says for something to explain what Max was doing on the plane and why he was coming to see him. He says Max is the key, that he knew the plane was in danger even before it took off. He finds a videotape made by Max.]

I shot this video footage myself. I wanted it to have a poor quality look, like it was not shot by a professional and I thought I was perfectly qualified to do that, so I did it myself. (laughs)

[Great Sacandaga Lake.]

That's one of my favourite shots in the film, steadicam and just keeps going, keeps going. This was the difference between The X-Files and other TV shows at the time. We were doing feature work, feature shots, and Chris and Frank encouraged it. We had the support, we had all the toys, all the tools, all the cranes, steadicams. I never had the opportunity to do the shots like this before my work on The X-Files.

[The cover-up continues. A man zips up a body bag containing an alien body. A diver is being helped ashore by the others, he has radiation burns on his face.]

Joel Ransom, he was our cinematographer at the time, and he learned very quickly, boy, keep him back, like, keep those lights burning in the lens.

[Back at the hangar, the plane is nearly completely reconstructed and the work is wrapping up.]

This was a huge warehouse, I believe it was out at one of the airports in Vancouver. The set dressing team worked for days putting all these airplane parts that they'd salvaged from all over lower British Columbia together, and when we found the tail section that I started that shot on, everybody was so excited that we actually found something that actually resembled a real airplane.

[The team leader says the evidence doesn't support anything more conclusive than the Air Force's assertion of a mid-air collision.]

This was my first time working with Joe Spano, again, what a privilege. We had some of the greatest talent come to our show and they always worked hard, they did their homework, and they always brought, again, the words believability and conviction to their roles.

[Mulder says that the facts are still a matter of speculation. Scully says there are suspicions that the military's story is a deflection and cover-up. Mulder says they don't have facts, but they do have a story, that of Max and that he had an object with him. Mulder relates the possible scenario on the plane just before it crashed.]

This sequence took us four, maybe five days to shoot. And we had camera operators in helmets. This plane, I think it's still in Vancouver, I think they're still renting it. It was quite a piece of machinery. All run by computer. We had a Titan crane outside with a seat on it that we picked up the character of Max and floated him out the door. Ratcheting stunt people out, pulling them on cables, flying them into darkness. It was an amazing undertaking.

[Mulder continues describing the events. The airplane is shuddering, and passengers are screaming. Lights appear through the windows.]

These lights were Xenon lights, they were all on cranes and these shots were coming all around the cabin here. This was an incredible effort, we worked so hard on this sequence.

[Mulder says that the third aircraft, a military aircraft, was given the coordinates for the plane. The pilots on Max's plane realize there's something wrong.]

This cockpit was shot actually at a real flight simulator, it's not part of the airplane itself, we shot it separately at the airport, Vancouver Airport. And I don't remember which airline but they were kind enough to let us use their flight simulator. We had to be very careful not to hit any wrong switches.

[In the plane, passengers are being shaken around.]

These extras, they all did such a tremendous job. For days we were shaking these poor people and they never complained. There were kids, older women, young kids, this took so much on everybody's part.

[Suddenly, the plane goes very still. One of the passengers is a young girl, in her early teens.]

This is Rob Maier - that's his daughter, his oldest daughter. And I wanted to tell this story now, this abduction, again I wanted to find somewhere to ground this thing emotionally. So I played it off our construction coordinator's daughter. Just little quick cuts to her face as she watches this man being floated out of this airplane.

[Max is levitated out of the plane. The Dark Man, who had been following Max, tries to shoot, but his gun doesn't work. Passengers watch, stunned, as Max disappears into the bright light. The young girl watches through the window.]

There she is.

[Max has been floated out of the airplane and away.]

And we only had moments to understand these people who had no dialogue on this airplane, and again I needed to emotionally connect the audience to the plight of these people on board this craft, because they're all about to lose their life, and their faces, and their expressions, they really understood what we were trying to do and they worked very, very hard. I'm very proud of them.

[Back at the hangar, Mulder says the military fighter had been given specific orders to take down the UFO. In the airplane, Max is being floated back into the plane. The young girl gets to her feet and watches him over the back of her seat.]

There's my girl.

[Max is floated back into his seat when there is an explosion and Max is sucked out of the plane.]

This is all shot on a sound stage and all these stunt people are on cables and they're all being pulled pneumatically, bang, gone, now she's gone. And I put a 10 mm lens on it, and it looked as though they were flying, you know, what, half a mile away from the plane. They were actually maybe being jerked 30 or 40 feet but they get so small with that big wide lens that it really worked well. And we had fans blowing and papers in the air, look at that poor woman. (laughs).

[More chaos. Passengers panicking. A woman prays. The radar track of the airplane disappears off the radar. Back in the present day in the hangar, the wreck is seen from the roof-space, some of the girders forming an x-shape.]

There's an X, we always get an X in these shows somewhere.

[The team leader says that even if Mulder's explanation is true, he could never sell that to Washington. Mulder says that would be the case without the object Max was carrying. Scully points out that one thing that has yet to be explained is the traces of radioactivity found in the plane. The team leader says they did find something linked to radioactivity - Max's bag containing his NICAP hat. Later, Mulder returns to Max's camper. The camper has been trashed. The landlord hands Mulder some mail that had arrived for Max. One envelope contains a small key, possibly a luggage claim. Meanwhile, Scully visits Sharon.]

I love this scene, I love the way Gill lit it. Just, again, it evokes a certain emotion, tells a certain story. It's just a delight itself.

[Sharon tells Scully that she had stolen something that caused the radiation burns on Max's face, and on hers.]

Chris used to always say, he'd say, 'get in their heads, get in their heads', and I'd shoot tighter and tighter and tighter. The longer I was on The X-Files I think the tighter I got. This became a loose close-up eventually.

[Scully suggest that Sharon stole something from her employment as an aeronautical systems engineer to help Max prove the stories about his abductions were true. Sharon says it was alien technology, three interlocking parts, she had one and Max had another on the plane. Scully asks where the third part is. Meanwhile, Mulder has gone to the luggage claim desk at Syracuse Hancock airport.
Mulder: I left a bag here.
Clerk: Big bag, little bag?
Mulder: Short bag, tall bag. I don't remember.]

David ad-libbing. He did it all the time. He always brought humor to Mulder.

[The clerk finds the bag. Mulder realizes he's under surveillance by a number of men. He shows the clerk his badge and asks for a security entrance to the terminal. When in the terminal, his phone rings - it's Scully and he explains where he is and that he has the missing part.]

This is actually the Vancouver International Airport. Back in these days when we shot The X-Files it was pre-9/11 and the security issues weren't as stringent as they are today. You could never shoot in an airport like this today with a film crew. But they were great, they gave us access to every part of the airport. We had to create our own security areas, etc., but they were very cooperative. You'd never find that today.

[Scully warns Mulder not to handle the object as it is highly radioactive. Static is interfering with the phone call. Mulder puts the bag through the metal detector which shows the shape of the object. Mulder says there are more people trying to get their hands on this thing than a "Tickle-Me Elmo" doll.]

That was another David ad-lib.

[Mulder tells Scully the flight he will be boarding and that he needs to be met on his arrival. He boards the plane.]

This is the same plane, we just re-dressed it, changed some of the headrest covers, I believe. This is the same plane that we crashed a little earlier in the episode.

[In the plane, another man, Scott Garrett, sits next to Mulder. Mulder is suspicious and readies his gun under his coat.]

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. If you fire a gun on a plane and it makes a little hole, the plane does not decompress, and people are not sucked out that little hole. That's a little Hollywood fabrication there.

[Garrett: Look out your window, Agent Mulder. You see the lights? Imagine if one of those lights flickered off. You'd hardly notice, would you? A dozen, two dozen lights extinguished. Is it worth sacrificing the future, the lives of millions, to keep a few lights on?]

Chris and Frank always came up with these great analogies.

[Mulder asks what the object is and what could be worth killing all the passengers on Max's plane. Mulder forces Garrett to go to the back of the plane where Mulder locks him in the bathroom. He uses the airplane telephone to call Scully to tell her he has Pendrell's killer locked up. Mulder says he's going the miss the in-flight movie, something starring Steve Guttenberg.]

I don't know whether David Duchovny ad-libbed. (laughs)

[Mulder suggests Scully should alert Skinner. Then Mulder notices his watch just stopped. He drops the phone and talks to a stewardess. He tells her the plane is just about to be intercepted and the captain should initiative evasive maneuvers. Then Garrett emerges from the bathroom, aiming his gun at Mulder, but then the plane is rocked as if it has collided with something. A light appears through the windows. Garret now has the bag but won't relinquish it despite Mulder's attempts. The door near Garrett is pulled off its hinges and the cabin is engulfed in bright light.]

The dailies of these sequences were amazing. We had so much film to choose from. Again, the extras, they just really made this all so believable. You see a sequence like that and it's almost a religious experience, I mean, there's such gravity and something about this whole concept of other intelligence out there. And Chris and Frank, they really had a way, when they told a story, they'd give myself or Rob Bowman a script, and the actors, everybody really worked hard to land it in reality and there's some sort of reverence when I watch these that I feel. I'm very proud of this work and we shot a lot of film, there were a lot of choices, and I think we came up with a real quality film every week.

[The plane lands and Scully meets up with Mulder who tells her that the man has gone. They compare watches and Scully realizes that nine minutes have been lost. Back at the camper van, Mulder, Scully and Sharon are watching another video made by Max. Mulder agrees that Sharon should keep the videos.]

This scene, I'm very proud of this scene, I'm very proud of Gillian in this scene. Again, Chris and Frank, they always gave this X-Files show, they always button it with something that really meant something, if you'll listen.

[Scully: I was thinking about this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell me why you gave it to me or what it means... but I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women and extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals... that what can be imagined can be achieved... that you must dare to dream... but that there's no substitute for perseverance and hard work... and teamwork... because no one gets there alone... and that, while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifice of those who make these achievements and leaps possible.
Mulder: I just thought it was pretty cool keychain.]

I got to tell you, John Kennedy couldn't have said it better than that.

[Scully smiles. They walk off together.]

The End