Filming 'The Unnatural'
by Ephesian (March 19, 1999)
Friday, March 19, 1999
Approximately 8:30 P.M.
Los Angeles, CA
Site: Filming of "The X-Files" (20th Century Fox/Ten Thirteen
Title: "Shades of Gray" (Episode 6x20) Rumored to be the
story of an alien who falls in love with baseball during the era
of the Negro leagues set in Roswell, New Mexico.
Tentative Air Date: May 9, 1999
Director: David Duchovny
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson
SUMMARY: "The X-Files" star takes advantage of his writing
and directorial debut to treat devoted fan-addicts of the wildly
popular franchise to his playful take on the tender stuff simmering
beneath the sleek, polished veneer of the partnership between two
of television's most Special FBI Agents. Duchovny cleverly employs
a time-honored Hollywood romance gambit to manipulate Moose and
ADVISORY: Proceed at your own risk. The following narrative contains
a small but significant spoiler of a single scene in this episode.
I do not mean that it is significant to the plot, as I have no idea
its context in the story. By significant I speak in terms of FWM/DKS
interaction. It doesn't spoil the plot but it definitely divulges
a marvelous scene. Whether you choose to read it or not is obviously
up to you, but it is simply too special for me to even think of
not reporting it. And yes, if you haven't already figured it out
and such info figures into your decision-making, this is 'shippy,
not Titanic 'shippy, but very 'shippy nonetheless. In any event,
"spoiler" is a misnomer here. Nothing could spoil this
scene regardless your relationship persuasion. You are advised,
though, that you just might enjoy the scene more if you save this
to read after viewing the episode during May sweeps.
Please forgive all errors in spelling, punctuation, formatting,
and grammar. This thing is too dang long to edit properly and still
get it posted before the episode airs. And of course it is very
long 'cause I never, ever, do the good stuff short.
When I arrived at the shoot location, which was a well-lit outdoor
baseball diamond on the spacious Cheviot Hills Recreation Grounds,
about 20 or so fans (curiously, at least half of whom ---both male
and female--- were auburn-tressed!) had already congregated around
the set and were watching DD as he actively engaged in supervising
his crew ;^) in setting up cameras, lighting, and other equipment
for filming on the baseball diamond. (If you've never been to one
of these things you cannot begin to imagine the clutter!) The temperature
was frigid and he was wearing a navy calf-length, heavily padded
nylon ski coat beneath which was visible a few inches of black denim
slacks and black athletic shoes.
Everyone's breath hung in the cold, damp air that had been forecast
to bring rain all evening.
Shortly after my arriving, DD stopped prepping and began to devote
concentrated time and energy on batting balls thrown at him by a
the kid who was to be in the scene or, alternately, that were being
hurled from some type pitching contraption---baseball ain't my game
so I really have no idea. Over and over and over he swung on dozens
of pitches---hitting them far afield, far a-fly, or hitting nothing
at all but innocent wasps. This went on too long for my tastes and
severely taxed the limits of my attention span, but later it became
apparent to me that this exercise had served to increase his comfort
level in face of the balls hurling toward him and to relax his body
movements in handling the bat, all to figure into the scene he was
prepping to shoot. I didn't get the impression, though, that he
felt particularly burdened by or in any way preoccupied with the
pressures of his directorial responsibilities during this extended
play period. Based on my observations, I could easily be convinced,
even, that he'd managed to forget he was "at the office."
A skimpy aside, FWIW, is that David's wife Tea was in the stands
with one or two people that appeared to be perhaps family and/or
friends. She was so bundled in a huge coat that only her profile
and hair was visible. At one point either she or one of the persons
with her loudly called DD and he dutifully made his way, bat still
in hand, to his wife and her friends (or whomever) from home plate.
After a brief moment with them he returned to the plate to resume
batting. One of the crew members (I'm sure if I knew anything about
this business it would have been clear what role he played, but…)
inquired of DD "Is she alright?" to which he replied "yeah."
One can only assume this may have had reference to the pregnancy,
but I've absolutely no idea.
Like I said, skimpy and FWIW…
At this point I looked up to see the unmistakable "Special
Agent Dana Scully" coming toward the set. She was accompanied
by one woman lagging some distance behind her. The enormously bulky,
extremely padded, very long overcoat she wore ---very similar in
style to DD's but in black quilted cotton instead of nylon --- did
nothing to disguise the shock of flame atop her head and her distinctive
Scully-like gait (which, if not coincidentally her Gillian-gait
as well, tells me that, along with her hair and make-up, she had
already gotten her "Scully" on, too.) Everyone seemed
to notice her at once. It was nearly impossible not to.
When DD looked over and noted her arrival, he was ready for them
to immediately begin rehearsing their scene. Gillian was obviously
wardrobed, coifed, and made up, ready to start. DD called her over
promptly. (I admit I felt foolish each time it occurred that I experienced
a mental hiccup as I was watching "Mulder" call to "Scully"
but referring to her as Gillian =^). Each shed his outerwear and
made for home plate.
(At some point during this time I happened to notice that Mrs. Duchovny
and her associates had departed.)
Though I am loathe to dignify a subject that so repulses me each
time the bleepin' thread rears its disgusting head, in the interest
of journalistic thoroughness and integrity ;^), I report from a
very close-up firsthand observation that underneath her tremendous
overcoat "Agent Scully" was v-e-e-e-e-ry trim in a moss-green
hip length jacket with lapels, lightweight black slacks, and thick-soled,
nearly-square toed black suede boots (the heavy heels of which along
with her heavy stride reverberated loudly wherever she walked on
pavement, causing us to chuckle). The T-shirt she wore underneath
was dark, probably black, rather ---not obscenely--- snug. Her hair
was somewhat fuller than we've grown accustomed to seeing this season,
its overall length appearing not so much longer as its layers from
her summer cut seeming to have filled in.
As I watched her, "absolutely adorable" was the unbidden
description that found its way repeatedly to mind.
Beneath his long ski coat, "Agent Mulder" wore a gray
baseball jersey with the name "GRAYS" across the front
and the number "20" with the name "Gibson" across
the back. (When I mentioned this to my brother the next day he said
that he thought it must have reference to a ballplayer by the name
of Josh Gibson who was with the league in that era ---which got
him very excited about the episode, btw. And, in case I've failed
to mention it before, I'd have no idea.) I seem to recall DD's also
having on a long-sleeved navy T-shirt underneath the jersey. For
some reason I'm blanking on this, but I think I'm remembering it
correctly 'cause I'm fairly certain I would not have forgotten seeing
his arms on such a cold night.
Over and over, Duchovny and Anderson rehearsed their scene, she
asking questions of him, he responding and they discussing while
he positioned her and himself according to his preference. At no
time did my attention span waiver during the rehearsal of this scene.
The only time I was not watching them was whenever a gaggle of crew
types blocked my view or I became briefly engaged in conversation
with other philes present, who also paid rapt attention.
Finally DD was ready to begin filming. He attended to things on
the set while GA walked back to her trailer to wait for her call.
She patiently indulged the fan requests on her walk back to her
wagon (a distance of sufficient length that I was a bit surprised
she chose to walk it rather than take advantage of one of the motor
carts and drivers available to her. In fact, DD didn't either.).
I will briefly cover this toward the end of the report.
About 15 minutes later, GA returned to the set, her escort in tow
(rather than the other way around!); DD had called for her; he was
ready to shoot their scene.
Mulder stands behind Scully as they both stand at home plate. While
Scully holds the grip of a large bat (the one with which DD had
earlier been practicing) with both hands as though readying to swing,
Mulder lightly admonishes her about her grip (and something else
I was unable to make out). As he does so he simultaneously leans
down and over her, proceeds to bring his arms around her---completely
enveloping her in his embrace---, and places the palms of either
of his large hands at the outside of either of her much smaller
ones at the bat's grip. He begins to swing the bat---and her in
his embrace---over and over as balls are pitched to them.
Rarely has the disparity in their heights and sizes been more evident
than in the execution of this scene. DD is tall (as I've said before,
he is definitely taller than 6' or I have definitely shrunken to
shorter than… nevermind) but does not look in the least bulky until
he leans over and literally wraps himself around the diminutive
GA in this scene. Towering over her, he practically absorbs her---even
in her stacked-heel boots--- as his arms enfold her to show her
how to hold and swing the bat. She was fairly invisible except for
her legs when I viewed one of the takes from directly behind them.
Another point of fact is that they are as spooned as two individuals
of such disparate heights can be and maintain plausible denial that
they are congenitally conjoined (!)
It was impossible to tell if he was going for the particular outcome
in the scene or whether it was inadvertent on Duchovny's part (I
can't wait to find out), but because Mulder seems to only barely
blunt the force of his swing in consideration of her size, nearly
every swipe of the bat finds Mulder twirling Scully so vigorously
that her at least one of her feet, sometimes both, lift from the
ground necessitating his having to hang onto her to slow their combined
momentum, steady her on her feet, and help her regain her balance.
Several times they land a full ¾ circle (135-degree) turn from their
starting position before he has steadied them.
Now, just prior to each swing, as Mulder is showing and describing
to Scully how she is supposed to stand and hold and swing the bat,
he turns his smiling face into hers. In more than one take her face
is also turned into his. I don't know at what angle the scene will
appear in its final cut but I saw it shot from a few different angles
and their faces are right at each other's. It is quite, well, it's
<ohmyohmy…hold on a minute.>
<I gotta take 10 here to grab a glass of ice cubes. Talk among
yourselves; I'll return shortly.>
Okay. Now where was I? Oh yes.
Again and again, with the cameras rolling, Mulder and Scully, very
snugly spooned together, swing at pitch after pitch. They both laugh,
Scully quite delightedly, as they complete each swing of the bat
as Mulder rights her each time preventing her bounding and plunging
to the ground. (Seriously, a few times she appeared very nearly
airborne were it not for his embrace.) It is a very playful, affectionate
moment between them.
ADVISORY: A description of PG-13, possibly R-rated, shenanigans
Whether for our amusement or his own or, more likely, ensuring choice
cuts for the crew's private blooper tape, I cannot say, but, at
*least* once, immediately after the "ROLLING" shout, David
took advantage of having Gillian trapped "within" him,
as it were, and ---sorry, folks, no other way to describe it---
busted a positively lewd move on her ---wriggling and well…, uh…thrusting
"himself" into her. Several of us who spotted it (primarily
the two of us with bionic-binocs that zoomed the couple into our
eyelashes--- and we were all pretty close to begin with) gaped at
each other and gasped in astonishment --- "… did you see what
he did???"--- . As for Anderson, the way her giggling carries,
there was no inferring that she was in any way offended. She never
once insisted that filming stop and it didn't until "CUT"
was shouted by Director Duchovny when he decided it was time to
get down to business.
Needless to say that this …uh, maneuver on DD's part is unlikely
to show up on screen.
<END OF RATED MATERIAL>
Once the cameras began to roll again, DD stopped his "antics"
and Mulder kicked in. For the scene, though, even though not obscene,
if you will, he continues to imitate the animated batter's wriggle
that, because of their positioning, engages Scully in the motion
along with him. As they perform this in-tandem wiggle 'n' jiggle
in virtually every take of the scene, there will have to be some
monstrously (and I use that term advisedly) creative editing if
the intention is that none of this appear in the final cut that
makes it to screen. In truth, I can't imagine that David had it
shot this way over and over just to have all of it scrapped. There
was no question in our minds as we viewed this scene rehearsed and
shot at least a ½ dozen times respectively that DD and GA were executing
this precisely as DD was directing it and as he intended it. I trust
the reader will decide for himself what significance to assign this.
I'm settled in my mind that it's a view David Duchovny wants us
to glean of Agents Mulder and Scully from his script.
As this was an outdoor shoot, much of the dialogue was indecipherable.
I could make out only pieces.
Prior to the first pitch, Mulder yells to the kid, "Okay, let's
have it, poorboy." I think he said poorboy. If he did, I don't
know what it means in the script.
After he's played the great tutor to Scully, Mulder takes a whack
in the butt-thigh region by the ball. He jumps around yelping in
"Clarify something for me, Mulder. Are you actually supposed
to hit the ball with your ass?" Scully asks him in one take
as she is giggling at his discomfort.
In another version, she laughs and says "Tell me Mulder, is
the ball actually supposed to hit you in the ass?" This version
was clearly a flub.
And another, "Tell me Mulder, is the ball actually supposed
to be hit by your ass?"
The whole time Scully is giggling away. Mulder is not amused. "Very
funny, kid" he yells out to the boy.
Mulder and the boy seem to have some kind of wager going and as
each successive ball hits him or nearly does so, Mulder gradually
capitulates, yelling to the kid "$???, $18.50… okay, $20 then."
After each take DD and GA and certain crew members would move over
to several monitors that were mounted nearby on which they'd review
the take just shot. By an unbelievable stroke of good luck, we were
able to observe DD and GA as they together, facing us, watched the
monitor of their previous take and, by means of a monitor facing
toward us, were able to see what it was they were seeing.
With DD either standing slightly behind and to GA's left or sitting
on a stool beside where she stood so that they were nearly the same
height with their faces at the monitor, they, again and again, together
boomed loud laughter as they clearly were amused by what they'd
gotten on film. Gillian's delighted squeal and David's leaning back
in a full-throated laugh caused us to laugh ourselves at times at
the very spectacle of the two of them. This cycle continued as they
alternated take after take followed each time with viewing at the
monitor. I wonder at the level of perfectionism on the part of these
two in that, despite their and the crew's apparent delight in each
successive take, they continued to agree to one after another. Perhaps
different aspects of different takes worked best in their view.
Like I said, filmmaking is not my business and I know next to nothing
about it, but I do know that my attention span never wavered during
a single one of these takes. Each time was as good as or better
than the one before. These two look divine together---no other description
Gauging by GA's reaction to each take, I'm convinced that she must
be as pleased with DD's script as he has himself expressed being.
BEHIND-THE-SCENES QUICK TAKES
-----Appearing quite the relaxed director, DD goofed a bit with
crew members, snacked on something candy bar-like in a wrapper and
beverage in a Starbucks cup between takes, graced with the occasional
smile those of us who made up the small audience in attendance,
and even scolded the kid pitching him balls --- "...and this
time let's have none of that argument from the last time..."
before one take he shouted in an exaggeratedly paternal tone he's
obviously been practicing! It was quite charming actually and very
-----At one point, while the doubles were being shot, GA and DD
stood off to the side out of the camera's view. GA, with her back
to us, having pulled back slightly her hip length jacket, had her
head down with both of her hands gesturing near her waist, drawing
DD's attention to something at the vicinity of her midsection. As
he was facing in our direction, I could see him peer down to whatever
she was indicating at her midsection and say something to her presumably
about whatever she was showing him. His expression was neither that
of amusement nor real seriousness, just interest or perhaps curiosity.
Sorry, I have no more than that. I couldn't, and still can't, imagine
what it could've been about. Just another skimpy aside.
-----When, between takes, shooting was delayed while the crew moved
cameras and other equipment or were otherwise occupied, DD once
or twice picked up the bat and resumed swinging at pitches. Frequently
his effort yielded only newly-plowed soil beneath his shoes or the
exploded remains of the poor insect whose unwitting flight pattern
brought it to an untimely demise. But many times DD connected with
and slammed the ball well beyond the diamond out into the park.
And he looked pretty darn cute doing so I might add.
-----Not to be outdone, GA, twice between takes, took her turn at
bat as well. With each swing of the bat she drilled herself deeper
and deeper into earth's center as the ball whizzed past her. Once
she seemed to muster her strength and find her balance, however,
she started knocking balls high and far into the outfield (okay,
I suppose even a baseball ignorante like myself cannot have been
born and reared in the Los Angeles area without having picked up
a wee bit of the terminology, summer after summer, from our beloved
Vin Scully.) Tittering all around ensued each time the loud crack
signaled that little Gillian had nailed another ball. An incongruous
sight to be sure given that the bat was nearly as long as she is
NOTE: I've been trying to recall whether there was any filming being
done of either "Mulder" or "Scully" while either
was batting alone. My best recollection is that I never heard "ROLLING"
or "CUT" during this time and that this was not being
filmed for the episode, however, I could be mistaken. It was a long,
cold night <g>
Seems both "Mulder" and "Scully" got game.
-----When time to film, GA returned to the set sipping from her
ever-present bottle of Crystal Geyser, which no typical Southern
Californian---myself included (!)----is ever without.
----GA's laugh over something or other rang out unself-consciously
time and again. Her voice and laugh carry every bit as far as anyone's
on the set.
----Occasionally, between takes, the hair stylist would approach
DD and reach up to dabble in his hair, pushing and pulling it this
way and that. As I watched her, I found myself thinking "Enough
of that already; he looks enough like a porcupine 'bout the head
this season." Thank goodness it seems he's let it grow out
some---just in time for this summer's weedwackado =^).
----Once I observed a make-up artist and hair stylist attending
simultaneously to Gillian between takes. Another time she fussed
with her own hair while peering at her image on a monitor.
-----As it grew later, from about midnight on, as the crew grew
confident that none of us was a wild-eyed, slobbering phile looking
to take DD or GA hostage (and the security guards had disappeared
to snag some zzzzz's), they practically gave us free rein of the
place. The only thing anyone ever did was to ask us to move a bit
in a certain direction so that we would not be in the shot. And
they thanked us for doing that! Although we didn't presume on their
generosity, we were able to view the shoot from quite close-up.
At one point, set workers even dragged cable, drove motor carts,
and moved equipment around us instead of asking that we move---which,
of course we always did if we got any inkling that we were in the
way. Even the guards, when they were around, were extremely courteous
and respectful---one even inviting me to help myself to refreshments
from the gourmet catering wagon. Naturally, I declined. It was quite
remarkable really. Much more relaxed than my two previous outings
in the summer of '97.
Even if I'd had any expectation of seeing "Scully" in
this ballpark scene (and I absolutely did not; I'd just come to
watch DD work as director on his script and had resigned myself
to probably having to endure watching ballplayers do that thing
they do), I never would have expected a scene such as this. The
joy of watching it may be surpassed only by the knowledge that it
was a choice Duchovny made for his very own episode. Although I'd
previously observed the two of them performing in the same scene
during filming of FtF, there was no interaction between them as
the scene was the one of unconscious Scully being gurneyed into
the Syndicate's "ambulance" and a frantic Mulder asking
to what hospital she was being taken while getting himself capped
in the temple over and over and over =^). What I'm saying is that
I would have enjoyed a chance to see any interaction between the
two characters---even an argument!--- and it was sheer serendipity
that I managed to catch one that turned out to exceed anything I
would ever have dared hoped for. All of us in attendance were clearly
delighted by this most welcome surprise.
I'll say also that, imo, this earns its place among the very 'shippiest
x-f scenes---"Irresistible,""Pusher," "MeMo,"
"Redux II," et al---ever between the real-deal, drug-free
Mulder and present-day, conscious Scully. I find it all the more
powerfully significant given that the writer and director are the
very life force behind Special Agent Fox Mulder. Any man who manages
to work a scene like this with his onscreen "wife" into
his first script--- one that focuses on one of his other loves,
a sport--- ranks as one of the sexiest alive.
Now, anyone familiar with my past write-ups of these little escapades
of mine know that I don't consider my purpose served until I've
dished some dangerously sexist and gratuitously superficial comments
regarding the physical attributes of one David Duchovny (or The
Carter, for that matter, when he's present, which he wasn't this
time---@#$%$#@!!) Feel free to scroll past if you don't wish to
be subjected to such demeaning tripe.
I'll give you time.
<Jeremiah was a bullfrog; he was a good friend of mine. I never
understood a single…>
Plainly stated, Duchovny is criminally handsome. A felony walking.
Three strikes---pun intended--- (mind, body,and talent) should put
him away for life. I, once again, had the pleasure of observing
for myself, up close, that he is far from the notoriously snobbish
sort relentlessly portrayed by his detractors. Rather than logically
walk past us on the wide green expanse surrounding us, DD chose
to meander right through the center of the little cluster of about
6 of us (yeah, the dude's surely got a set on 'im to take such risks!);
he spoke, grinned a magnificent smile ---in perfect Chris Carter
imitation---and looked around at each of us. His skin, I mean…,
that is, his face <G>, is well-tanned (in contrast to his
coloring when here filming the movie) and well, he is, quite simply,
drop-dead gorgeous. This impression of him, for me at least, tremendously
benefits from my knowing the keen mind---the brain ever the sexiest
organ--- his packaging wraps.
In deference to his new role as father, I'll be more respectful
this outing and leave this discussion here. I trust my point, though
succinct, is clear and thorough.
Now unlike my courageous antics in a previous similar very-close
encounter of this erotic…uh, that's close kind I said, I regret
to inform that I failed to live up to my own …uh, high standards,
offering not so much as a congrats on his recent awards. What did
I do this time? Same as the other few in our group. As he casually
strolled through (so casually, in fact, that for a second I was
convinced that it had to be his double, who was on the set along
with GA's performing the same scene as they) --- taking time to
look directly at each of us, saying "hi"---we all, every
one of us, stood riveted to the ground, grinning up at him; drooling
on ourselves like sweet and innocent dimwitted imbeciles gazing
up at the cover of TV Guide mag featuring Jay Leno on Sloppy Joe
Once the spell was broken and I'd come to my senses, such as they
are, I cannot believe that I, of all people, didn't manage to at
least convey our delight at the FWM/DKS scene he's chosen to include
in his script for our enjoyment! Either I'm losing my edge or the
proverb is proved true: Sometimes life imitates the WB Network.
I must say, though, that my profound sense was that the expression
on Duchovny's face ---along with that 100-watt grin--- betrayed
the fact that he was enjoying our stupor a bit too much.
As with most things, I guess I could be mistaken on this <g>.
Both David and Gillian, separately, during different breaks, demonstrated
themselves to be very approachable, patiently taking the time to
sign autographs and have their pictures taken with those who asked.
Thankfully there was no silly mob-like frenzy; the requestors were
generally calm and well-mannered. Mostly it was the younger women
who had brought some mags with great covers of the two stars to
be autographed. Although it's not my thing, it was great fun watching
how nervous and excited those became ---yeah, I mean you, Jill Anne
and Angel---who got their treasures signed. Unlike with Duchovny
and The Carter, I've never gotten the opportunity to express to
Anderson my appreciation of her talent and the work she's done over
these 6 seasons. Not a collector of celebrity-type things, I do
make it a point to extend my congratulations on good work when I
can. As adorable as she is, weak-kneed Gillian does not make me…as
does that other one <g>. My tongue was quite loosened and
she was a gracious sweetie in response to my comment.
Finally, this occasion afforded me the added pleasure of meeting
some of the great long-time philes I'd hoped to see at last month's
Xeminar here in L.A. ---for which I'd made reservations but was
finally unable to attend due to some impossibly inflexible commitments
that weekend. One new phriend, Rayna--- Hi Rayna!---was thoughtful
enough and had the presence of mind to bring delicious granola bars
to share with us.
Every ½ hour one of us would declare that our intention to depart.
Cell phone emerged from every car and satchel as each hour passed
and someone was forced to call and advise that s/he was going to
be arriving home somewhat later than earlier thought. (I'd saved
myself this grief by earlier coaching my husband not to go wiggy
cuz I was gonna be way late.)
Most of us left at about 1:30 a.m.---with my beginning to dread
the fact that I had a 10:00 a.m. meeting to attend. A few others
stayed, one fan and her daughter hoping to give Gillian Anderson
a gift of some kind, I think. The shooting was continuing even though
it had begun to rain lightly.
There's been hellacious griping about "The X-Files" this
season. Virtually every episode has had its vehement slammers and
detractors and I expect "Shades of Grey" will be no different.
I admit I've had my occasional beef, too ("There is more trust
to be put in bruises from one who loves than in effusive kisses
from one who hates."---Proverbs 27:6)
For my part, though, as regards this episode, I don't care if it
is about the Negro Baseball League, aliens loving baseball, or Negro
aliens who fall in love with baseballs (before any gets his panties/boxers
in a Morris Fletcher twist, know that I and some of my very well-connected
family members used to actually be "Negro" and would cherish
a visit with any extraterrestrial kinfolk--- even those who space
travel here to abduct baseballs, okay?). I know already from the
microscopic glimpse I've gotten of this episode that I am not only
going to like it; it is guaranteed to be one of my all-time favorites.
And this is likely to hold true even if it turns out not to mean
I have a Great-Gramps visiting here from Reticula.
And that's the truth.