‘The X-Files’ Trivia: How The Smiths and ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Influenced the Landmark Series

“The X-Files,” which starred Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny as two intrepid FBI agents who investigated bizarre and unexplainable cases, debuted on Fox on Sept. 3, 1993.

The sci-fi cult hit from Chris Carter not only had a profound impact on pop culture, but also inspired more women to enter the fields of science and medicine, like Anderson’s character Dana Scully.

The character was largely modeled on Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling in 1991’s Oscar-winning “Silence of the Lambs,” while the show’s eerie theme song was partly inspired by The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?”

In honor of the show’s 30th anniversary, here are some facts you might not know about “The X-Files,” including how integral it is to the existence of “Breaking Bad.”

Jodie Foster in SIlence of the Lambs, Gillian Anderson in The X-Files

Dana Scully was inspired by Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs”

“It’s not a mistake that Dana Scully has red hair like Clarice Starling in ‘The Silence of the Lambs,'” Chris Carter said of basing the character on Jodie Foster’s FBI trainee in the 1991 thriller. There was actually a clause in Gillian Anderson’s contract that forbade her from playing other FBI agents, which ruled her out when it came time to recast Clarice for the 2000 sequel “Hannibal.” That didn’t stop her, however, from appearing in NBC’s series about the famous cannibal: She played Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, a character original to the TV show, after “The X-Files” was over.

Morrissey, lead singer of The Smiths in 1984
The Smiths lead singer Morrissey in 1984 (Photo by Pete Cronin/Redferns)

Mark Snow’s iconic theme song was partly based on The Smiths song “How Soon Is Now?”

Chris Carter had one song in mind for composer Mark Snow to copy: The Smiths’ moody alt-rock hit of the ‘80s, “How Soon is Now?”, particularly the tremolo effect of guitarist Johnny Marr.

Snow ended up with the theme’s whistle sound by accident when he rested his elbow on his keyboard while an echo delay effect was on. He recreated with it a synth sample from an old Proteus and blended it with his wife also whistling the tune.

The end result was the stuttery, eerie intro viewers came to love. “It has none of those guitars in it,” Carter told NPR of the final product. “But what it has in it is that signature whistle.”

The X-Files opening credits
Ten Thirteen Productions/Fox

The mysterious opening credits contain several cameos from its creators

If you’ve ever wondered who the screaming face is in the show’s Emmy-winning opening montage whose eye is in close-up right before the flash to “The Truth is Out There,” wonder no more. The sequence was shot and designed by Castle Bryant Johnsen of Vancouver, Washington, who also created titles for “Cheers” and “Frasier.”

As they told Empire in 2013, the shadowy figure pointing at a flying saucer is Bruce Bryant, who also played the ghost walking down the hallway. Carol Johnsen is the falling white figure in front of the glowing blue hand, and the owner of the eye in the Chris Carter title card. They also signed Mulder and Scully’s FBI badges featured in the credits.

The stretched face is “somebody who worked in the post-production company in our building.”

Chris Carter at the Fox 2000 summer press tour
(Kevin Winter/ImageDirect)

Chris Carter was told he was “too close to the truth” by a real government agent

The truth really was out there, and the series creator was told he was too close to it. “I had someone come up to me during the original run of the series, who said they worked in some high place in a secret government agency, [and] said that we were very close to the truth,” Carter told The Huffington Post in 2016 when the first series revival debuted.

Carter added, “When I wrote the [1993] pilot, I called the FBI to do some research, and they were nice enough, but didn’t really give me the time of day. Then, all of a sudden, as we got close to airing, the FBI called and said, ‘Who are you and what are you doing?’ And for a second, I thought it was going to be the long arm of the law coming in to shut me down.”

Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully on The X-Files

The “Scully Effect” is real

The profound influence of Dana Scully, a smart, capable female character who is a doctor and a scientist, is so well documented as inspiring a record number of women to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics that it’s been dubbed “The Scully Effect.” Gillian Anderson breaks it down in this official video released in 2018.

Biologist Anne Simon, who consulted on the series, told The Smithsonian that in 1999, a full two-thirds of her class were there because of the show. “I still get emails from people who say that they read my book because they liked ‘The X-Files’.. And they say ‘I want to be a scientist now!’”

William B. Davis as the Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files

Chris Carter named several characters after family members

When the real name of “Cigarette Smoking Man” (William B. Davis) was revealed in Season 11, it was Carl Gerhard Busch, the same as Chris Carter’s grandfather. Carter gave Mulder’s father, William, the name of his own father. It was also Mulder’s middle name on the series. Mulder, as it turns out, was the maiden name of Carter’s mother.

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X-Files

No one ever got proper clearance for the photo in the “I Want to Believe” poster

The famous poster, which decorated Mulder’s office, was created just for the series. But, it seems, the photograph never got the proper clearances. The oversight wasn’t discovered until 10 years after the show premiered and a lawsuit was brought against Fox.

Gillian Anderson, Chris Carter and David DUchovny at ther 1997 Golden Globes

Gillian Anderson was the first actress to win a Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG Award in the same year

In 1997, Gillian Anderson became the first woman to win a Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG Award in the same year for her performance as Scully. David Duchovny and series creator Chris Carter also netted Globes that year for Best Drama and Lead Actor in a Drama. The series won 16 Emmys total; Anderson was nominated four times for Lead Actress in a Drama, Duchovny twice.

Bryan Cranston in "Drive" episode of The X-Files

“Breaking Bad” began with Bryan Cranston’s appearance in this 1998 episode

“Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan was a writer/producer on “The X-Files”and also the co-creator of its 2001 spinoff, “The Lone Gunmen.” When it came time to cast Walter White in his AMC drama, he wanted Bryan Cranston, who had impressed him in the 1998 “X-Files” episode “Drive,” in which the character took Mulder hostage and forced him to keep driving west.

“There was concern originally,” Gilligan told New York in 2009. ‘This is the father from ‘Malcolm in the Middle,’ which is night and day from ‘Breaking Bad.’ Why do you think this is the guy?’”

Gilligan explained, “We needed a guy who could be scary and kind of loathsome but at the same time had a deep, resounding humanity. When Malcolm went on the air [in 2000], I was like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t realize he could be so funny!’”

To convince the doubters at AMC, Gilligan handed out copies of Cranston’s X-Files episode: “That was all it took.”

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