The critically acclaimed TV series The X-Files, featuring David Duchovny as the conspiracy-seeking FBI agent Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as his skeptical partner, Dana Scully, returns to television as a six-episode miniseries. The revival features most of the original department heads, along with special make-up effects designer Bill Terezakis and his Vancouver-based shop, WCT Productions. Terezakis had worked on the 2008 film The X-Files: I Want to Believe, and was happy to return to that universe.
As Terezakis recalls, “The relationship that [series creator] Chris Carter and I developed on that movie was quite good, and then-production designer Mark Freeborn called me one day and said, ‘Get ready to devote your shop to a big project coming up!’ He explained that Chris was bringing back The X-Files for a limited run and had requested I be a part of it, so I was quite pleased about that.”
Because the scripts were still being written during production, there wasn’t much run-up time. “I would get a call from the production manager,” remembers Terezakis, “who wouldn’t even identify himself; he would just say, ‘Lizard Man!’ and hang up. That was the warning I would get. Fortunately, the production understood the time and money factors I needed to make things as good as possible, so there was never a situation where somebody said, ‘That’s too much!’
An early challenge was creating one of the show’s trademark big-eyed aliens for a flashback sequence in the first episode. “It brought us back to a look we were all familiar with,” says Terezakis, “but I didn’t think we needed a lot of the detail that had been done with in the past. Rather than having a full creature suit, the actress had a magnificent physique and stature for playing the alien, so it was just a matter having a pair of shorts painted to match her body color; a more elaborate make-up on her head and face, and finger extensions. She had a translucent black suit, onto which we created templates to airbrush the costume.
“For the eyes, I wanted to try and maintain the eyes of the actress, so instead of a complete animatronic head, we just built elaborate contact lenses, and got the CG guys to do something similar to Splice, where they took the actor’s own eyes, spread them apart digitally and then angled them, and Chris was quite pleased with that.”
The workload increased considerably for the second episode, “Founders Mutation,” featuring a group of children suffering physical deformities resulting from alien DNA in their bodies. “Knowing the actors were going to be of a young age,” notes Terezakis, “I designed everything as a slip-on application, so with the giant legs, for example, we could just slip them on the girl and lift her up on top of the bed. The same with the little boy with those giant hands, so none of the children spent a long time in the chair. It was all done on set.”
WCT Productions used slip-on applications to convey alien DNA deformities on young actors
One of the most outrageous characters in the new series is the Lizard Man in the third episode, “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” “We only had two weeks to build the creature suits,” says Terezakis, “so I had to think of a different way of doing it. Once I had a scan of the actor in the computer, I digitally added scales to the character, producing three-dimensional printouts of those textures. I made negative molds of those textures, which we pressed clay into, and peeled that clay out into thin sheets assembled over positive forms of the actor.
“The suit itself was made of very large ‘wrap pieces,’ so if you were doing a fat make-up, for example, an all-in-one wrap piece would include the chin, cheeks and back of the head. If you laid it on a table, it would be one long, wide appliance, and that’s what I did here. The chest piece also had the sides and back, so once it was glued on the actor, all that was required was to get rid of the seam with an additional spine piece, so that worked out really well.”
As with the original X-Files, the most chilling monsters were often the most human looking. That was certainly the case in the episode “Home Again,” which featured the aptly named Band-Aid Nose Man, who could tear people limb from limb. “That make-up was done on John DeSantis,” says Terezakis, “where we used appliances to droop his eyes a little bit, finishing with an elaborate paint job. That Band-Aid was covered with slimy goo, and I gave him a contact lens to skew an eye off to the side.”
A major surprise in the current series was the return of William B. Davis as the Cigarette Smoking Man, seemingly obliterated by a missile strike at the end of Season Nine. The new scripts showed the character still alive, with just a small facial burn, but Terezakis came up with the idea of a badly damaged face covered by a large medical prosthetic. “I didn’t think the fans would accept the character coming back with just a small burn,” explains Terezakis, “so I presented Chris with my thoughts and he was quite jazzed about them.”
While it remains to be seen if The X-Files will make another return to television, Terezakis was delighted to be involved in the current revival. “I think I’m proudest of the Lizard Man,” he reflects, “but I also like the way our alien turned out, so there’s quite a bit I was happy with, considering the amount of time we had to get everything done.”
The X-Files airs Monday on Fox. Check local listings for show times.