We met director Deon Taylor last year when we discussed his film Traffik. He’s back with another thriller, The Intruder.
Scott (Michael Ealy) and Annie (Meagan Good) buy Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid)’s house. It’s a dream home. The problem is, he won’t leave.
It was fun to catch up with Taylor about his latest film and future projects. The Intruder is in theaters Friday and you can read our review here.
Monsters & Critics: Were you a fan of the _____ from Hell movies of the ‘90s?
Deon Taylor: Man, that is so funny. You know what’s crazy is I know the entire franchise of films. Yeah, I am a fan. How do you remember that?
M&C: Oh, they were my favorites. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Single White Female and Unlawful Entry were the best but I still liked The Crush and Consenting Adults too.
DT: That’s right. The entire genre is so funny because I feel like that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make just a throwback white knuckle thriller without a whole bunch of CGI. I was a giant fan of that entire world and that’s what I was aiming for when I read the script for The Intruder and ultimately got on set.
That’s what me and Dennis talked about was those movies that you were like, “Do not go around the corner. Don’t open the door. Don’t go in there.” I just loved it so I’m very appreciative that you are a fan of that genre.
M&C: I am. Were you aware of the classic William Shatner movie that happened to have the title The Intruder and might have had some relevant parallels to your movie?
DT: No, I wasn’t. What’s interesting is I’d never even heard of that film. We found the Intruder title much later after shooting. The original title of the film was Motivated Seller. That’s how it was written from David Loughery.
As we started getting ready to market the film, we felt the name was a bit long and just didn’t roll the correct way. Everyone fell in love with the name Intruder. That’s like an ‘80s movie or ‘70s movie?
M&C: Oh, before that. It was 1962.
DT: Wow, and what happens in that film?
M&C: William Shatner is a racist who comes to town to rally the KKK. It was a very bold, subversive movie by Roger Corman.
DT: Wow, I did not know that. I definitely will have to take a look at that. Maybe you just gave me my homework for the weekend. I’m going to find it and check it out this weekend.
M&C: Well, enjoy your opening weekend, but maybe for next week.
DT: Yes, right. Maybe next week.
M&C: Did that shot of Charlie seething over the tapestry go on even longer in earlier cuts of the film?
DT: Yeah, [Laughs], you noticed it. They kept making me cut it down but I love that. I wanted to actually highlight one moment in the film. I wanted to foreshadow a little bit of these two are in completely different worlds at this time. I just love that shot, man, in the tapestry.
“What happened to the tapestry? It came with the house.” Yeah, it’s fantastic.
M&C: I can’t imagine anyone but Dennis Quaid in this role, but when you were casting, could Charlie have been played by a black actor?
DT: No. Dennis was my first choice. I wrote him a letter and asked him could he please, please, please read this screenplay and that I was a giant fan of all of his art, everything that he had done.
Surprisingly, he read the letter that I wrote and then the screenplay and called me. Right away, he was like, “I’m doing the movie.” I couldn’t wrap my head around it being anyone else but Dennis Quaid, to be honest.
Why I stuck with him was because you can’t see through Dennis Quaid. He’s been so great for so long in terms of being the American dad. He’s The Rookie. He’s the good guy. He has dogs. He’s Parent Trap.
I just thought the psyche of seeing him on screen would do something different for the movie and I think I gambled right. He’s friendly and welcoming and then he turns. I felt like any other actor was not welcoming to me. It just didn’t work.
M&C: Was Dennis Quaid attached before Michael Ealy and Meagan Good?
DT: Meagan was on first and Dennis Quaid came second. Michael Ealy was last and then Joseph Sikora obviously came after that but Meagan and Dennis landed around the same time.
I went after Meagan because I knew her and I had wanted to work with her a few times before and nothing aligned for us. She was directly my first choice. I said, “I’d like Meagan to do this.”
She’s so beautiful but she’s also such a powerful actress and I love that she’s welcoming. Once I had those two, I had something special. I now need to find a guy who can be not necessarily a man’s man. I needed someone that’s a charming thinker.
Michael Ealy was at the top of that list because he had just done a film called The Perfect Guy where there was a lot of him being mentally disturbed and crazy. I just thought he was powerful but at the same time, he doesn’t come across aggressive.
I wanted to put the glasses on him and kind of put him in that world of like Straw Dogs where he’s a millennial versus a “real man.”
M&C: Did you put Charlie in a red baseball cap on purpose?
DT: No, originally when we made the film, we weren’t this heated politically with Trump. We were not at that point but I thought it was a cool hat because at the time, the red hat was like the hunter and the people that were politically driven were these people that are guns and all these wonderful things.
I was like, this is a nice little touch. I didn’t realize the temperature of the world would change this dramatically over the course of the year the way that anybody you see wearing a red hat is immediately politically charged in some way or fashion. It’s crazy.
M&C: What did the stag represent?
DT: I used the stag, the deer as a metaphor for a lot of different things. I open the movie with Dennis Quaid taking out a defenseless deer which ultimately is a foreshadowing. I thought the deer was interesting based around the house at the beginning because he’s just free and here it is on this property and here’s this guy, relentless.
It has a lot of meaning to me in the beginning of the film and what that symbolizes. Also, the entire film to me has a really good message which is not letting evil break you. Oftentimes when we’re in relationships, these people are really misjudging each other and a force is driving them apart.
They have to ultimately come together to fight this thing to become closer. I just thought that was a very nice message in the film in terms of fighting for something, going after something. You have to fight the evil and break down those walls, discover who you are.
Something that you might not want to do, you have to do. I think the movie is really cool that way as well, besides the laughing and the fun and the energy. It has some deep moments in there if you really pay attention, that I tried to put in there myself.
M&C: Did you have something to say about guns between Charlie and Scott?
DT: Yeah, as a black filmmaker, that was purposely done. Every time we have a movie and we have some type of villain or evil, everyone’s like, “Just get your gun.” We’re just so gun driven.
I’ve never seen a movie where there was an African-American lead actor that just doesn’t want to be around guns. I thought this was an interesting take that there’s violence in his world and he’s been rocked by guns so he doesn’t want to have anything at all to do with them.
Here’s this guy like, “Well, just get a gun.” The irony of that scene to me, even with one small line, means a lot. It’s back to having an affluent black couple who are not rich because they won the lottery or bounce a ball or rap. They just have a company and a business and they’re regular people.
I made a point to not have one utterance of racism in the film. Not one “you’re black, I’m white.” So those things like the gun can also add to the energy of what the film is about and who the characters are. They’re humans.
M&C: In the climactic fight, did you put a Hulk roar in the soundtrack?
DT: [Laughs] No, you know what it was? There’s rage involved in this. It’s a final fight between good and evil. This is the only time that you see the couple come together in unison to fight together.
That’s why I wanted him to be stronger and better and kind of foreshadow a little bit earlier in the hospital when you see the lion taking the zebras out. He throws one off and grabs that one. I just thought that was a fun moment, cinematically, show this is a fight between good and bad.
M&C: You film a lot of the movie from low angles. Was that a foreshadowing of something lurking?
DT: Yeah, so Daniel Pearl the cinematographer, obviously he’s an absolute legend. He shot the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre and arguably he is the creator of the dolly.
Having him, a lot of the conversations we were having with camera and film and how do we shoot them with lighting was about how do you continuously keep the audience kinda like someone’s in the house or something’s going to happen? You’re not safe.
We purposely tried a lot of different things and then what we stuck with was being able to stay down low to make it feel like you’re there with the people in the house. A lot of times we did a lot of characters playing in and out of backlighting just because it doesn’t feel safe. It doesn’t feel right, but at the same time it’s also beautiful.
We pulled a lot of lighting and camera angles with Dennis as the movie progresses to obviously make him become even more menacing. That was something that was calculated.
M&C: Was there any talk of making The Intruder harder edged and rated R?
DT: Originally when we were shooting the movie, I thought about it a little bit but I think we really pushed it to the limit for a PG-13. But I also felt like we had such a good story, such iconic characters with Dennis, Michael and Meagan that I just thought the creepiness was more of a selling point versus blood, versus guts.
I feel like the movie works, is impactful in terms of getting you to jump and getting you to scream. I didn’t feel like it was necessary for us to all of a sudden have a bunch of crazy blood shots and gushings. We just didn’t even need it. It’s working very well the way it is.
M&C: What are you doing next?
DT: The next project I’m excited about is I just shot a thriller with Michael Ealy and Hilary Swank which is kind of along the lines of this but it’s in the wheelhouse of Fatal Attraction. It’s called Fatale.
It’s a balls to the walls thriller, man. Dante Spinotti shot the film who did L.A. Confidential, Heat, Last of the Mohicans, Ant-Man [And the Wasp]. I’m getting that film ready.
M&C: Do you expect audiences of that to be as interactive as they’ve been with The Intruder?
DT: More. More, because this one is relationship heavy. You will talk through this entire movie nonstop.
M&C: Is Meet the Blacks 2 still on the horizon?
DT: Yeah, Meet the Blacks 2 is done. That’s my heart, man. I love that. We did the first one for $500,000 in 13 days. Part two I really wanted to go back and catch those characters again and make it a lot bigger.
That is so fun, man. It’s Mike Epps and Katt Williams, the first time they’ve been starring together. Now with Katt winning an Emmy, Mike Epps becoming even bigger, it’s going to be really wild.
That movie is actually a horror film. Katt Williams is a vampire and he moves next door to Mike Epps. It is beyond hysterical.