THE INTRUDER is now in theaters, having opened this weekend, and I was happy to have had the opportunity to speak with director Deon Taylor about the film, the actors and their performances, and what he was trying to convey with THE INTRUDER. Deon Taylor has previously directed the series Nite Tales: the Series for BET, Nite Tales the Movie, Supremacy, Traffik, Meet the Blacks, and Chain Letter, and is a very fun director to interview who is very passionate about his work.
I was checking out the previous films you have directed such as Meet the Blacks which was a comedy and your last film which seemed to be of the thriller type. Are thrillers an interest that you have now? Would you consider THE INTRUDER to be a thriller or a horror film?
Deon Taylor: What’s interesting for me, as a filmmaker, and what I am really trying to do is create a world that I come from. I come from a really, really tough environment growing up in Gary, Indiana. A lot of poverty. I’ve seen a lot of violent things in my life and had to deal with a lot of drama. There’s a lot of energy around comedy for me in terms of when things are very hard for me or my family, [comedy] gave us a chance to laugh through a lot of stuff. Comedy plays a very strong role in my life. As a filmmaker, what has been really cool for me, and what I have found, is that my digital imprint, my DNA, has been to play in all the genres because they have all affected me in some type of way. Just as artistry, this is my outlet, cinema is really my outlet. I feel certain ways at certain times and through cinema, I’ve been able to have my voice heard. When I made a movie like Meet the Blacks, that was a direct film for me to make for the culture. I didn’t really make that for anyone else but for my friends and the people that I know that love that kind of comedy.
THE INTRUDER, for me, is like my wheelhouse. I really love thrillers, I really love the intensity in films. That theme has followed me for a long time, so even for something like Supremacy, which was a true story, across the board, to Traffik, the intensity is what I really like. I like to be able to push buttons with the audience and have them feel a certain way. THE INTRUDER was very interesting to me because it was the first time I said I am going to make a commercial thriller. It was the first time that I felt like this would be really fun to make. The story and the script really spoke to me, you know, I loved the script when I read it from David Loughery, I was like man, this is so good. I remember imagining every frame of the movie while I was reading it. When something speaks to you like that as an independent filmmaker, you go with it. One of the biggest things for us as independent filmmakers is you never know when you will have another opportunity to make another movie, so you gotta bet on something that you really love. I think that’s where I am at, thematically as a director. I’m really shooting how I feel, I’m using cinema and film as my art, it’s how I express myself.
What were you trying to say and express with THE INTRUDER?
Deon Taylor: THE INTRUDER was really fun for me because at the bottom of that film is really a relationship. The overall theme for the film is sometimes when you are in relationships and there are evils trying to separate you, you become stronger through adversity. Thematically, that’s what that movie’s about – it’s a marriage, it’s not working, it’s on the rocks, and they are both trying to find themselves. Someone falls into the middle of that relationship and pries them apart and they both systematically have to come together, become tighter, become stronger, trust each other, fight with each other, to beat the evil. That’s a very wide net over the film.
I thought that was a very well realized theme in the movie. Two people trying to stick together. I think you put that across very, very well.
Deon Taylor: I’m so happy to hear that, thank you so much for telling me that. That’s what I thought was really cool about the film. If you drop that relationship and those real worlds inside of a thriller then I think you really care [about the characters] and that is why the movie is working so well. It’s funny and you laugh, outside of that, I think that Dennis Quaid is absolutely amazing.
Oh my god, yes.
Deon Taylor: I think this is one of, and I’m just saying this because I really feel this way, I feel like this is one of his greatest performances. I’m saying that because first of all, we’ve never seen him do a movie like this, ever, secondly, watch how many personalities he’s playing within the movie. I mean, last night we watched the movie and people were in awe, we had a lady who fainted in the audience. He’s that great. How can you go from someone laughing in the beginning to passing out at the end? I just think he’s brilliant and he’s scary and he’s edgy and he’s thought-provoking and you never know what he’s thinking. I’m really so happy that I was the one who turned the camera on and captured that performance.
It’s like that saying, “See this actor as you’ve never seen him before.” I mean, he’s known for being the handsome golden boy, the leading man type and he really, really did some creepy stuff. I congratulate him, but I also congratulate you for being able to see that in him and being able to bring that performance out as a director because it’s really creepy.
Deon Taylor: It’s crazy, man. He becomes the driving force of the entire film, he’s the heartbeat. It’s funny because I was watching Michael Ealy on the Kelly Ripa show in the morning and he said that the performance was haunting, like Heath Ledger in [The Dark Knight]. Even though we didn’t have a 200 million movie, what he was trying to get at was that he is haunting. I remember there was a moment when people were like, “Seriously dude, is he okay, is he crazy?” And I’m like no, he’s a great dude, but he really, really went there. When you start talking about iconic actors, legendary actors, you see what I mean – the ones that really turn themselves on in a movie, he really lets you see how special he is as an actor. I think THE INTRUDER is a special movie and I love the fact that it’s a multi-ethnic cast and, on top of it being multi-ethnic, what I wanted to do with this film is not even speak about that. I just wanted it to be.
One thing I was going to say was that I loved that there was really nothing made of it. I think it’s really something that is important for entertainment. It’s not like, “Hey, there are these people of color in this situation, check this out!” It’s normalizing it in a good way.
Deon Taylor: Yes, and playing against the type. We were just having a conversation about one of the biggest things that I love about the movie is that Michael Ealy doesn’t like guns. I felt like that was a really good moment for him, especially as a black actor because normally you’d hear, “Oh, we gotta go get the guns, I’ma do this, I’ma do that.” But the fact of the matter is that Michael Ealy’s character has been damaged by gun violence. It’s a very small line in the movie and it’s a very small moment, but it’s so impactful, the fact that he doesn’t want to be with them or deal with them. I had not seen a movie that has that little moment in it and I said, man, this is a special moment for me cause I just think that everything is against this type. People say Meagan’s character is so gullible but if you watch the movie again and pay attention, you’ll see that every time Dennis Quaid is on screen, the audience gets to see how he acts towards Michael Ealy’s character but she never sees that side of him. That’s what makes the movie so cool. It’s like, [Quaid]’s always a completely different way towards her and he hides that.
People like Quaid’s character hid that meanness and that danger from the people that they want to hide it from. She’s not gullible, she has a good heart. She’s a nice person.
Deon Taylor: He’s a true psychopath.
Exactly. I hope people realize that and it makes that good point. That’s what those psychopaths are like. They hide it.
Deon Taylor: That’s what I thought was the coolest part of the movie – she doesn’t know. She only sees him as a nice old man who doesn’t have anywhere to go. It’s so funny, but it’s also a fun movie to watch.