Director Deon Taylor Talks 'The Intruder' And Normalizing Black Success
Scott and Annie Russell are ready to say goodbye to their flashy city life and want to lay some roots in the country. The successful advertising agent (Michael Ealy) and his lifestyle writer wife (Meagan Good) have their sights set on a sprawling home in Napa Valley, and after shelling out the $3.5 million for the property, the Russells begin settling in.
And then things get...weird.
The former homeowner, Charlie (Dennis Quaid) can’t seem to part ways with the property and starts inserting himself into Scott and Annie’s life. Scott is uncomfortable with how taken Charlie is with his wife, and Annie’s half-glass-full mentality pegs Charlie as just an old widower in need of company.
But as time goes on, the Russells learn Charlie’s connection to the home is rooted in lies, deceit, and murder.
Inside Lexington Avenue's Gramercy Park Hotel, Vibe sat with the film's director Deon Taylor. Standing at 6'2", Taylor's athletic build is quickly offset by his boyish smile and rusty, but warm voice. The former pro-basketball player reveals despite the film being a thriller, he and his film-producer wife Roxanne Avent, simply wanted to entertain audiences and also normalize the idea that a black couple could be successful.
VIBE: What I enjoyed most about The Intruder is that it’s a young black couple buying this spacious property. Can you please speak to normalizing that?
Deon Taylor: One of the fun things about the movie for me, while making it, was that when I first read the screenplay it was not written for us.
It was not written for black people?
It was not written for black people at all. It was an all-white cast. I thought this film was the perfect vehicle to slip an African-American couple into. I loved the idea that [Scott] worked in San Francisco, and he was affluent and he could buy a $3.5 million house, and his wife [Annie] was a writer. I just liked that they were real people. It just showed that to be normal. They were just business people and they were successful. I also thought pitting Dennis Quaid against them was really cool too.
Dennis Quaid was ridiculous, and I mean ridiculous in the sense that he did an excellent job at being Charlie. Why did you cast him in this role, and did you know he could go to such lengths?
I didn’t know he could do that. I wrote him a letter to do the movie and he was cast because no one has ever seen him like that. Dennis Quaid has been everyone’s dad. Dennis Quaid has been all American. He’s always good. I just thought, "Man, look at how menacing he is." I wrote him a letter and he was like, "Man, I would love to do that. It sounds really cool." And we started working on the character together and before I knew it the hinges came off. He was crazy. He was incredible.
He was even scary when he smiled. Annie, however, got on my nerves.
Yeah, Annie got on everybody’s nerves.
Were you trying to warn the audience she was going to be as naive as she was by naming her, Annie?
That’s funny as hell.
Seriously, when have you ever known a smart Annie? Isn’t Michael Jackson still asking "Annie are you okay?"
[Laughs] This interview is over. First of all, the movie is supposed to be fun. I made the movie just for entertainment.
I think Dennis represents something and I think the couple represents something. But I think Annie’s character, she was great because she cared. Annie doesn’t see that side of Charlie. He’s a con artist. He’s showing Scott one way and showing her another way.
As a matter of fact, in the film, every time the three of them are on screen Scott is the aggressor so Annie doesn’t see that troubling side of Charlie. She’s like, "Oh, he’s a nice guy," but the audience is seeing it all. I think it’s great. Meagan Good plays someone who’s grounded in trying to help people and believes the glass is half full.
I thought the house was gorgeous. What did you like and dislike about it and what did it represent for you?
I thought the house was great. I thought it was a beautiful location. Everything that you’ve seen in the movie is that house. But that house is also 120 years old. A lot of the stuff that’s around it has been there that long. What I loved about it was unique.
What made it so unique?
There was ivy covering the entire house. The extended driveway. The pond in the front. I also loved the fact that stairwell, where their bedroom is, all that stuff is within distance. If you look at the film I’m really shooting one camera at everything. I thought that’s what made it a beautiful location to shoot in.
What was hard for the film was the house is small when you start filming a movie. The hallways are small. The rooms are small. The bathrooms are small. It’s a hundred plus years old, so they didn't make things big then like they do now so it’s hard to shoot in there and move in there. It’s hot. After five weeks you’re like, "I’ve got to get out of here" and then when you walk out you’re still on the property. I thought it was good for [Michael Ealy and Meagan Good] as characters. Dennis Quaid loved it because he was in his habit, so he could really take on the form of the home.
Michael Ealy’s "Scott" takes a measured approach to Dennis Quaid’s role. Why was he written that way?
What we really wanted to put in him was sense. They represent the old and new.
Who represents the old and new?
Dennis Quaid represents the old way because he’s more of the man’s man. He works with his hands. He builds. He hunts. Whereas Michael Ealy’s character is a millennial. He works on his phone and his computer. He gets things done by calling people. We made those two worlds collide. That’s where the clash with Annie came from. She even says it in the movie: "Man, he’s a man’s man and our boys are like city boys."
This move is independent. What does that mean?
That means this movie was financed by a black man and produced by us.
Roxane Avent, a black female producer produced the film. Directed by me, I’m black, and we own it. Sony came in and did a great deal with us and they’re distributing the film.
Why did you decide to take the independent route?
Every movie I’ve done besides the upcoming Exposure is independent because I was told no so many times I stopped asking. No one hired me. No one gave me a job. Instead of knocking on doors and begging somebody to give me a check I just figured out a way to get my films made, and that’s been the course I’ve been on for 13 years. So it’s a little hard to change the DNA.
Independent is important because you can own it. Ownership is what we need. I’m trying to build a catalog.