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THE INTRUDER

About The Production
CREATING THE INTRUDER: A NEW LISTING
Screenwriter David Loughery is no stranger to the kind of domestic thriller that puts everyday people in the crosshairs of unhinged interlopers, as evidenced by the movies Lakeview Terrace and Obsessed. When he was searching for a new vein of highly charged menace around which to build a screenplay, he thought about a certain community staple.

Says Loughery, "In every neighborhood, there's an older, retired guy who is completely obsessed with his house and his property, and his yard, and he keeps everything in meticulous shape, and it's a reflection of him. The house, the property, represents him. And I thought, what if a guy like this had to give up his property? Had to sell his property? Was forced to do it. Would he be able to really let go of that place? Would he be able to stay away, or would he have to come back and make sure that the people he sold it to were taking care of it in the way that he needed them to take care of it?"

That inspiration led to the creation of unnervingly fixated retiree Charlie Peck, a disturbing scenario that arises from a married couple purchasing his house, and a screenplay that was at the time called Motivated Seller. After a few years in which it sat in Loughery's drawer - "I didn't really know what to do with it," says Loughery - the writer's manager eventually read it, and realized it needed to be made. When the script got into the hands of producer Mark Burg of the Saw franchise, the ball was rolling.

Says Burg, "David wrote Lakeview Terrace, which I thought was great. He wrote Obsessed, which I thought was terrific, and he wrote Passenger 57, which I loved. He just created a really unique idea, and I happened to be on the set of a movie called Traffik, directed by Deon Taylor, and I said, 'Deon, I just read this script on the plane. You may want to check this out, I think there's something to this.' He's in the middle of directing a movie, and he calls me the next day and says, 'I love it. I want to make it.' It all happened very quick, over a Saturday morning."

Loughery couldn't believe how rapidly the movie was coming together. "Within a week, I had met Deon and loved the guy," he says. "He loved the script. This is the fastest I've ever seen a script go into production. [Deon] made it come true, and it's really a thrill. Most of the directors I run into are just very jaded, a lot laid back, but Deon just has this kind of life force that makes you feel like, 'Wow, I've got to get on the train with this guy 'cause I think he's going somewhere.'"

Taylor recalls that after making the issue-driven Traffik, which was a fast, intense shoot, he was ready to do something different with his partner at Hidden Empire, producer Roxanne Avent. "I said, I'm going to try to find something that's super commercial and fun, and I've always been driven to the thriller horror space," he says. "So I read the first 20 pages and I was like, oh, what is this? I kept turning the page, turning the page, turning page, and I got to the end of it and I was like, I've got to make this movie."

For producer Roxanne Avent, branching out for the first time from creating their own content at Hidden Empire, and optioning another writer's script, made complete sense when reading Loughery's script. "Everybody's got their thing that speaks to them, and at Hidden Empire we try to pick things that will not only be relevant, but that will talk to everybody, in every walk of life. And for me, the scariest, creepiest stuff is the stuff that can really happen, and as soon as I read it, what this couple go through with this house, it was, oh my God, this is the weirdest, and so cool!"

Beyond Taylor's enthusiasm for what was eventually retitled The Intruder, Loughery appreciated that the director brought his own ideas for making the concept as relatable as it could be in its portrait of a marriage unexpectedly under siege, and as vivid as it could be as a drama that becomes a thriller that becomes a full-on fright picture. "I've been writing these suspense thrillers for a long, long time, and some of them have been successful, but I feel like the playing field is changing, and you can't just get away with a generic thriller anymore. So one of the things that was great about this script and Deon's attachment to it was that he wanted to take it further. He wanted to push it, so we decided to get rid of this idea of a classical, elegant suspense thriller and really take it more into the horror range. We want to double cross [the audience], trick them, and give them some thrills and chills they didn't really see coming."

CASTING THE INTRUDER: A PERFECT FIT
When it came to making Charlie Peck a flesh-and-blood figure of sympathy, then pity, then deception and menace, director Deon Taylor had only a few people in mind to play the character, but at the top of that list was versatile, acclaimed actor Dennis Quaid. His pitch to the actor was simple: he wanted to give Quaid a shot at his own Jack Torrance in The Shining or Annie Wilkes in Misery, roles that Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates, respectively, turned into iconic cinematic nightmares for audiences everywhere.

"Charlie Peck gave you the freedom to do anything," Taylor recalls of what he told Quaid. "You could build that dude. He has multiple personalities. It really comes down to, are you going to show up and take a chance? When you look at The Shining, or Misery, those performances, those actors, they gave everything they had. And I got that with Dennis, one hundred percent."

Quaid admits that he wasn't immune to the incredible unease that came from the scenario in The Intruder, and the hell Charlie creates for newlyweds Scott and Annie in the story. "When I read it, a fear went through my body," says the actor. "And when fear goes through my body, it's a sign that maybe I should do it because I'm afraid of it, because it's something I haven't done before. So I said yes, but then I had no idea where I was really going with the guy, because what he does is, you know ... psychotic would be the general term."

Looking at Charlie's experience, and even what he eventually does as a reaction, Quaid found a connection that allowed himself into the role. "Charlie Peck was experiencing loss in this film. You lose your house, and you lose everything that's important to you. As Charlie says, 'You lose your identity.' It's like a death. So that was my starting point with Charlie. But along with that, he had a secret past, and so it gave me a little bit deeper a starting point with him. He has a certain face for the community and for the world, but he lives in an inner world that he is afraid of people seeing because he doesn't like that inner world himself."

Taylor and Quaid were on the same page from the start about bringing Charlie to life. "Mostly every idea he had, we shared. So from the genesis of us doing the project, it was a winwin. We were almost taking each other's words out of each other's mouths."

The director adds that Quaid was especially brilliant at taking a given scene and finding not just the best thriller elements but also the details that spoke to the character's unraveling. "He lets you see that the character is flawed, that he has cracks, and he's breaking, and there's different personalities in that," says Taylor. "That's something you don't get to see very often, and I thought Dennis Quaid was absolutely incredible by bringing that level of artistic fortitude to what we were building. Some days I just sat back, put the camera on him, and walked away. He's that good."

Quaid is equally complimentary about Taylor's direction, which he says gave him the ideal environment to take Charlie wherever his preparation, instincts and talent dictated. "I told Deon, 'Look, I'm probably going to go really big, and I need you to pull me back if I'm off track.' And I was blessed to have Deon as director, because what he does visually and with action, what he puts in the frame to give a mood to tell a story, it makes my job so much easier because then I don't have to act. I can just be in his frame."

Screenwriter David Loughery has known Quaid for decades, since Quaid starred in Loughery's first produced script, Dreamscape, and says Quaid was on his mind from the moment he was putting Charlie to paper. "I felt, 'Who's the guy who can be charming, has an ability to play a lot of different sides, that audiences always respond to and love?' And I thought, Dennis would just be perfect for this if he wanted to really go to the dark side. And in this movie, he's gone there."

Nailing down the source of your movie's terror is one thing, casting the right actors to play Annie and Scott, the loving couple whose own sensitive relationship is given a workover by Charlie's interloping ways, was just as tricky. Luckily, the creative team landed Meagan Good to embody the harrowing journey Annie goes through. Good had already met with Deon Taylor once on a different project, so when the actress got her hands on The Intruder, knowing Taylor was involved, she got especially excited.

"I love thrillers, scary movies, anything in that space," says Good. "For me, your emotions are completely heightened, and you have to find that balance of, what would a human being really do when it becomes survival of the fittest? That kind of character pushes you past your limits."

In Annie, Good had a meaty role with a delicate mission: make her initial trust in Charlie believable, until the writing was on the wall. "Annie is the type of person where she wants to believe the good in people," she says. "She has a good heart, she's sensitive, and for her it's that time in her life when she's ready to settle down, have a family, get out of the city and start this new life with her husband. So when she first meets Charlie, she thinks he's interesting, a little strange and eccentric, but she immediately feels bad for him knowing that his wife passed away, and he's saying goodbye to this house he would love to keep but can't afford to. But as time goes on, she starts to put the pieces together. She's optimistic until she can't be anymore."

Producer Jonathan Schwartz says Annie is the kind of character where "you need an innocence, but you need a backbone. Those are very tough things to find together. Some do the innocence great, but you know they'd be a pushover in two seconds. Others are great at standing up for themselves but can't play the sweet moments. Meagan does both so brilliantly. I like ambitious leading ladies, people that strive for the greatness."

Dennis Quaid, whose interactions with Good onscreen run the gamut from charmingly cordial to terrifyingly violent, applauds his scene partner. "I think she's going to have a blow-up career, she's going to be huge. She's just a natural. She's who we're fighting over, and she just did not play it as a cliche. She always looked for the truth. And the girl can fight!"

For Good, who credits horror films with inspiring her to want to be an actress, the intensity of a final confrontation is her favorite part of making a movie like The Intruder. "I always loved the physicality of trying to fight for your life and survive, so that was a dream come true," she says. "When we have the big fight scene, just figuring out what that fight's going to be, and not making it a complete damsel in distress, but finding the strength and seeing that switch turn on in Annie where this chick has a totally different gear, was really fun for me."

As for working with Quaid, Good says the difference between actor and part was considerable. "He was creepy in the scenes, but on set, he was just completely normal and sweet and fun to talk to. He knew this was a different type of character for him, and he just went all out, and it was great. It was fun to collaborate with everyone."

Everyone includes Michael Ealy, who was cast as Annie's husband Scott, and jumped at the chance. Ealy was attracted to The Intruder not only because it was a powerful story with a nail-biting premise, but that it offered a chance to work opposite Dennis Quaid. "He was a big factor in why I decided to do it," says Ealy. "I kind of grew up on his work. The first time I remember seeing him was in Enemy Mine opposite Lou Gossett, Jr. and he was incredible. He's just got such a legacy in terms of who he's worked with, and his consistency as an actor. It was an opportunity to play with Roger Federer, and I want to play against the best."

Of course, Charlie Peck is a lot for Ealy's character Scott to handle, especially when Scott and Annie are trying to establish the basis for a new life together after what appear to have been some past relationship turbulence. "He's an ad executive in the tech world who's just signed a big client, but on a personal level, Scott is clearly doing what Annie wants," says Ealy. "He's not being honest about what he wants. I think he is still trying to atone for past mistakes. He's trying to make his wife happy, trying to be selfless for once. We all have our ways of saying, I messed up, and Scott's is, he bought his wife a $3 million house!"

Scott's getting a second chance because of Annie, says Ealy, but that compassion of hers also becomes problematic. "She's sweet, open-minded, always wants to give people the benefit of the doubt, and that's why Scott loves her. They're making all the right steps in terms of investing in their future, and then this happens. Scott has to reconcile that his wife is going down this path with this man who seems like he's lost. But my character is like, why is he here? He goes from that to, 'I don't want him around anymore.' Typically when you buy a house from someone, they don't keep coming by."

In realizing Scott's and Annie's relatable, loving, but complicated marriage, Ealy couldn't have been happier to work with Meagan Good. They've known each other for years, even been in the same films - the Think Like A Man movies - but never really worked together. And now, after doing The Intruder, says Ealy, "She may have been one of my favorite people to work with. We were like kids at camp on this one. We bonded right away."

Good concurs. "He really is a great person," she says. "He's a humble spirit, a giving actor, and an incredible talent. It was fun to go on this journey with him, because we were constantly discovering new things, and really working out the dynamic of our relationship, what this married couple was thinking, what they had been through, everything."

Director Deon Taylor knew Ealy was perfect for Scott because he brought his own unique power to this fraught triangle. "I know his thing is his eyes, in terms of, women love his eyes, and he's charismatic and all that," says Taylor, "but what drew me to Michael was, pound for pound, the fact that he could stay in a scene without speaking. And this movie needed a lot of that. This movie had a lot of moments where there are words being said without the mouth moving. A look or a thought, and the audience can read what that character is feeling at that time. And Michael is one of the best people in the business right now, hands down, that can deliver that."

That quality really made a difference, says Taylor, when you put Scott up against Charlie. "The idea is, when Dennis goes high, he goes low, and vice versa. They're always off balance, and it takes a very high energy, and a very, very incredible level of talent for them to be able to find that arc, because at the end of the day, what Charlie Peck is doing is basically breaking up a family."

Producer Jonathan Schwartz describes the moments when Scott gets confrontational regarding Charlie as some of the movie's greatest, "because it's not that you wouldn't expect [Scott] to be that way, it's just you can't imagine him wanting to be that way. You know that he's pulling himself out of what he wants to be. He doesn't want to be someone who's angry. He wants to celebrate this home with his wife and have the happy ending."

For the creative team, who also had the good fortune of casting Joseph Sikora as Scott's rascally colleague and pal Mike, the happy ending was putting together such a powerful core trio in Dennis Quaid, Meagan Good and Michael Ealy. Adds Schwartz, "When you get a Dennis, a Michael, and a Meagan, and you see them working together, these are the elements and those are the moments that we sit back and go, it's a homerun. You just watch them work and you go, this can't be wrong."

The cast feel equally about Deon Taylor as their director. "Everybody's going to want to be working with him," says Quaid. "I've worked with so many great directors, and I put Deon right in that same club."

Producer Roxanne Avent says one of Taylor's greatest strengths is being an actor's director. "He's so in tune with, and compassionate about their feelings for the character, and he's open to whatever suggestion," says Avent. "He allows them to play with it, and then it becomes this big family affair, because they're all being so creative."

Says Meagan Good, "Deon is, like, an amazing human being. He's got a beautiful heart, a beautiful mind, he's kind, he creates a fun environment on set. He just has an ability to be a good leader and make filming fun. I noticed immediately that he has an incredible eye for how to create a scene and make it scary and thoughtful."

Michael Ealy notes that three different people told him the same thing about working with Taylor. "They all said, 'If you get a chance to work with him, go do it, cause you will love him.' We bonded instantly. He's your director, he's your motivational halftime coach, and he's kind of a guru, in that his positive energy is who he is all day every day. He directs almost like a kid in a candy store. If he sees something he likes, something I did as an actor, something the DP did, the excitement on his face, he just lets it out. And that kind of enthusiasm helps you get through those long night shoots. It helps the crew feel like they're appreciated. You'll go to war with this guy. I used to say on this set, if I could have Deon as my alarm clock, I would be much more productive in life!"

LOCATING THE INTRUDER: A HOUSE TO DIE FOR
There's no The Intruder without a house for Charlie Peck to obsess over, and with Vancouver needing to sub for the Napa Valley, the search for the right estate to enchant Scott and Annie - and inspire terrifying behavior in Charlie - was a central quest for the creative team. Director Deon Taylor credits veteran Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Dante Spinotti, whom he worked with on Traffik, with instilling in him the importance of a great location. Says Taylor, "As a filmmaker, you look at locations all the time, 'That's cool, that's great,' but do you really take time to look at the location? Dante was one of the first people to ever sit me down and explain to me how important a location was to a scene. So when we got ready to do a movie like this, we were riding all around Vancouver looking. I looked at 70 houses at least, maybe 150 when I count online. But it was the same cabin you see in every movie. It was just a house, the house you see on the posters for a scary movie. And I'm like man, that's not it."

Producer Jonathan Schwartz could see how exhausting the search was for the scouting team, so he suggested taking a look at Foxglove, an elegant, old, European-style mansion nestled in the woods near a lake. "I remember getting the feedback, 'Oh, we found our house.' I remember just going, phew, because it's such a huge character in the film. It's the essence of what this picture is. It's a cinematic house."

Taylor remembers looking at pictures of it initially and realizing instantly that it was the ideal location. "Seeing the pond, the ivy, the backyard, I said, this is the perfect house. And we went to it, and the van had barely stopped, and I was getting out, and I was like, this is the house, because the house had to be a character. This house that this man owns, that has been in his family for all these years, when we see that, we've got to say, oh, that's Charlie Peck's house. Foxglove represented all of that."

Producer Roxanne Avent says she prefers a practical location to a set because she believes audiences respond more to a real place, but even she couldn't believe the production's luck that they found Foxglove, and how it spoke to the romance in the story, and the scary parts later. "From the outside looking in, we want the audience to think it's the perfect scenario for Michael's and Meagan's characters, because of its pedigree. But with the twists and turns, it makes everything more creepy, right? So that was the perfect house. You walked two or three feet in any direction, and you were in a different area with more places to hide, duck, or dodge."

As accommodating as the owners were to a month of shooting at their home, they still needed to okay changes production designer Andrew Neskoromny wanted to make to the outside so that it fit the story they were trying to tell. Mostly that meant trimming enough of the covering foliage so that the house could be more easily seen, painting shutters, installing a new door, and working on the exterior walls to the extent that the house's historical splendor remained, yet looked like an ongoing project for a fastidious owner like Charlie. "We spent quite a few weeks cleaning it up," says Neskoromny. "We wanted to turn it into something that fell between the old character of the house, and something Dennis's character would care for and want to improve on, and keep working on. Get rid of the peeling paint, but leave the patina that's attractive, and makes a statement of how old the place is."

Neskoromny's team also removed all the furniture so they could prepare for two different decors: Charlie's comfortable, traditional aesthetic, and - after Scott and Annie move in - the sleeker look reflective of city dwellers. "Charlie really wanted to leave all the furniture, and they didn't want to insult him, so they agreed, but the more they live there, the more they introduce themselves, their own furniture and art," says Neskoromny. "Charlie's a gun collector, a hunter, a man's man, so he has a gun safe, hunting trophies, and older looking portraits. But the couple's stuff is very modern and impressionistic, and wouldn't make a lot of sense to Charlie. So it was a bit of a transformation."

Normally for a movie so dependent on one location, interiors would be built on a stage. But Taylor wanted to shoot at the house as much as possible, which Neskoromny looked at as a worthy challenge. "There was a certain claustrophobic quality to it that he didn't want to lose," says Neskoromny. "And sometimes you can lose that within a set, because the walls can come apart, everything is flexible, and you're able to get a camera anywhere you want, even be below the floor. You can't do that at a practical location. At the same time, there are challenges, because you're dealing with stunts, and you have to change doorways, and remodel the architecture in certain areas, all within existing parameters. All of those things were an added level of challenge in working in this house as opposed to building a set."

And yet, Foxglove's own eccentric nature contributed to getting things done. There were enough doorways, passageways, interconnected rooms, and windows that could be pulled off for camera placement, that the production was able to make location shooting work. "It was an older house, and you could tell that it had been added onto and remodeled and expanded in ways that it created this sort of funkiness, which leant itself to filming flexibility," says Neskoromny. Perhaps the most expensive element were the number of doors that had to be built as replacements for stunts and action moments that required multiple takes. "I think we must have built about 50 doors."

For Meagan Good, most of whose scenes were in the house, Foxglove and its eclectic mix of styles and architectural elements proved a fittingly mood-setting environment for the mostly on-location shoot. "When we finally drove out to the house and saw what it was going to be, it was a really, really beautiful home, but definitely creepy at night," she says, laughing. "It felt a little haunted, especially outside around the grounds. But I think that's what it took. Everything about this movie is about this house, and Charlie's connection to it, and [Scott and Annie's] connection to it, so we needed to find the perfect place, and I think we really did!"

When he looks at the making of The Intruder, David Loughery's assessment is a writer's dream come true: "It's kind of beyond what I envisioned. One of the things that the actors and Deon have been able to do here is really kind of amp it up in a way that I didn't think was possible. It's a very, very intense movie now, and these performances are very serious and intense, and I'm just glad they've really gone the distance with it."

Dennis Quaid wants audiences to get the ride of their life watching The Intruder, and what Charlie Peck has in store for them. "I want them to be entertained," he says. "Why else would you want to go to the movies? This movie is really scary, visually, with the shock value of an amusement park ride. But it's also the psychological aspect of it that all of us have, that really scares the hell out of you."

Producer Mark Burg thinks audiences won't know what's hit them. "From the minute you sit down, you think you know where the movie's going, and then we make a quick turn to the left. Now we're going to the right. Then we change direction again. I think people are going to be on the edge of their seats, trying to figure out, 'Okay, what's really happening here?' And just when you get to the very end, and you think you know what happened, we pull the rug out from under you, again. I think we made a terrific movie."

Deon Taylor likens what he was after with The Intruder to that feeling "only cinema can give you," he says. "And when you come out, you know, the air in the summertime, the night air, you've had a whole Coke and five thousand M&Ms and your eyes are that big! Those are the fun movies."

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