Filmmaker Deon Taylor (right) talks with actress Hilary Swank on the set of “Fatale.” | Lionsgate
The director plays off the reputations of his stars, Hilary Swank and Michael Ealy, to make a thriller that “twists and turns completely in a different way.” Gary native Deon Taylor’s latest film, “Fatale” (available Jan. 8 on demand), takes the “Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mantra to another level.
The mantra follows Michael Ealy’s character, a married man, into his home and work life — causing explosive ramifications in the aftermath of his Sin City one-night stand with a police officer played by Academy Award winner Hilary Swank.
Ealy is known for such “bad boy” roles as an anxious thief in “Takers” and a stalker in “The Perfect Man.”
“I just thought Ealy was fantastic because we’re in a place right now which is called ‘cancel culture,’ in which you can wake up tomorrow — it could be you, it could be me — and someone could basically just say something to put your name on a blog site and you’re now guilty,” said Taylor. “And I thought: ‘Man, what an interesting play for Ealy to have to try to figure out how to get out of this.’ Now what’s really dope is that I used both characters’ real lives to actually set this movie up properly.
“Hilary has played everything honest, real and authentic her whole career. Ealy has been seen his whole career as that ‘Oh man, he’s always crazy. He does this, he does that.’ When we put them together, people don’t think the obvious. … This movie twists and turns completely in a different way. .. It’s interesting when you go down this line with this film and you see the whole world turning back on this man; his mom’s words and voice that says: ‘Put your shoulders back, hold your head up, and go do what you need to do.’ I think that’s a very powerful message for the culture.”
In this film and previous thrillers including “Black and Blue,” “The Intruder” and “Traffik,” the director has aimed to generate dialogue among audiences.
“I love this genre of film,” said Taylor. “I think it’s very cool and obviously, as an independent filmmaker, I’ve really been exploring this world for a while now. … I love movies that make audiences talk, move around and want to know more; that was at the top of the list for me when I had the idea.”
He says the film’s main message is that all someone ultimately has is their name and reputation.
“What is the most important thing you have in your life? It’s not money, it’s not cars, it’s not your dreams,” said Taylor. “The other thing is the power of the Black mom. Being raised by a single mother in Gary, Indiana, I watched my mom work three jobs and also collect food stamps. I know hundreds of people just like me.”
Hilary Swank (left) and Michael Ealy star in Deon Taylor’s film “Fatale.”
Even though “Fatale” was filmed before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the film industry, Taylor says, he notices stark differences between making a film independently as opposed to with a well-known production company.
“I don’t know if you knew this, but we were the first people in the country to actually shoot a feature film in COVID,” Taylor said about his upcoming movie “Don’t Fear,” with Joseph Sikora and T.I. “We had a crew of 16, we had a cast of seven people, and it was scary, man; we were the first to do the COVID protocols. Every night you go home you’re praying to God that no one gets sick on your watch. … I’ve often said we’re the product of ‘no.’ We only became this independent entity because no one will give us a job.
“I remember celebrating like we won the lottery because when we got the test results back, and everyone’s negative. And it makes you really value breathing. Walking through a lobby of a hotel or walking through the airport; those are things that we take for granted, and I think this year has proven that.”
Taylor, a former professional basketball player who credits his Gary upbringing for supplying the drive to make films, says he wants to be an inspiration to kids from divested communities — like another Gary native, Grammy-nominated rapper Freddie Gibbs.
“I think from poverty comes creativity; I’m a fan of that world that we come from,” said Taylor. “It actually makes us great because we understand how to get through things, and we understand what tough times mean. I’m happy to see Freddie get the light that he’s getting right now. I’m happy to see the light that I’m getting right now. I’m pretty sure we’re sparking so many more kids out of Gary and Chicago to be like: ‘Damn, I could do that the right way.’ ”
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