Martin Starr on Intruders, playing evil and making shows we love

We talk to Intruders’ Martin Starr about playing a very bad man

Shut In

One of the great surprises of last year’s FrightFest was Intruders (then titled Shut In), which starred Leverage‘s Beth Riesgraf as a woman with severe agoraphobia who finds herself under attack from home invaders. One of those the titular bad guys is played by none other than Martin Starr, who is best known for his roles in comedies like Silicon Valley, Freaks And Geeks, Party Down and Knocked Up, who gives a superb performance as the ruthless Perry Cutner.

We had the chance to talk to the actor about playing a cold-blooded killer, why he prefers making low-budget movies, and how he feels about repeatedly starring in cult TV shows.

How did you come to be involved in Intruders?

I sat down with the director and the producer, who have been friends for a long time and they had swapped roles from their last movie. They just work as a team very well. I sat down with them and just talked to them about the script.

Usually there’s a seed planted for which character I should be aware of while I’m reading it, and in this case it wasn’t so specific. So I attached myself to that character as I was reading it because it was just a complete departure from any character I’d done before, so I had a conversation with them and wanted to play Perry and delve into that world, and they were really excited at that prospect, so it all worked out.

Were you deliberately looking for a departure?

I feel like that’s been my mindset for a long time. I’m fortunate to be able to continue doing this and it’s exciting to play in new areas of my brain and, in this case, emotional stability. But it’s just fun to play with a new colour palette, so to speak.

Did a part like this require more preparation? He’s a very bad man…

Yeah, I suppose it did, but I don’t know, for me it was an easy thing. I feel like we’re all…I don’t know how to put this in in the most appropriate way, I don’t want to come off like a total crazy person, but I think we’re all capable of all parts of the spectrum of humanity. I’m not a psychopath in the way that I live my life but you have thoughts that you suppress because you know that that’s not appropriate, and also you make decisions about the kind of human being you want to be on a daily and momentary basis.

So to be able to play in a world where I can act on thoughts that I wouldn’t act on normally and play in different areas of my own headspace is really fun. It’s really fun to just play around a little bit in a new mindset.

Beth Riesgraf comes under attack in Intruders
Beth Riesgraf comes under attack in Intruders

Did you have any idea where the script was going as you were reading it?

No, I had no idea. I was pleasantly surprised, and I mean, it certainly leads up to it so you feel those things coming, and I think in the script you could really piece those things together to get a feel for where it was headed, but I still really liked the twist.

How long did you have to shoot the movie?

I think 14 days. It was very short. It’s nice, having a lot more money allows you more days, but then in essence that also means that the days move a lot slower because you have more time for set-up. There’s not the same kind of rush and there’s something really nice about having the monetary restrictions, which create time restrictions, and you’re really forced to get it done in a short period of time. The days fly by in a way that’s wonderful.

You don’t sit around and wait. A clichéd description of acting is “Hurry up and wait.” A lot of the job is waiting around, “I get paid to sit around but I’ll act for free” is the famous quote. And it’s nice to be on a production where you’re rolling, where you’re really moving fast and you don’t have to sit back and find something to do for 10 hours during the day as you wait to shoot something. Personally!

How does it feel to see the film getting such a good response?

I’m really excited that it’s been so well received. It’s interesting, I haven’t done many genre movies like this, so for me it’s fun also just to see people’s reactions and hear how people feel about the movie.

Shut In

Are you a fan of the genre?

I’m not not a fan but I’m not as active a member of the community as perhaps I want to be. I did a movie called Dead Snow 2 a couple of years ago, that was a zombie movie, and it’s really fun. Genre movies are so fun to play in, it’s such a fun set to be on. Even though shooting Intruders was very intense, it was still a lot of fun. People were just having a good time.

What was the experience of shooting Dead Snow 2 like?

That was a blast to make. Tommy Wirkola is so much fun and the whole Norwegian crew; they’re just immensely talented and so much fun to work with. I became really good friends with Jocelyn DeBoer through that and her boyfriend is on Silicon Valley, it all just worked out perfectly with that group of people. I think in every interview that Tommy did for that movie someone would ask how much blood was used and he would always say “There was never enough blood!” And I think we had 13,000 gallons of blood or something crazy, like way too much blood! [laughs] It’s dedication.

Starr with Kumail Nanjiani in Silicon Valley
Starr with Kumail Nanjiani in Silicon Valley

You mentioned Silicon Valley, which has a really strong, passionate fanbase. Having worked on Freaks And Geeks and Party Down, how does it feel to keep starring on these shows that have such a dedicated fandom?

I’m really pleased by it; I don’t think I would have it any other way. There’s something really beautiful about how fortunate I’ve been and I don’t take that for granted. The way that the things that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of have affected people so personally, it’s not just entertainment, it’s entertainment with a connection.

The people that watched Freaks And Geeks and really connected with it lived that experience, they had that experience and have something now to help them feel connected to that experience again and not feel alone in the way that they’ve experienced life. And I don’t mean “They” as if I hadn’t experienced it, that’s 100% a lot of what my childhood was like so it was easy for me to dig into that.

And from Party Down, more often than not someone who’s a fan of it has worked in the food service industry and totally, totally feels the pain of those characters, who just wanted to get the fuck out of food service and live their dreams, and that’s what life is. Life is trying to figure out how to move forward and create the kind of future you want, and we played as best we could some realistic versions of those characters, perhaps not the most optimistic! Although Jane Lynch plays a total optimist and she gets exactly what she wants in the end! So I just feel really fortunate.

To be honest the most odd part of it all is to finally have found a wider mainstream audience on a TV show, that doesn’t quite compute! As it was happening I was thinking “This isn’t making sense to me!” And HBO is so supportive, and that’s not to say that Starz wasn’t, and NBC was also supportive to us, it was one person that didn’t understand it at NBC and they had the power to say no. At Starz it was the same way, a new guy came into office and basically wanted to put his stamp on the network and so he kicked us out. So to be at HBO and have the top dogs and the entire network really support the show, it’s unique for me, it’s really quite an amazing experience and I couldn’t be more appreciative of the way that HBO treats us. And appreciates the show. Rock on!


Intruders is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download now. Keep up with the latest horror news with the new issue of SciFiNow.