Italian good looks punctuated by piercing blue eyes have given actor Peter Facinelli legions of female fans. Facinelli’s preference for quirky, left of center film and television roles have built his reputation as a formidable contender among entertainment industry heavies. Peter Facinelli loves to play characters that don’t quite have it all together, are a few sandwiches short of a picnic… you get the idea. Perhaps he enjoys the stark contrast it offers in relation to his own solid, suburban life with wife Jennie Garth and their three beautiful daughters.
For Peter Facinelli, acting offers an opportunity to play and explore characters living on the edge of reason. As he explains to me, acting is all about “the journey” that a character goes on; no emotional pathology equals no significant journey, and for the NYU educated thespian, where’s the fun in that?
Peter Facinelli’s career has been versatile, to say the least. The actor has a foothold in the Twilight franchise, playing vampire patriarch Dr. Carlisle Cullen, and the edgy Showtime series Nurse Jackie where he plays narcissistic ER doctor, Fitch Cooper.
Peter Facinelli is now poised to enter the rarefied world of the successful independent filmmaker, as his newly minted production company, Facinelli Films, rolls out its first feature film, Loosies, about a New York pickpocket and petty thief with a loyal heart and nearly fatal debts to re-pay.
Peter Facinelli: Did you get to see Loosies?
PR.com (Allison Kugel): Yes, I watched the film on VOD the other day. There’s a big trend now with independent films debuting on video on demand before their theatrical release. Tell me about that.
Peter Facinelli: The game is changing. Indies used to platform movies in five or ten theatres and hope that people go to those theatres to then get a wider release. Now what we’re doing in the industry is starting to utilize the VOD and other sources like iTunes to actually get the movie out to people and get a buzz going, and then put it into theatres.
PR.com: I recently spoke to Edward Burns who also followed that business model for his last film (Nice Guy Johnny). He explained that he partnered with VOD for a better financial return. Is that the route you’re going with this model?
Peter Facinelli: It’s definitely good for financial return, but for me, you make a movie and you want to get it out to as many people as possible. People right now are very finicky on where and how they see movies. Little indies, sometimes they hit the theatres and then they end up going straight to DVD. So I’d rather have it go out, where it’s like a theatrical release in the sense where you’re not buying it, you’re just renting it to watch. But instead of driving to a theatre and spending money on popcorn and soda and getting in your car, you’re getting to watch it from the comfort of your own home. And then there are other people who want to see it in theatres, so they’ll wait and when it comes out in theatres they get to check it out there. But, at that point, hopefully, it’s in twenty million homes so people have seen it and they’re talking about it, and they’re saying, “Hey, have you seen Loosies? I hear it’s playing down the block.” And then at that point other people, by word of mouth, will go see it.
PR.com: Let’s talk about the plot in the film, Loosies. Your character in the film, Bobby, compartmentalizes his morals and he is on the wrong side of an ethical dilemma. Since you wrote the screenplay for Loosies, where did you get this character from?
Peter Facinelli: For me, this is like movies from the 1970s that had these characters that were anti-heroes. They weren’t exactly heroes, but they were anti-heroes that you rooted for. The world isn’t black and white. They’re not always doing the right thing, but you root for them anyway because they have more good about them than bad. I remember just riding the subways and thinking that it would be really fun to do a movie about a pickpocket on the subways. And then I thought, “What does his world look like? Why would he be stealing?” I started asking those questions and then I created this character, Bobby, and gave him a lot of moral dilemmas. Somebody wrote a comment, like, “Why would Peter write a movie where he gets the crap beat out of him for half the movie? It’s very masochistic.” (Laughs). But it’s a movie where [the character] deserves to get his ass beat up a couple of times. He needs to learn a couple of lessons before he can actually grow.
PR.com: Do you like the character of Bobby, as a person?
Peter Facinelli: I really do like Bobby, because he does learn and he does grow. I think he is likable. He just does some things that are unlikable, but he thinks he’s doing them for the right reasons. People think Loosies is a romantic comedy, but it’s a love story with comedic elements. It’s also a coming-of-age story for this thirty year old guy. He’s finally got to grow up.
PR.com: Do you think a criminal can be a victim of circumstance?
Peter Facinelli: Yeah, for sure. There’s the guy who can’t pay the rent and he has kids to feed, and he goes out and steals a loaf of bread because he’s got to feed his kids. I don’t necessarily think all criminals are evil, and I don’t necessarily think that all people who do bad things are bad people. When your back is to the wall, given human nature, you have that fight or flight response and sometimes you do things you normally wouldn’t do, to survive. It’s about survival. With Bobby, when he is threatened in the way he is, when he finds out that his father left him in debt, his mom is at risk, his life is at risk… for him, in his mind, if he takes watches and money here and there he thinks he’s taking from people who won’t miss it and he’s justifying. But Lucy shows him the light, that it doesn’t matter what you steal or how much you steal. It’s still stealing.
PR.com: The actress who plays Lucy in the film, Jaimie Alexander, is also your fellow cast member on Nurse Jackie. Is that how you came to cast her in Loosies?
Peter Facinelli: It was actually reversed. I had just finished up on Loosies and I was [back] at Nurse Jackie. They were looking for a girl to play Edie [Falco]’s husband’s sister. I was talking about the actress from Loosies and I said, “You know what, she actually looks like Dominic [Fumusa] a little bit.” They had her come in and read and liked her stuff, and she got cast.
PR.com: Vincent Gallo was also in your film Loosies. So I have to assume the two of you discussed independent filmmaking and he gave you some input.
Peter Facinelli: He gave a lot of input into his character but he didn’t give a lot of input into the filming or the writing. He did have a great take on his character and that’s why it’s a blessing to hire good actors. They come in and they take the role that’s on paper and they make it their own. I always had him in a bathrobe, like he never left the house. Vincent went out and picked that specific bathrobe. And all that karate stuff in the beginning with Vincent, he thought it would be interesting if his character is into martial arts. It’s an actor’s job to lift the character off the page and I thought he came in and he was very intense. I loved working with him. It’s like an acting workshop, just working with [Vincent Gallo].
PR.com: When you wrote the screenplay for Loosies, were you imagining your wish list of actors you wanted to cast for the film?
Peter Facinelli: No, I mean, I always knew that I wanted to play Bobby (the film’s lead character), but I didn’t have any other actors in mind for any of the other roles. I think originally I had Detective Sullivan written younger, and he was new on the job, and he was Hispanic. When we got Michael Madsen I re-wrote Michael Madsen’s role a lot, to fit Michael.
PR.com: Did the Twilight franchise give you the cache you needed to launch your own production company and to get the film, Loosies, made?
Peter Facinelli: I don’t know. I’d like to think it did. I had this movie around for a couple years. It almost got made several times and it just happened to get the green light after I did the Twilight movies. If that had something to do with it, I’m happy (laughs). If it didn’t, then I’m fine with that too. I think more people are aware of who I am now from those films, and in looking at me from the Twilight films they look back and realize that I’ve done thirty or forty other movies and television shows, and it’s easier to walk in the door and get meetings.
PR.com: As an actor, do you have a sixth sense for something like a Twilight, that it’s going to be a big breakthrough role for you? When you were filming the first installment of the Twilight saga, did you think, “This is going to be a huge franchise”?
Peter Facinelli: No. I don’t think any actor has that. I think I actually have the opposite effect. I read scripts that are good and I think that they’re bad, and when I read scripts that are bad I think they’re great. So I completely never know (laughs)!
PR.com: You have to do the opposite of what your instincts tell you to do (laughs).
Peter Facinelli: Yeah, I need to do the opposite of my instincts. I read American Beauty, and I was like, “I don’t get this movie at all.” And it came out and was an Academy Award winning film. Now I look at that film and think, “How could I have not gotten that movie?!”
PR.com: Oh no! Did you audition for American Beauty?
Peter Facinelli: I don’t even think I went in on it because it was for the neighbor kid, and I forget the actor who played that, but I don’t even think I went in and read for it, because I was like, “I don’t get it.”
PR.com: This script is going nowhere (laughs).
Peter Facinelli: I almost didn’t read for Twilight. My agent said, “Do you want to do a vampire movie?” And I was like, “No.” I was totally thinking blood and guts and bats in caves, like some kind of horror movie. They literally talked me into reading the book and I actually enjoyed the book a lot. Then Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen) was directing [Twilight] and I was a fan of hers. So I said I would go in and read for it, for sure, because Catherine is directing it, and I liked the book. But before I had read the script and they said, “Do you want to do a vampire movie?” I was like, “No.”
PR.com: Ok, so you’re like that episode of Seinfeld where George has to do the opposite of everything he feels like doing, in order to succeed.
Peter Facinelli: Exactly.
PR.com: I don’t know if you’re drawn to deeply flawed characters, or they’re drawn to you, but what’s the deal with that?
Peter Facinelli: When you play a flawed character, there’s more juice in the fruit. There’s more stuff to play, and it’s more interesting to watch people go through that turmoil and go through a journey, rather than just playing a straight-up character that doesn’t have a journey or isn’t really flawed. I personally think everybody is flawed, so…
PR.com: Of course. But, for example, your character in Nurse Jackie, he’s a pretty emotionally unconscious person.
Peter Facinelli: It’s more fun for me to play those characters. Coop (Facinelli’s character in “Nurse Jackie,” Dr. Fitch Cooper) is so psychologically damaged that it’s fun for me to play him.
PR.com: Are you comfortable in the role of the good looking leading man?
Peter Facinelli: That makes me completely uncomfortable (laughs). I don’t know how to play that. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’d be really boring at that. I did a guest arc on Six Feet Under (HBO). When Alan Ball (creator of “Six Feet Under”) called and said, “I want you to play this role,” I said, “Talk to me a little bit about the role.” He said, “You’re Claire’s boyfriend.” I said, “Ok, well, does he have one leg? Did his mom kill his father? Is he blind in one eye? What can we do to spice this guy up so he’s not just Claire’s boyfriend?” So [Alan] said, “He’s a super famous artist and he gives Claire her first orgasm.” I was like, “Ok, I’m in!” For me, as an actor, it’s fun to be able to step into other people’s shoes and build these characters, and make them different, and not just play the same thing all the time.
PR.com: You’re a true actor’s actor. You seem to love the craft of acting.
Peter Facinelli: For me it’s an art form. I studied it at NYU and every time I work I study it. I can hopefully continue to grow. I think once you stop growing as an actor, you die as an artist. For me, writing and producing is just an extension of that art. It’s about storytelling.
PR.com: Where will your production company go? Now with the release of Loosies, and looking forward, where do you hope to take Facinelli Films?
Peter Facinelli: My career has been very versatile so my production company is very versatile. We have a lot of things in the works that are very different from each other. We have the rights to a book called Street Soldier which is based on Whitey Bulger (an alleged organized crime figure) and an enforcer that worked for Whitey Bulger. We have a script and financing so we’re looking for a director for that. I have a movie based on a documentary called The Last Word. I have a little horror movie called RV Park that I wrote. We’re going to start shopping that in January, we have a big broad comedy, and a lot of good digital media stuff, and a couple of reality shows in development. I also have a children’s book I have the rights to, called My Name is Not Isabella. [I’m] not the guy who does mob movies, or the guy that does horror movies, or romantic comedies. My production company jumps all over the place and does a lot of versatile things.
PR.com: You’ve been directed by Steve Buscemi in Nurse Jackie. Would you like to produce something where you can work with him in front of the camera?
Peter Facinelli: I would love to work with Steve Buscemi in any capacity. I love him and whether he directs me or he acts alongside me, it’s an honor. There’s another project that I wrote that I actually gave him the script for, and he said he would be able to play one of the roles in that. That’s a bigger, $15 million project. It’s going to take some time to get that off the ground, but we have a couple of people looking at it right now. It’s called El Chico Blanco. It’s a big modern-day Scarface movie.
PR.com: How’d you come up with the name Loosies for this film?
Peter Facinelli: For me, Loosies had a lot of meanings because a loosie means a loose cigarette, the name of the girl that I fall in love with is Lucy, and he lived this loose and fast lifestyle. It’s a double entendre with a lot of meanings. It’s funny to me because the film is called Loosies and the guy smokes loose cigarettes because he’s such a commitment-phobe that he can’t even commit to a pack of cigarettes, which is the gag in the movie. But he never has a cigarette the whole movie. If you watch the movie, you never see me smoke in the whole movie. He’s always pining for a cigarette and he never gets one. Then there’s one scene where he finally gets a cigarette and then he sees Jax (played by Vincent Gallo) across the street talking to Detective Sullivan and it drops out of his mouth before he can light it. And then at the end of the movie he quits. This movie could be a movie about a guy who wants a cigarette (laughs).
PR.com: So speaking of moral dilemmas, you never had to actually face the moral dilemma of having to smoke in the film. Are you looking to eventually transition into writing and filmmaking full time?
Peter Facinelli: No, I’ll always act, but what I’d like to start moving towards is directing. Film and television, it’s a director’s medium. The director creates the vision, he puts the movie together, he edits and he has final say on all that. As an actor, you come in to do your part and then you’re in the hands of the director and a good editor. I would like to take control over those projects because I’m coming up with a lot of creative new ideas in the projects that I’ve written. To hand it over to someone else to direct gives away a little bit of that creative freedom. In the near future I’d like to transition into directing, or maybe I’ll star and direct, or maybe not, but I’ll always act until I can’t do it anymore.
“Loosies” (PG-13) is currently available in 20 million homes through IFC Films, Video on Demand. “Loosies” opens in select movie theatres January 11, 2012.
Follow Peter Facinelli on Twitter @peterfacinelli.