The multi-hyphenate actor-writer-director-producer took a break from post production work on Hour of Lead, a film he wrote and directed starring Thomas Jane and Anne Heche, to speak with RI Mag about family, what playing villains taught him about human nature, and how to get un-stuck from any lousy situation.
INTERVIEW BY MATT TUTHILL /// PHOTOS BY JEFFREY FOUNTAIN
Robert Irvine Magazine: Thanks for taking a break to speak with us. What is Hour of Lead about?
Peter Facinelli: It’s about two parents who go to an RV park with their daughter, and their daughter goes missing. So it’s kind of a Hitchcock thriller. A whodunit. Every parent’s worst nightmare is having their kid disappear. If I’m walking alongside my kid and she goes missing for 30 seconds, it’s the longest 30 seconds of my life.
RI: You have three kids and Robert has two—and he just published a book called Family Table, where it’s not just family style recipes but it’s all about getting together with your family and how to connect with them. Do you cook with your kids? And do you find it a challenge to engage with them?
PF: Yeah, I do. My three kids are all different. So, trying to engage with them—it’s different as they go through phases. Since they’re all five years apart, as soon as one crosses over into being a teen and the other one’s left behind, still being a preteen or a child, they’re kind of doing different things. Right now, I have two of them that are young adulthood, and one of them that’s a preteen. And the preteen kind of feels left behind. And I keep telling her, “Don’t worry. You’ll catch up. Then once you catch up you’ll be best friends for life.” But in the moment, it’s hard on them.
RI: Your filmography covers so many diverse films and characters, including heroes and villains. And the way you do your job you can’t judge your characters if you’re inhabiting them, so I’m curious if that’s taught you something about human nature—something everyone could use to help relate to one another better.
PF: I’m always learning. One of the things with this job is you get to learn about humanity so much because you’re always tapping into different parts of it. When I play a character, it’s my job to find—even if they’re doing things that are deemed as evil—you have to ask, “What is the good that they’re trying to do?” For themselves. Somebody robs a bank, but they rob it because they need the money for themselves. So it might be a selfish act, but they’re not going to rob a bank to do an evil task. Right?
PF: So for the longest time I didn’t think people do evil things. That they do selfish acts, or they do things that are good for them that are bad for others. Whenever I play a character, you’re right, I try to find some kind of redeeming quality within them. If you’re playing a person that one would deem a sociopath, you still have to find the good within them. At times it’s hard. I’ve played people recently that ride the fine line of finding redeeming qualities within them. But they’re there. You’ve got to find them. Everyone’s the hero of their own story, right?
RI: It’s already been over 10 years since the first Twilight movie came out. How did that experience change your career? And did you have an inkling then that it would be the phenomenon that it turned out to be?
PF: I don’t think anybody that was part of that could possibly understand… I had no idea that it would reach such a global scale when we were making that movie. At some point we were making it like an independent movie, so it wasn’t even in a studio at that time. We were just hoping that enough people would get in the seats that maybe we could do a second one. But it far surpassed any expectation we had.
When I started on it, it was kind of this underground following to the book. And then by the time that premiere was going to come out, it was a pretty big following of the book.
I remember after filming the movie, I went on vacation with my family and people along the beach were reading the book! Like all over. And until it got to premier it was nerve-wracking because I thought, “Well geez, I hope all these people who read the book like the film. Because sometimes they don’t.”
RI: No matter what you’re a fan of, everyone has had that experience where you feel the book is better than the movie.
PF: Yes. I remember going to the premiere, and there were people that had slept in tents for it. And they’re were blocks and blocks of fans waiting for this movie to open. And I thought, “This crowd could turn into an angry mob within seconds if they hate the film.” But thankfully they liked it.
RI: Quite a bit.
PF: But as far as it changing my career, I mean I’ve always kind of gone job to job and tried to just do different things. I try to say, “What haven’t I done before?” That’s what kind of interests me. So I don’t know if it’s changed how I’ve taken on roles, but it definitely opened up my world to a bigger audience. I remember traveling, I was in Thailand on vacation, and people knew the film there. I think everyone’s goal as an actor is a piece of work that hits a global scale. And this was one of them.
RI: As viewers, we have more choice than ever before and there’s a ton of room right now for so many different voices in film and television. But increasingly, you see that the movie theater has become a place where we go to see giant spectacle. And the thought-provoking character stuff has been relegated more to TV and streaming services. What are your feelings on that trend? And do you worry about the future of the theater experience? Do you feel like you’re going to see, maybe in your lifetime, a place where we have no more movie theaters?
PF: That’s an interesting question because when I was starting out there were five channels: two, five, seven, eleven, and HBO. Back then in some ways it was a lot harder because there was less space for actors. Fewer shows and lots of actors. So the competitive space was higher amongst actors.
And now it seems that there are a lot more actors out there, and a lot more product. But a lot of that product is white noise. Where it’s just on some network, or some streaming place where a small audience might see it. But a broader audience isn’t.
You can get stuck on a show that nobody’s watching. And that’s kind of scary; you’re stuck in this limbo of a show that maybe is on air, but it’s just very small numbers and it’s neither here nor there.
As an actor you want to do something that’s going to make a splash, or that people are going to watch. So it’s harder to select the projects, because you don’t know what’s going to be white noise and what’s going to pop.
But that said, do I think theaters are going to go away completely? I hope not. I mean, I think theaters are going to be a place for bigger tent-pole pictures, just like they have been. And you’re going see more and more of that. Maybe in the future, they might go to theaters, and at the same time, be on streaming services on the same day. They’ve been toying with that a little bit.
RI: That was a very controversial idea that’s still floating around. James Cameron came out against that, but other guys like Peter Jackson were in favor. How would you feel if such a service like that existed where you could go stream it the same day it comes out in theaters, but it costs $50 to stream it?
PF: Well, I think people want to view it where they want to view it. So if they’re going to go to the theater to watch it, they’ll go to the theater. If they’re not, they’ll wait for it to come out, and they’ll watch on the platform they want to watch it on. Nowadays, it’s not that many weeks before you have to wait before it’s on a streaming service that you could watch it on. So I’d probably be in the camp of watching it where and when and how I want. We’re getting there anyway.
Appointment TV isn’t really a thing anymore. People watch it on their own time. Theaters are a beautiful tradition where we have a communal experience. But nowadays people have giant screens in their own homes. So they’ll have friends come over and they’ll watch it with their friends. So to each his own. My interest is more in making the products for them to watch.
RI: We get a lot of e-mails from readers who say they feel stuck. What advice would you have for the reader who feels stuck? In a job they don’t like. In a bad relationship. Or they can’t reach their fitness goals. Whatever that hurdle may be.
PF: Whenever I get stuck, I try to go within. Because I’m a firm believer that whatever’s happening on the outside, is what’s happening on the inside. So a lot of times if you’re stuck, you put yourself in that space. And instead of blaming other people, and going, “Well, I’m stuck because of this or that,” try to figure out why you’re stuck from within.
Why you put yourself in that space. And then try to look at it from a different perspective. And finding a different perspective of it often helps jostle you out of being stuck. Because wherever you’re at, you’re there for a reason. And wherever you’re going, you’re going to get to. You just got to keep putting the focus on that future. Not getting stuck in the past.
RI: And being certain that you can do it. You have to have that belief in it first, don’t you? If you’re going through the motions of say, a diet, and you say, “Oh, I’m never going to lose this weight.” Then that becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy.
PF: Yeah. Whether you can or can’t, you’re right. So you have to definitely believe, put your intention on where you’re going to go and what you want to do. And then move forward with that intention.
RI: You’re Italian and you’re from Queens. So you grew up surrounded by some of the best food in the entire world. What is your favorite type of cuisine? Is it Italian?
PF: It changes. Because when I’m home, it’s Italian because my mom cooks Italian. I mean she’s a fantastic cook.
When I was growing up she cooked six days a week, and she only took one day off. We had a pizza night. I never went to restaurants or went out to eat because my mom would cook all the time.
But here in LA, I don’t always get to cook. So sometimes going out to eat is easier. So I like sushi and Mexican food. But I like cooking as well. I cook sometimes for the kids, and barbecue for friends.
RI: Do you have a singular favorite restaurant in LA?
PF: I would say in LA, my favorite sushi place is called Sushi Yuzu. It’s in Toluca Lake.
RI: As you were working to break into this career, did you ever think about quitting?
PF: I was really lucky in the sense that I started working right out of college.
And I have lulls of not working, but for the most part I’ve been able to work pretty consistently in this town.
I didn’t have the struggles where I had to think about giving up. But I have had moments where you get burnt out, just kind of feel like there’s something else I should be doing.
And I remember when that happened, I took an acting class. I wanted to get back to the root of why I love acting. And I do. And so I still study in between work nowadays.
Because I feel like you might have a six month lull of trying to find the right project. So I’ll take a class, and that’ll kind of reinvigorate me. Like going to the gym, a good little workout.
And then at the same time, being in a class full of people that are eager to work, and so passionate about acting reminds me of why I love to do what I do.
I’ve also found now that directing and writing and producing are other outlets for me. Once I learned to keep busy doing the things that I love, and continue fueling that passion, then I don’t think I ever get bored.
RI: If you could wave a magic wand, and green light any project right now, what would it be? Do you have a passion project that you’ve been nursing along for years, and you’re just waiting for the right director or something like that?
PF: I have a few actually. I mean the one that I just made, I’m ecstatic that it’s done, and I’m happy to get it out to an audience.
But there’s another one that I wrote and I’d like to direct, it’s called El Chico Blanco. It’s like modern day Scarface film that I wrote. And that’s the one I kind of want to direct next. So if I could wave a magic wand, I could get the financing for that and get that up and running, that would be a lot of fun.
And then I have a book that I optioned called THE UNBREAKABLE BOY. It’s a really beautiful story that I want to also produce.
And then I have a comic book called PROTOCOL: ORPHANS that I would love to get off the ground as well, that I created. I’d love to create a movie or a series based on that.
But immediately coming up I have a film called RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL with Nicholas Cage and Lawrence Fishburne and that comes out September 20.
I did a movie for Lifetime called ESCAPING THE NXIVM CULT based on the memoir Captive. I play Keith Raniere, who is the leader of the cult; that’s the true story of Nxivm with Allison Mack from Smallville. That one comes out in September 21.
After that, I have a film called COUNTDOWN, which comes out October 25.