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An interview with a vampire

August 6, 2010 12:36 am

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In real life, Peter Facinelli does not sport the anemic pallor of his 'Twilight' series alter ego, kindly Dr. Carlisle Cullen. lf0806peter.jpg

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BY EDIE GROSS
BY EDIE GROSS

Peter Facinelli had never heard of the "Twilight" books when his agent asked him to audition for a vampire movie.

"I said no. I was thinking it was some B or C slasher, horror kind of picture," said Facinelli, whose agent quickly sent him a copy of Stephenie Meyer's popular first novel.

"I couldn't put it down," said Facinelli, who read it in one night. "It was kind of a throwback to the origins of what vampire folklore was, the sensuousness and the love story that it used to be.

"It wasn't a schlocky horror movie."

No, indeed. The first three films in the "Twilight" series have grossed $1.7 billion worldwide and spawned full-blown fandemonium, with "Twi-hards" camping out days in advance for film premiere tickets, decked out head-to-toe in movie merchandise.

And Facinelli has been along for the ride as Dr. Carlisle Cullen, the kindly head of a family of "vegetarian" vampires--they feed only on animals, not humans--and the adoptive father of Edward, played by mega-star Rob Pattinson.

Facinelli will greet fans tomorrow at Spotsylvania Towne Centre as part of a fundraiser for the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, which supports pediatric cancer research.

Since the first film came out in 2008, Facinelli has done his share of public appearances, many on behalf of charities. This one, founded by parents who lost their 8-year-old daughter to cancer, is a favorite of the actor, who has three young girls of his own.

"These parents took this horrible, devastating thing and made it into something inspiring and positive," said Facinelli, who has also visited pediatric hospitals. "I have kids. I couldn't even imagine them having to be in a hospital sick."

His previous appearances have attracted thousands, and his Twitter feed has nearly 1.7 million followers. Still, Facinelli seems genuinely surprised by the throngs.

"I'm always excited when more than five people show up," he said. "I'm always flattered."

'FAN BASE EXPLODED'

It's hard to imagine now, but the crowds weren't always there. While filming the first movie in Oregon, Facinelli said he and fellow actors Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson could grab dinner in local restaurants and no one batted an eye.

"We could've been doing a cookie commercial. Nobody cared we were doing this movie," he said. "We felt a responsibility to make a good movie for the fans of the books. But somewhere between the wrapping of filming and the premiere, that fan base exploded."

Even after that, the dark-haired Facinelli said he often wasn't recognized in public. In real life, he's a young-looking 36 with a healthy glow about him. It takes up to two hours in a makeup chair to transform the actor into Carlisle Cullen, a 350-year-old vampire with bleach-blond hair and pale, shimmery skin.

Of course nowadays, admirers have no problem picking the L.A. resident out of a crowd. He's happy to sign autographs and pose for photos, though he'd rather not pretend he's biting someone. For the most part, he said, fans are friendly and supportive.

"They're very polite about it," he said. "I feel bad for Rob Pattinson. He can't walk anywhere. I can still walk through a mall and people recognize me, but it isn't like the whole mall is staring at me."

Many of the fans he meets are young, which doesn't faze Facinelli at all. His own daughters are 13, 7 and 3.

While his oldest enjoys the books, she won't wear the film merchandise since her dad's in the movies, he said.

When he's home, he's the assistant coach for her soccer team.

"I'll go to some mall and have all these people standing in line. When I'm on the field with these 13-year-old girls, they don't care that I'm Carlisle," he said. "I'm the guy who makes them run laps."

HE HAS FIRM FILM PLANS

Facinelli's fan base isn't limited to Twi-hards. He also plays the manic Dr. Fitch "Coop" Cooper in the Showtime series "Nurse Jackie" alongside Edie Falco.

During summer and fall of last year, he played both characters at once. He'd spend two or three days on the set of "Eclipse" in Vancouver, then fly to New York City for several days of "Nurse Jackie" filming.

He was sleep-deprived but said he enjoyed the experience.

"I like that he [Cooper] is 180 degrees from Carlisle, but has the same occupation. It's interesting to play two doctors so different from each other," Facinelli said. "One is really mature, the patriarch who's solid as a rock. Coop is immature and runs around like he drank five cans of Red Bull. For me to go back and forth between the two characters is a blast."

Facinelli is also plenty busy behind the camera. He's written a Hallmark Channel movie called "Mulligan," which should air next year. It stars his wife, Jennie Garth, who played Kelly Taylor for 10 years on "Beverly Hills, 90210."

This week, he was in Rhode Island, filming a movie he wrote called "Loosies," about a New York pickpocket who suddenly learns he's about to become a father. The film's cast includes Joe Pantoliano ("The Sopranos," "Matrix"), Jaimie Alexander ("Kyle XY"), Michael Madsen ("Reservoir Dogs," "Donnie Brasco") and Vincent Gallo ("Buffalo '66").

"They're so good. I feel blessed to be working with them," said Facinelli, who will look for a distributor for the film once it's been edited.

He said it's been a treat to see actors bring to life something he wrote, and he hopes to pursue more filmmaking.

"When you write and produce--and at some point I'd like to direct--you're creating these worlds. You have a hand in it," he said. "It's like being the coach of a baseball team rather than the second baseman."

Edie Gross: 540/374-5428
Email: egross@freelancestar.com




QUICK BITES

1. Blood type? A-negative

2. Favorite "Twilight" film so far? "Eclipse." I just like the action of "Eclipse." It felt like "Twilight" introduced us to the vampires, and "New Moon" introduced us to the werewolves. In "Eclipse," both clans are teaming up. "Eclipse" kind of brought all the worlds together. Plus, Carlisle rolling up his sleeves and getting dirty was fun for me.

3. Team Edward or Team Jacob? Team Edward

4. Favorite junk food? Pizza

5. Bad habit? Biting nails

6. Do you floss? Most of the time, or at least I'd like to

7. First concert? As Carlisle, Beethoven. As Peter, Jeff Buckley. I've never seen anything like it, where the whole crowd was just entranced.

8. Favorite getaway? Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and Kona, Hawaii

9. World Series or Super Bowl? World Series (Yankees fan)

10. Cats or dogs? Cats

11. Right- or left-handed? Right-handed

12. Coke or Pepsi? Coke

13. Do you feel guilty that the films have essentially taught a generation of young women that the ideal man will be immortal, hopelessly good-looking, have the manners and intellect of a 19th-century British Romantic poet and be a Volvo owner? No, because it gives guys something to aspire to. If they can get a fraction of that, if they can just own the Volvo, they're headed on the right track.

WANT TO GO?

Peter Facinelli, who plays Dr. Carlisle Cullen in the "Twilight" movies, will meet with fans tomorrow at Spotsylvania Towne Centre from noon to 5 p.m. as part of a fundraiser for the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, which supports pediatric cancer research. Fans can line up beginning at 9:30 a.m., near the Hollister store. The best mall entrance to use is the one near Dick's Sporting Goods.

IMPORTANT: For crowd control purposes, only people who have purchased an autograph or photo can get onstage with Facinelli. That means if a mom and two kids show up and purchase an autograph, only one person will get onstage. Mall officials are urging parents to arrange child care for little ones ahead of time.

Facinelli's autograph costs $25. Feel free to bring items from home for him to sign.

Pictures with the actor, taken by a professional photographer and printed at Picture People, will cost $40 plus an additional $10 for each extra person in the photo. For another $25, you can have that photograph signed after it's printed. There is no limit on the number of photos and autographs you can buy, but all purchases are CASH ONLY.

For more information about the event, contact the mall at 540/786-6660.

To learn about the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, visit alexslemonade.org.




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