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    Exclusive Interview: Peter Facinelli on 'Twilight'

    Actor Peter Facinelli, who plays patriarch Dr. Carlisle Cullen in 'Twilight,' talks about the veggie vampire clan, that unforgettable baseball scene, his wife Jennie Garth's Twilighter status, and why he almost turned down the role of Dr. Carlisle Cullen in the first place.

    By Sona Charaipotra

    You may remember pretty boy Peter Facinelli from his stint on Fox's short-lived speedfest "Fastlane." But more likely you've seen him deliver incisive, slightly-under-the-radar turns on quirky TV fare like "Six Feet Under" and "Damages."

    Here, the Queens native offers the inside scoop on Twilight's veggie vampires, that unforgettable baseball scene, his wife Jennie Garth's Twilighter status and why he almost turned down the role of Dr. Carlisle Cullen in the first place.

    So how did you end up as Carlisle Cullen, the leader of Twilight's vegetarian vampire clan?

    I got a call from my agent saying there's a vampire movie that Catherine Hardwicke's directing. And the first thing out of my mouth [was], "I don't want to do a vampire movie."

    What do you have against vampires?

    I just thought they were silly, you know? All the ones that I'd seen are all blood and guts and gore - more like zombie films than the mystical tale of the vampire, which is where it originated. So I thought it would be like that, because there was a time, right after Interview with the Vampire, where they were making a ton of vampire movies and I'd get like these really god-awful scripts. And so I had that taste in my mouth that vampire movies were just these Dawn of the Dead zombie types [of movies].

    So you were about to write it off?

    Yeah, completely. But I liked Catherine Hardwicke's work, so it was interesting enough for me to say, "Okay, I'll read the book." Because we didn't even have a script at that point. So I read the book in a day. It was such a great read and I was so excited by it, because it was kind of a throwback to the original vampire tales with their sexual metaphors about the bloodthirsty but beautiful creatures. The images from the old school black and white movies were what came to mind when I first read the book. It was a beautiful, forbidden love story set in this vampire world - so it would make a fun movie. So I went in and read for Catherine, and I think I did a good job. But, truth be known, I didn't get the role originally.

    Really? What happened?

    I thought I did a great job and Catherine liked me, but there was another actor that the studio was pushing for. I'm not naming names, no! I don't want him kicking himself. I guess he was doing another movie or they couldn't work out his deal or something. But when I read, I loved Catherine. She's full of passion and energy. I thought she was great and I really wanted to work with her. So when I found out I didn't get the role, I was bummed. Then I was in this bookstore and I saw this book of, like, 50 years of vampires in Hollywood - again, those old school shots of Bela Lugosi and the original Dracula and just the history and the lore. So I bought this book, and I sent it with a note to Catherine saying, "Look, I'm sorry it didn't work out. I really admire your work. I hope this book inspires you through the making of Twilight." And so when she got the call that this other actor wasn't working out, she looked down and saw that book and said, "Well, what about Peter Facinelli?" So I always joke that I bought the role of Dr. Carlisle Cullen for $29.99. And I was worth every penny.

    And what did you think of the character of Carlisle? He's sort of an odd creature, a vegetarian vampire father figure.

    He's just a great soul, if vampires can have souls. He's 300-something-years-old, but looks 26. I kind of connected to the father figurehead aspect of him, because I have three children of my own. I enjoyed who he was as the patriarch of the family and how he saved these people's lives rather than taking them. He's sort of anti-vampire, despite being a vampire. It was an interesting nut to crack. And at first I was worried that I looked too young, because Carlisle's kids are in their late teens, early 20s, and I'm about ten years older, so I couldn't really be their father, so it would look strange on film. But in the book, they're his adopted children and he's supposed to be young. But also, he's a doctor, so he has this wisdom about him, which was interesting.

    You're getting a lot of doctors now, huh?

    Yeah, I used to play a lot of cop roles, but now I've graduated to the doctors. I get to play doctor on my new Showtime dramedy, "Nurse Jackie" [with Edie Falco, premiering in January on Showtime], so it is back to back white coats. It's really quirky, not quite "Grey's Anatomy," but not really "Scrubs" either. But this doctor is completely 180 degrees away from Dr. Carlisle Cullen. This guy's a different creature all together. He's kind of cool and confident on the outside, but inside he's a big mess. He could use some tips from Carlisle.

    How did you approach the role of Carlisle? Did you try vegetarianism?

    No, you know, it's weird; I started eating a lot more meat than I usually eat. I was just hungry for red meat the whole time. So it kind of had a backwards effect on me, because normally I'm more on the vegetarian side. So with this, I was eating steak all the time. I kind of [looked at] it from the point of view of being the patriarch in the family. I tried to make sure that even though I looked younger, there was a distinct separation between me and the kids. The character is 300-plus years [old] and he brings a lot of wisdom and experience to the table. So I tried to bring out that dignity and grace. And it was weird because I used to be the youngest one on the set, and this was one of my first projects where I was one of the oldest ones on the set. And that's pretty rare. I guess I'm becoming older. It's a blink of an eye and suddenly I'm the dad. But it was great working with Kristen Stewart, Rob Pattinson, and the other younger actors. Especially the newer actors. They have this energy and they're not jaded yet. So they have this freshness and spontaneity. And they all started calling me dad, which was funny.

    Did that freak you out at all?

    No. I have children, so I'm used to it.

    Had you heard about the Twilight Saga before you got the call?

    No, but I read the book in a day, and I couldn't put it down. I don't know what it is with Stephenie Meyer's writing, whether it's hypnotic or what, but most people I know who have read it can't put it down. My wife ["90210" star Jennie Garth] started reading them after I got the part, and she's on book four now. She literally read one after the other after the other just staying up till two in the morning. She literally couldn't put it down till she had to just pass out.

    Have you read the rest of the series?

    I read the first three because I wanted to get a good sense of Carlisle Cullen. But now Jennie's got Breaking Dawn and she's not giving it up. She's halfway done now. But now I'm reading Stephenie Meyer's The Host. And my daughter Luca is 11, and she's read the first book. I haven't let her read the others yet because she's a little young for the content in those. But I also wanted her to be able to watch Twilight the movie as a story in and of itself. When you start reading the others, you get the bigger picture, but you lose sight of the first one on its own.

    What did Luca think of it?

    She's really, really excited. And it's exciting for me because most of my film and TV work is aimed at adults, so she hasn't been able to see any of it. This is the first movie that I can actually have my kid see, and that's exciting to me. Usually Luca and my other two daughters [Lola and Fiona] can see their mom Jen's work, but they wonder what I do. So this is new for me. I'm excited about it. It's good to be able to have something that my kids can be a part of.

    How was shooting in Portland, Oregon? As rainy as it seems?

    No, you know, we thought there would be a lot of overcast skies - that's why we went there. I don't know if it was global warming or what, but we ended up getting a lot of sunny days. Usually on a film set, sun is good. But with this one, it was the exact opposite. We were hoping for cloud coverage. And we'd want rain but we'd get sun.

    Did you guys have to use a lot of SPF 50 to stay pale, or was it a lot of make-up?

    It was a little bit of both. As soon as we got the parts, we were told, "Do NOT go in the sun." It was in the contract! So I tried to stay out of the sun as much as possible. There was make-up involved, but the more tan you already were, the more make-up you'd need - and you don't want that really thick, cakey make-up on your face. So the paler you were, the easier it was in the make-up chair. So I'd be walking around L.A. pre-shoot, taking the kids to school in a hat and glasses and a hood. I looked like the Unabomber. And my wife would tell me I looked so pale I looked sickly. And then there were the contacts lenses.

    How did those go over?

    I had to wear contacts for this movie I did called Supernova, so I've sort of gotten used to them. But when I first did that film, two technicians had to literally tie me to the chair and pop them in, I had such trouble. So some of the kids really had trouble with them on Twilight. But they did a lot better than I did on my first contact-lenses gig. We did the golden color because the Cullens have those golden eyes. And then, when we're hungry, we have to pop the red ones in. Those were pretty freaky. I definitely look very different in this film, between the blonde hair, the ghostly skin, and those contacts. It's different than anything else I've done before, which I loved.

    They added a lot more action to the film version. Was it live-action or was there a lot of green screen?

    We had a lot of rehearsals. And these rehearsals were like cat classes to teach us that graceful, cat-like movement. We had to go in big with and then tone it down and down and down till it was very subtle. And we had a lot of action training sequences. But the biggest stunts were for the baseball scene - the scene with the thunder, where we're moving at super-speed. But we didn't do a lot of green screen, actually. What I love about this film is that it's kind of the anti-Harry Potter. They're big on green screen and studio perfection. This film is more raw, more character-driven. It's kind of like an art house film with a very commercial story. Catherine [Hardwicke] shoots almost documentary-style on this. There's a lot of hand-held with Twilight. It's very different than other films.

    Are you aware the Twilighters and Twi-Hards, as they call themselves, who have been following the film's production?

    There's too much to follow! The fans starting showing up to the set before we really even started. They're so excited and it's exciting for us to be making something that people really want to see. I think if people are talking about it at all, it's a good thing. Whether they're what they're saying is positive or negative, it will get people to the theaters - and I think they'll be surprised.

    Do you think the adaptation stays true to the book?

    Well, it's hard when you're doing a movie based on a book, because everyone already sees their own version in their head. So you can't ever match someone's interpretation of it. So this is Catherine's interpretation and our interpretations of the characters. But people going to the theater will be bringing their interpretations with them.

    There's already talk about a New Moon adaptation.

    I'm on board for any and all Twilight Saga adaptations they want to make. I'm a huge fan. It's fun doing a movie that you'd really want to see. I have people come up and tell me they're crazy Twilight fans, and my response is, "So am I." I'd love to see more movies made.

    So are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?

    Well, I'm completely biased but I have to say Team Edward. He's my family. And my wife is totally Team Edward. But it depends on which book she's reading. At one point, she was on New Moon, and she was like, "I'm Team Jacob, how could Edward do that?" But now she's dedicated to Edward.

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