Peter Facinelli has left his mark on many movies and TV shows since his debut in "Angela" in 1995, but most moviegoers now know and love the 37-year-old actor as the vampire Dr. Carlisle Cullen in the "Twilight" movies. Carlisle is head of the Cullen clan and Edward's maker, and his compassion and wisdom have helped keep his vampire family together for ages.
Carlisle also hosts the cinematic wedding of the year between Bella and Edward in "Breaking Dawn - Part 1," which opens in theaters on November 18. We caught up with the "father" of the groom as he spoke candidly about the end of "Twilight," playing doctor with chicken breasts, and which item of Carlisle's he once tried to steal.
Forbes magazine calculated that Carlisle Cullen was the wealthiest fictional character because some 350 years of compound interest and investments amassed him a fortune of $34.5 million. How does it feel to be the wealthiest vampire in history?
Actually I was voted number one the year before last, and last year I was voted number two. Scrooge McDuck beat me. I think it's because I spent a lot of money on the wedding [of Bella and Edward]. It knocked me down a peg.
How happy are you that you don't have to bleach your hair anymore?
It was tedious to get the blond hair and wear the contacts and have pale skin, but it was part of the character, and I don't think I would not want to do that. I like that I look different in "Twilight" than I normally do, and that Carlisle is so distinct from everything else that I've done. But I am excited that I can go in the sun now -- I don't have to hide in the shadows.
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Carlisle is the patriarch of the Cullen clan and, in real life, you're married to actress Jennie Garth and have three children. Did that help you easily transition into the father figure in "Twilight"?
For sure! When I first heard about the role, I thought I was too young to play the father of a 17-year-old, so I didn't think I was right. But then I read Carlisle was actually a vampire who looks like a 23-year-old but is actually 350. The two things I think I have in common with Carlisle are that I like to think that I am a compassionate person and I am a father figure, so I know what it's like to be the head of a family. I did have those strengths going in and I had to create the rest of the character -- the way he walks, his cadence and the way he speaks. How do you bring 350 years of experience to the screen? I did a lot of history on the last 350 years of where his travels might have taken him, just because I wanted to have that information inside of me so it felt like I knew his journey.
Do your daughters watch you in the "Twilight" movies?
My 8- and 14-year-old enjoy the movies, but my five-year-old -- I don't know how much she gets. The first time she saw one she was very young and she thought I was Skyping her, so she was talking to the screen.
Carlisle is a vampire doctor with centuries of practice, and you also play a doctor on "Nurse Jackie," albeit one with a variation of Tourette syndrome. After so much playing doctor, have you learned any medical procedures?
I learned how to stitch. I think if I had to, if someone got hurt, I could stitch someone up because I practiced a lot when we did "New Moon." They first gave me these Styrofoam pads but they didn't feel right, so I bought these chicken breasts and would slice them open and stitch them together. It was weird because I had a refrigerator full of stitched-up chicken and, while we were filming, I thought that the maid must come in and think I'm this weird guy who has this chicken obsession. I actually brought one of the pieces of chicken to set and showed Kris [Stewart] and she said, "Yeah, I'd never let you stitch me up."
I just did a stitching scene in "Nurse Jackie" yesterday, so that's become old hand for me. I do think about taking someone's vitals when they're sick because that's the first thing you'd do as a doctor, but I'm not going to do any transplants anytime soon.
Now that "Twilight" has ended filming, did you get to keep anything of Carlisle's to remember the experience? How about that house?
I wanted to keep his ring. I tried to keep it on one of the films, and they tracked me down and took it back. On the last film I asked if I could have a copy of it, and they gave me one. The house is actually a set. Well, in the first movie it was real, and in Portland; but they did a replica of that exact house on a stage in Canada and they did another exact replica in Baton Rouge. So it was weird to walk on set in a house that was in three different locations.
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Tell us about your new movie "Loosies."
I wrote, produced and starred in "Loosies" and it has a really fun cast, including Jaimie Alexander from "Thor," Michael Madsen, Vincent Gallo and Joe Pantoliano. I play a pickpocket in New York who has a Steve McQueen lifestyle until he finds out that he got Jaimie Alexander's character pregnant on a one-night stand. His whole life comes to a screeching halt because he has to take responsibility. At the core, it's a love story with comedic elements, but it's also a coming-of-age story for this 30-year-old guy who lives with his mom and must take responsibility for becoming a father. It's opening in limited release in January and we're doing a special pre-theatrical release starting November 9 on VOD.
You've played so many different characters in your career. Besides Carlisle, can you name a character you would like to play again and why?
I always wished we had a second season of "Fastlane." I only got one season of that and it was such a fun show. I got to do action, comedy and drama all in one venue, and I remember having a great time on set with Bill Bellamy. It's like playing cops and robbers and getting paid for it. It was like a John Woo movie where you drive Ferraris and dive across a table and pull out two guns -- whatever looks cool.
You filmed both parts of "Breaking Dawn" together over six months. Now that it's all over and you've played this character in every "Twilight" movie, do you think about what happens in Carlisle's life after the film series ends?
I'm done when the movie is done. I don't think about what happens to him after that because I'm off to the next project and I have to start thinking about that.
Would you think about it if someone decided to make another "Twilight" movie someday and asked you to return as Carlisle?