Actor-writer-director Peter Facinelli tells STACK how a family road trip inspired his new psychological thriller, The Vanished.
If this writer’s 20 year-old self knew he would be speaking with Peter Facinelli in 2020, there’s no way he’d believe it. Facinelli is the guy whose performance as Mike Dexter in Can’t Hardly Wait is the stuff of comedy legend, and while we’re supposed to be talking about his new film as a director, The Vanished, the fanboy within simply had to bring up that 90’s classic, to which he gleefully declared, “Mike Dexter could still kick everybody’s asses!”
With that bucket list moment out of the way, it’s time to focus on Facinelli’s latest film – a gripping Hickcockian thriller that boasts a superb cast and a thoroughly engrossing plot. Stepping into the director’s chair for the second time, following his feature debut with Breaking & Exiting in 2018, Facinelli also took on a supporting role, as well as writing duties, crafting a suspenseful chiller.
Thomas Jane and Anne Heche play a married couple road tripping with their young daughter at Thanksgiving. Within hours of arriving at a lakeside caravan park, their little girl disappears, and it soon becomes apparent she’s been abducted. With only some neighbours, the park owner, the maintenance guy and a recently escaped prisoner in the area as suspects, the local sheriff (Jason Patric) promises to solve the case, all the while dealing with a loss of his own.
“The idea came to me when I was on a road trip with my kids,” Facinelli tells STACK. “I pulled into an RV park and while I was paying, I heard some gunshots. The owners said, ‘Oh don’t worry, there’s a prison down the road. They said it’s normal to have one or two gunshots because they have drills, but if you hear any more than that, come running to the front desk. And so I thought, ‘Geez, what if someone escapes from prison and my daughter went missing?’ And the seed for this movie was planted in my head that day.”
With his unassuming and captivating roll call, Facinelli says he equates directing to being like a therapist. “You have all of these actors who are working differently and you have to work out what the best language is to speak to them. Anne Heche was very emotional, and I could literally go up to her and hold her hands tightly and she would say ‘I got it!’ and I wouldn’t even have to say a word. And then Thomas is more rational, where you have to talk out the scenes with him, and similar with Jason.”
Having amassed an impressive filmography over the years, with his role as Dr. Carlisle Cullen in The Twilight Saga being one of his most recognisable, Facinelli reveals that the challenge of being on both sides of the camera this time around was a lot more difficult than he imagined.
“I knew that I didn’t want to be the lead, because it would have been too much to do. So I gave myself a smaller role to have fun, but on those days I had to come to work in costume, I didn’t want to have to go through hair and makeup because I didn’t have time, so I just wore a baseball cap, but then as I’m acting I’m also thinking the whole time, ‘Am I in frame?’ and there’s like ten thousand things going through my mind at the same time. I give a lot of credit to people who can direct themselves in the lead. It’s a LOT. But maybe I’ll grow to do it and be like a Clint Eastwood,” he says with tongue in cheek.
With a taste for directing, and a natural flair for exploiting the genre to its fullest, there’s no rest for Facinelli – he’s already working on his next directorial endeavour.
“For me as a director, I like moving on to different things. So I did a dramedy with that first movie, and this one is a Hitchcockian psychological thriller, and then my next film that I wrote, and want to direct next year, is more like an epic Scarface movie. So yeah, like my acting career, I like to be able to jump around.”