Peter Facinelli, acting since the mid-1990s, has done just about everything in his career, from low-budget indies and tentpole franchises to TV movies and hit network series. In recent years, the New York native pivoted to filmmaking by writing, producing and directing his own features.
To promote the Netflix debut of his latest — The Vanished, starring real-life couple Thomas Jane and Anne Heche opposite Jason Patric — Facinelli joined Brett Gursky on his podcast On the List. The two discussed nearly every entry on Facinelli’s résumé, including the ones that got away. High on that list is Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, an iconic teen comedy that made stars out of its young cast led by Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Jeremy Sisto and Stacey Dash.
Facinelli would have been among those breakouts had he not been forced to learn a tough lesson in how to deal with Hollywood directors: “Don’t be a dick.” Facinelli recalls that he read for the part of teen heartthrob Christian, the brief love interest of Silverstone’s Cher (until she realizes he’s gay). Facinelli says he read six times and all seemed to be going well … until it wasn’t.
“I got along really well with Amy Heckerling. I was new and when you’re new, you just don’t know. You think, ‘I’m an artist and this is what I’m doing,'” he told Gursky of how he envisioned the role, a new student with vintage style. “My whole thing was I kind of based it on Harry Connick Jr. I came in and I was doing this New Orleans kind of little accent, like a little twinge of a New Orleans accent. [Christian] was a kid from out of state that was going to this school so I thought that that was interesting. Then Amy goes, ‘Well, can you try it without the accent?’ I go, ‘No,’ and she goes, ‘No?'”
Facinelli doubled down, and recalls that he told Heckerling, “This is what I would do with it.” It proved to be a fatal mistake. “I didn’t get the role,” he adds. “You learn right away — don’t be a dick.” The part went to fellow newcomer Justin Walker.
He went on to learn more lessons thanks to other big movies that got away including Leonardo DiCaprio starrer The Basketball Diaries. He made it far enough along in the audition process to find himself in a room opposite Mark Wahlberg and James Madio. “We were doing the scene and then Mark Wahlberg started improvising, and I was so new that I was like, ‘Am I supposed to go off-book? But I don’t know, should I be going off-book? Or do they want me to stay on-book?'” he recalled. “I just became like a spectator, I just checked out and started watching. … As soon as they put me in a room with them, I checked out because I didn’t know what was happening, so they ended up getting the roles and I didn’t get it. But again, they’re learning curves.”
More lessons came courtesy of Boogie Nights and the one he wanted the most — the gritty drug drama Requiem for a Dream. “It was between me and Jared Leto, and I always wished I got that one,” he said. “I never look back and go, ‘I wish I would have, could have, should have’ — except for Requiem for a Dream. That was one that I was like, ‘Man, I wish I would have had a chance to play that role.’ Because I love that director and that was such a great role. Darren Aronofsky, I still want to work with him. But other than that, your career takes you where you’re supposed to go, I guess.”
Listen to the full episode of On the List here.