CRANSTON — Director Michael Corrente is sitting on a director’s chair in a hallway of the old Cranston police station watching a widescreen TV monitor where Peter Facinelli is playing an emotion-charged scene in the movie “Loosies.”
Facinelli, co-star of the highly successful “Twilight” movies and Showtime TV’s “Nurse Jackie,” is in his undershirt at a kitchen table which is part of a movie-set kitchen that’s on the other side of the partition directly behind Corrente.
The set, which is supposed to be in a New York City apartment, is so tiny there’s room to fit only the actors, cinematographer and sound man. But Corrente, who is directing his first film since “Brooklyn Rules” in 2007, says it doesn’t matter that he’s not up front with the actors. With the new digital technology, which allows the camera to hone in blazingly close on Facinelli’s eyelashes, he can direct the movie via TV monitor, with only occasional forays onto the actual set where Facinelli’s character is having a tense moment with his mother, played by Marianne Leone of “The Sopranos.”
Although “Loosies” is set entirely in New York, Corrente says 80 percent of it will be shot in the old Cranston lockup, where elaborate sets have been constructed and a small army of movie technicians has set up shop in old offices, even hallways. The crew has already shot some scenes in downtown Providence as well, and Corrente expects there will be a couple of days of filming in New York by a second-unit crew once principal photography is completed here in about four weeks. The crew has been in this location since July 15 and at times the heat has been unbearable, broken only by two huge portable air conditioning units which must be shut off whenever the camera rolls.
For Facinelli, who looks far different and much handsomer than the 360-year-old pale and blonde vampire he plays in the “Twilight” films … and even younger than his own 36 years, “Loosies” is a very personal movie. He started writing the screenplay nine years ago. “It seems like eons ago,” he says, “a coming-of-age story about a 30-year-old guy who finally learns that he must take responsibility.”
In “Loosies” he plays Bobby, a New York pickpocket in his mid-30s who still lives with his mother, dresses in business suits and tells his mom he works on Wall Street when he leaves in the morning. A classy-looking thief, he’s amassing money to pay back his long-absent father’s gambling debts. His footloose life is upended when the young woman with whom he had a one-night stand returns to announce that she’s pregnant with his child.
Facinelli chuckles when asked if the plot came from somewhere in his own background. Actually, he says, “Loosies” is his “updated homage” to the caper films of the 1970s that he fell in love with on TV when he was growing up — Steve McQueen’s films and especially “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which he calls “the whole reason I got into acting. Those films were loose, fast-paced. I wanted to make a movie that reminded me of that kind of genre.”
Facinelli says not much happened with “Loosies” — “I put it away in a drawer” — until a series of fortuitous events found him crossing paths with Corrente. Several years ago Facinelli had auditioned for a role in a film about a group of young guys who get involved with gangsters, but the director at the time thought the Queens-born actor wasn’t right for the script’s Queens-born character. Later, when Corrente took over the film, now called “Brooklyn Rules,” he looked at the old audition tapes, came across Facinelli’s and offered him a role. But the actor was now committed to a TV series and Scott Caan took the role in “Brooklyn Rules.”
Through that contact, however, Facinelli’s “Loosies” script made its way to Corrente. But at the time, the director was in the middle of “Brooklyn Rules” and only vaguely remembers reading it. Later, Facinelli says that while another director “was floating around” the script with some interest, he again sent it to Corrente “because I thought he was right for it.”
Corrente was more open to reading “Loosies” this time and recalls that “I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is really a great script,’ ” describing it as a “romantic dramedy.”
About this time, East Greenwich businessman Chad A. Verdi went into partnership with Corrente to produce films and, as Facinelli puts it, “rode in on a white horse with a bagful of money.” Facinelli entered into a two-picture deal with VerdiCorrente Productions, the second film being “Paz.” It’s the story of boxer Vinny Paz, a role originally slated to be played by Scott Caan ironically enough, and his triumphant return to the ring following a devastating car crash. Facinelli expects “Paz” to go before the cameras in late spring, after he finishes filming the next two back-to-back “Twilight” movie installments, “Breaking Dawn” parts one and two.
“Then I have to get into fighting shape for ‘Paz.’ ”
But right now he’s up to his neck as Bobby, the pickpocket whose life is about to change in “Loosies,” which Corrente says will be ready for theatrical release at about this time next year. When it’s mentioned that it must be fairly easy acting in a film that he wrote, Corrente laughs, saying, “You’d be surprised at the number of times he asks, ‘What’s my line?’ ”
Actually, the script seems to be a work in progress, with Corrente asking Facinelli to change things at the last minute. “Michael is very collaborative,” says Facinelli. “We’re both passionate Italians and when we come together we go at the script to make it better.”