Peter Facinelli hopes ‘On Fire’ film personalizes natural disasters

"On Fire" opens in theaters on Friday. Photo courtesy of Cineverse

1 of 5 | “On Fire” opens in theaters on Friday. Photo courtesy of Cineverse

NEW YORK, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Nurse Jackie and Twilight alum Peter Facinelli says he hopes his new family survival drama, On Fire, helps viewers understand the tremendous peril many everyday people face during natural disasters.

“You watch the news and your heart goes out to these people, but you don’t really understand what it was like to be in it,” Facinelli told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

Facinelli was granted a waiver to speak publicly about his independent film during the Screen Actors Guild strike.

“I liked that this touches upon fire issues and pays tribute to firemen and 911 operators, who don’t really get enough credit for what they do,” he added. “We wanted to leave off the film with a message of hope and maybe give pause to how we can curtail these fires that are still happening.”

Facinelli co-directed the movie with Nick Lyon, who wrote it with Ron Peer.

In theaters Friday, it follows Facinelli’s building contractor character, Dave, who is caught in a California wildfire with pregnant wife Sarah (Fiona Dourif), teen son Clay (Asher Angel) and ailing father George (Lance Henriksen).

“They’ve got a dad who is sick and a new baby on the way,” Facinelli said about the family, who is also living paycheck-to-paycheck in a mortgaged home with no insurance.

“They have these mountains of issues that all of a sudden become little anthills compared to surviving the night,” he added.

“When you’re thrust into a harrowing experience like that and have to put things into perspective, you realize, ‘Oh, my God, I’m not going to waste my time worrying about all of these little things. I’m just blessed to have my family.'”

The story distinguishes itself from others in its genre by focusing on characters who are not trained or prepared for the dangerous circumstances in which they find themselves.

“A lot of times, in these family survival films, you’ve got a poster of the dad hanging off a building,” Facinelli said.

“in this movie, the dad doesn’t have all the answers. He’s doing the best he can and [the family members] lean on each other, and every character has a heroic moment.”

The actor said he thinks Sarah is the film’s bravest character because, even though she is terrified, she tries to protect her unborn child while navigating a burning forest through smoke and fog.

“It is so incredible to watch her find inner strength and have [Sarah and Dave] really push each other,” Facinelli said.

“There’s a moment where she kind of loses it and is like, ‘I can’t go on.’ And my character pushes her and says, ‘We can do this!’ And then I have a similar experience later on and she gives me the boost that I need.”

The real-life father of four kids was stressed out just thinking about being so vulnerable in a situation like the one in the film.

“I’ve had children myself and I’ve been through the side of being that partner for your wife,” Facinelli said. “At eight months [pregnant], you’re like, ‘Just sit on the couch and I’ll get what you need.'”

Although the actor had plenty to do on screen, he also took over behind the camera when Lyon fell ill with COVID-19.

“We were on the same page about what we wanted to accomplish,” Facinelli said.

“He was so wonderful and collaborative. Because of that collaboration, I was able to take the torch and keep going with his blessing. If we hadn’t been [so like-minded], it would have been a struggle or like it was two different movies.”

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