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Tacoma thriller mixes Hollywood stars and locals

Tacoma born producer discusses shooting thriller in hometown

Hollywood producer Mark Myers, a Tacoma native and Wilson High alum, shares insight about returning to his hometown to shoot the teen romantic thriller "Heartthrob."
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Hollywood producer Mark Myers, a Tacoma native and Wilson High alum, shares insight about returning to his hometown to shoot the teen romantic thriller "Heartthrob."

One of Washington state’s most famous residents has never been to the city where he lives.

“I’ve never been to Forks,” Peter Facinelli said Thursday. “It’s so weird. I even have a parking spot there … for Dr. Cullen.”

Facinelli played Dr. Carlisle Cullen, head of the Forks-based vampire clan in the “Twilight” film series. Those mega-hits were shot in Oregon and British Columbia, but never in the small Olympic Peninsula town where they were set.

Since Aug. 15, Facinelli has been in the South Sound making a new thriller that doesn’t involve the supernatural.

“Heartthrob” is being shot entirely in and around Tacoma by Hollywood producer Mark Myers.

“When I read the script, it seemed like it should take place here,” Myers said Thursday.

He should know. Myers is a Tacoma native and Wilson High School alumnus.

Along with Facinelli, the film stars Keir Gilchrist (“United States of Tara”), Ione Skye (“Say Anything”) and several other actors.

“It’s a teen romance that spirals out of control and becomes a teen thriller,” said director Chris Sivertson. “It’s about the intensity of love and the fine line between love and obsession.”

Sivertson and Myers made a scouting trip to the area in June. The director was inspired by the Northwest rainy weather he encountered during his visit.

But there’s been none of that during the shoot.

“Well, this is definitely more production-friendly,” Sivertson said of the balmy weather late Thursday. “But overcast (skies) is just one way to create a moody feel. We can create a creepy environment with the way we light it and shoot it.”

Late Wednesday, the production shot a murder scene at Titlow Beach.

“I loved the remains of that old pier and we had a full moon last night, so it was a nice creepy backdrop,” Sivertson said.

The crew was filming during the day at Gig Harbor, which will be portrayed as a “nicer part of Tacoma” Myers said. Sorry, Gig Harbor.

But Tacoma’s role might go unacknowledged — save for the credits. Myers is unsure whether he will name the city in the movie or leave it anonymous.

Other locations include Bates Technical College’s parking garage, a Puyallup roller skating rink, private residences, Steilacoom’s Sunnyside Beach and some all-night shoots at Marcia’s Silver Spoon Cafe, a diner on South Tacoma Way.

Bright lights were shining inside and outside of Marcia’s late Thursday as Gilchrist stood on South Tacoma Way waiting for his cue to enter scene 129.

Inside the diner, Facinelli was seated at the counter chatting with the female lead while the crew tested sound and adjusted lighting.

The identity of the film’s lead actress, who plays the love interest of Gilchrist’s character, is being kept under wraps until the production is finished. She’s the co-star of a long-running TV series.

About 20 crew members were squeezed into one half of the diner for Thursday’s shoot. The boom operator was jammed next to the camera operator, who was pressed against a makeup artist.

Facinelli picked an empty coffee mug off the counter.

“Somebody fill this with real coffee,” he said. A plate with a half-eaten hamburger was in front of him. Not satisfied with the black coffee, Facinelli stepped behind the counter for milk.

The big-budget “Twilight” films grossed $3.3 billion in ticket sales worldwide. “Heartthrob” is being made for less than $1 million. Which is fine by Facinelli.

“I love shooting independent movies,” he said on a break in his trailer. “They’re very intimate. If I find a good story, I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Facinelli plays a teacher in “Heartthrob,” but offered few details.

“You’ll have to watch the movie to find out,” he said.

The actor said he is enjoying his first shoot in Washington, particularly Mount Rainier, which he viewed with a uniquely Hollywood perspective.

“It looked like the Paramount (Pictures) symbol the other day,” Facinelli said.

Marcia’s, where the lead female character works in the movie, will account for a good 20 minutes of screen time in the film, Sivertson said. The producers were attracted by Marcia’s authenticity.

Just as the sun was setting Thursday, the crew had Marcia’s ready for scene 129.

“Roll camera … action,” assistant director John Hermann called out.

Gilchrist stormed into the diner.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded of Facinelli before shoving him.

One of Marcia’s real employees, Trevor Moore, is an extra in the film.

Late Thursday, the 19-year-old cook was seated at a table, eating a hamburger and fries. And eating them again. And then again.

It took several takes to get scene 129 just right.

Hermann instructed Moore to turn and look at Gilchrist when he shoves Facinelli during the minute-long scene.

Moore was nonplussed about his big Hollywood break.

“The fries are kind of stale, but to make it real I ate them,” he said.

In a corner booth sat extras Patricia Baker of Tacoma and her 12-year-old daughter Alina. They had been recruited from the 130 extras used at the roller skating rink shoot.

“It’s neat to find out how everything is made,” Patricia said of the process.

Like Facinelli, it was Gilchrist’s first time working in Washington. In September, the 23-year-old Canadian actor’s latest film premieres. He stars opposite “The Godfather” actor James Caan in the thriller, “The Good Neighbor.”

“I’m really excited about it,” Gilchrist said of the film where he plays a teen who pranks Caan only to learn too late that he’s picked the wrong old man to mess with.

Gilchrist said it’s just coincidence that “Heartthrob” and “The Good Neighbor” are thrillers.

“I don’t have any specifications for scripts that I read or roles that I take,” Gilchrist said. “If it’s something good, then I’ll meet with the director. I met with Chris and we have a lot in common and we hit it off, and now we’re here.”

Sivertson said the 50-person crew and 19 cast members, half of whom are locals, have been enjoying making “Heartthrob.”

“Everyone’s been so welcoming,” he said. “In Southern California, people are just jaded to it.”

“Heartthrob” will be in theaters in summer 2017.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

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