I ain’t so bad

A gritty true- crime role has brought Jonathan Lapaglia back to Aus­tralia, writes Dar­ren Dev­lyn

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - EGuide Television -

IT reads like a story penned by a de­ranged hor­ror nov­el­ist.

Soon to be played out in Un­der­belly: Bad­ness, the real- life crimes of An­thony Per­ish seem near unimag­in­able in their bru­tal­ity.

In April, An­thony and his brother An­drew were fi­nally jailed for plot­ting the murder of a con­victed drug dealer they be­lieved had slain their grand­par­ents in 1993.

A wit­ness told the Supreme Court that Terry Fal­coner, who in 2001 was on work re­lease from jail, was cut up in a shed on a prop­erty near Gir­van, north of New­cas­tle, NSW, with his body dumped in the Hast­ings River in seven parcels the next morn­ing. Fal­coner was found with teeth pulled out and wrapped in plas­tic bags on a bank of the river.

In the Supreme Court, Jus­tice Derek Price jailed An­thony, to be played by Jonathan LaPaglia ( pic­tured) in Un­der­belly, for at least 18 years for the murder of Fal­coner and for con­spir­ing to kill him. His brother An­drew ( played by Josh Quong Tart) was jailed for at least nine years for the con­spir­acy.

Jus­tice Price found An­thony had been the mas­ter­mind of a metic­u­lously planned op­er­a­tion, in­volv­ing the re­cruit­ment of other men who pre­tended to be po­lice of­fi­cers and ab­ducted Fal­coner.

An­thony has a crim­i­nal ca­reer span­ning more than two decades and has been linked to drugs, guns and bikies. Also known as ‘‘ Rooster’’, he and An­drew, nick­named ‘‘ Undies’’, make prime ma­te­rial for an Un­der­belly se­ries.

But LaPaglia, 42, had lit­tle time to im­merse him­self in re­search be­cause he was film­ing within a week of be­ing cast.

‘‘ I would have liked to have had more time to let it per­co­late,’’ LaPaglia says.

‘‘ Hav­ing said that, there wasn’t re­ally that much in­for­ma­tion on this guy. There’s no video footage, no au­dio. I couldn’t talk to his coun­sel; so it was re­ally just what we learnt from the court tran­scripts and what the po­lice could tell us.

‘‘ He was just the type of char­ac­ter that was truly un­der­ground, un­der the radar.

‘‘ He wasn’t your typ­i­cal gang­ster who wanted ev­ery­one to know how wealthy he was. He wasn’t liv­ing the high life, so there was no in­for­ma­tion on him. He didn’t have a driver’s li­cence, didn’t have credit cards, didn’t own prop­erty or cars in his own name. No­body knew about him.’’

The Per­ish broth­ers were raised in semi- ru­ral Lep­ping­ton in south­west­ern Sydney, the grand­chil­dren of Croa­t­ian im­mi­grants. LaPaglia has given much thought to what may have mo­ti­vated Per­ish.

‘‘ From what I can gather from the scripts, I think he was try­ing to prove him­self to his grand­par­ents and his par­ents. There was a lot of tough love com­ing from the grand­par­ents.

‘‘ I think their favourite was his brother An­drew and there was re­sent­ment be­tween the broth­ers be­cause of that.’’

LaPaglia was raised with older brother An­thony ( star of With­out A Trace ) in South Aus­tralia. Jonathan stud­ied medicine and worked as an emer­gency- room physi­cian be­fore his act­ing ca­reer.

He’s been a work­ing ac­tor for al­most 20 years, but recog­ni­tion did not come in Aus­tralia un­til last year, when he de­liv­ered a knock­out per­for­mance in the ABC minis­eries The Slap.

He is based in Los Angeles with wife Ur­sula and daugh­ter Tilly, 7.

‘‘ I am at­tracted to Aus­tralian stuff be­cause there is a real raw­ness to it. I’ve been in­cred­i­bly lucky in Amer­ica [ The Dis­trict, Seven Days and New York Un­der­cover ] and had some great work op­por­tu­ni­ties there also . . . but Amer­ica can pol­ish stuff too much for my taste.’’

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