I ain’t so bad
A gritty true- crime role has brought Jonathan Lapaglia back to Australia, writes Darren Devlyn
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.’’