Anthony LaPaglia

The latest Australian film to reach cinemas is A Month Of Sundays and I recently caught up with star Anthony LaPaglia to talk about it…

Matt:  We know how tough it can be to get funding for Australian films and often you need to attract a big star on a project to really get the ball rolling.  How did this script come across your radar?

Anthony:  This project had a slightly different journey.  I’m friends with Matt Saville and I really like his work.  He’d been working on this project for a while and when it came time to get it off the ground, he sent me the script.  It filled two criteria – I liked it and I wanted to work with him so it happened fairly easily.

Matt:  You star in the film but you’re also credited as an executive producer.  What did that part of the role entail?

Anthony:  That’s garnishing I think. *laughs*  To be fair, I took that part seriously.  Matt and producer Nick Batzias included me in a lot of stuff to do with the film. 

Matt:  We all know about George Miller and Baz Lurhmann but Matthew Saville is quieting put together a very impressive resume (Felony, Noise, The Slap, Cloudstreet) and is becoming one of Australia’s more prolific directors.  What’s his secret?  What’s he like to work with?

Anthony:  Matt thinks outside the box.  He’s got a warped sense of humour that is in line with my own.  First and foremost, he’s very committed to his craft.  He likes actors and while that may sound unusual, there are times when you work with directors who don’t because they think actors are ruining their film.

Matt:  You grew up in South Australia but I was reading this was the first time you’d actually made a film in South Australia.  Was that the case?  What was it like?

Anthony:  In the 30 years prior I think I’d spent about 2 days in Adelaide.  That in itself was quite a surreal journey.  I caught up with old soccer mates and a bunch of extended family.   It’s funny because I failed to recognise a lot of Adelaide as so much has changed over that time.

Matt:  A Roy Morgan poll last year that just 8% of those surveyed felt that real estate acted with a high amount of ethics and honesty – ranking it the 3rd lowest profession behind car salesman and advertising people.  Was there a lot you learned having to play one in this film?

Anthony:  I’m now of an age where I’ve bought and sold a few properties and so I’ve had plenty of experience with real estate agents.  I drew on some of the not-so-positive experiences to put into the character.

Matt:  Who came up with all the blurbs about each property that we hear you narrating in the film?

Anthony:  That came from Matt as he wrote the script.  His father was in real estate and I think that background knowledge also helped.  Speaking the jargon felt like speaking Chinese to me.

Matt:  You play quite a forlorn, depressed character which can often be difficult to illustrate on screen as it’s something entirely within the mind.  What’s your approach?  How do you go about that?

Anthony:  I see film as a visual medium.  It’s not radio.  The less dialogue you have, the better.  When you look at it on screen, you can pick up on the subtlety of a raised eyebrow or a look sideways.  These things tell a story in themselves.  

Matt:  The plot device that brings you and Julia Blake together struck me as odd at first but then the connection that develops between you two really is the heart and soul of the movie.  Was it an easy connection to build?

Anthony:  When you’re working with fantastic actors, it makes you look so much better than you can be.  She’s so good as an actor but also as a human.  It was quite easy to develop that relationship with her.

Matt:  John Clarke offers the comic relief in the film where you’re playing the straight guy and he’s the one being sarcastically humorous.  I’m guessing those scenes were a lot fun?

Anthony:  He has the best comic timing of perhaps anyone I’ve ever worked with.  I messed up a lot of scenes with him because he’d make me laugh.  You could see the crew working hard not to laugh also.  You can’t teach that.

Matt:  You’ve been touring the film around Australia over the past week with some Q&A sessions.  What’s the reception been like?

Anthony:  It’s been fantastic.  You can always tell with Q&As.  The response has been enthusiastic and there have been a lot of questions.  A guy last night asked me about a transition from Julia’s character getting involved with John Clarke’s character’s father who was in an institution.  He didn’t see how that jump could possibly happen.  It shows that audiences are very astute.  My theory was that Matt Saville wants audiences to work as opposed to having the emotional content of a film spoon fed to you. 

Matt:  A lot is made about the state of the film industry in Australia.  Some are optimistic, some are pessimistic.  After a record year at the box-office in 2015 with films like Mad Max: Fury Road and The Dressmaker, what are your thoughts on the state of Australian cinema at the moment?

Anthony:  My views of Australian cinema are always positive.  We have a track record over the last 30 years of consistently churning out world class movies.  We have world class talent not just in front of the camera but also in behind the camera.  Because of the lack of finance, Australian storytellers have to be so much more creative in how they achieve what they want to achieve.  That energy generates ingenuity and that’s what makes Australian films unique.  I’ve always said that the mistake to make is to follow the American model.  It doesn’t work here because Australians have a different sensibility and a different sense of humour. 

Matt:  What are you working on at the moment?  When will we see you on screen next?

Anthony:  I’ve had a busy year working on 7 independent films.  The next thing coming out will be the second series of The Code.  That’s the first thing that’ll be coming out.