He is not an easy scare. Anthony LaPaglia laughs when asked if doing a movie like “Annabelle: Creation” gave him the willies.
“It’s funny because some members of this cast have said that their biggest fear in life is being completely alone,” the Aussie actor says. “There are days when that’s my biggest desire.”
In the second “Annabelle” film, LaPaglia plays the distraught doll maker who created the possessed piece of plastic that’s then inhabited by his deceased daughter. Now living with his wife (Miranda Otto), he invites several young orphans to stay in his creepy, remote, million-places-to-die house in the middle of nowhere. Hint: Don’t go wandering late at night, don’t go in the barn, and skip that locked room where something is trapped in the closet.
For LaPaglia, a little scare fare is a nice change of pace after seven seasons on the CBS hit “Without a Trace.”
Review-Journal: What is the typical Sunday like for you?
LaPaglia: It’s a day of rest. I read the paper or a book, plus I hang out with my 14-year-old daughter, who incidentally is really into this whole horror genre. Nothing I’ve ever done in my life has impressed her, but she loves that I’m in ‘Annabelle.’ I mean it. She never even watched my TV show.
You spent seven years of your life on that show…
She didn’t watch it. But then this script for ‘Annabelle: Creation’ came to the house. When I was reading this script, my daughter said, ‘Oh God, you have to do this movie. You can’t say no.’ I went from being an okay dad to being a really cool dad.
What appealed to you about the ‘Annabelle’ franchise, which comes from ‘The Conjuring, a film that kept most of the nation up at night?
I loved that there’s not a ton of blood and guts in this movie. It’s psychological. It’s a much more difficult way to tell a horror story and raises the genre a little bit. Plus, I got to work with director David F. Sandberg, who did a great movie called ‘Lights Out.’
How did you convince him you were the guy to create this bad, now-iconic doll?
We met at some Hollywood place and at the end of the meal, the check came. David looked at me and said, ‘Am I supposed to pick this up?’ I said, ‘Normally, yes. Didn’t they give you an expense account?’ He said no. I said, ‘I’m going to pick this up, but if you decide to go another way and cast another actor then just remember one thing. You owe me $60.’
In the movie, you invite these orphans into your home, which meant you had to work with a bunch of kids. Did they watch your TV show?
(Laughing): I’m not sure. I did make the decision early on that I wouldn’t be friendly or get close to them. I wanted them to be in fear and not really get this guy. I think I freaked them out a bit. But I wanted them to say, ‘What is this dude really about?’
You’ve had such a long, celebrated career. Ever film in Vegas?
Are you kidding me? I wish. But how would I get any work done? I’d go to the set and say, ‘Hit me!’ Wait, I like the way that just sounded. I’m going to say it again. Hit me! Vegas is all about the excitement and bright lights. There is no place like it.
There has always been a rumor that you were the first choice to play Tony Soprano, but turned the role down. True or false?
That’s a long story. I didn’t turn it down. Let’s leave it there and just say that the right person got the job.
Do you ever keep souvenirs from your movies?
I do keep souvenirs from every project. During one take filming ‘Annabelle,’ when I confront the doll, it was so intense that I fell down and split my pants. I saved the pants. I used to have a NYPD detective badge. It was a fake, but it looked real. At the time, I was living in New York and there was a doorman in my building who apparently waited until I was away, went up to my apartment and stole the badge.
Wow. So what happened?
They arrested him in Brooklyn, and he also had an arsenal of guns in his apartment. There was a picture, and in the middle of all the guns was my badge. He went to jail and I didn’t get my badge back. That’s the bad part of the story.
Jumping back to this weekend: Did your daughter see ‘Annabelle: Creation?’ Are you still a cool dad?
I was Dad of the Year. And that lasted one day. But I was good for 24 hours. That’s life when you’re a parent.
And finally, what’s your take on why we love to be scared in a dark movie theater?
I think audiences love the idea of being in danger or threatened from a safe perspective and from a comfortable seat where it’s an adrenaline rush with no damage.
An adrenaline rush with hopefully no damage. Like Vegas.