EXCLUSIVE: Anthony LaPaglia has joined Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained cast. LaPaglia will play the leader of a group of greedy Australians who encounter slave-turned-bounty hunter Django (Jamie Foxx) as they are escorting a group of slaves recently purchased as fighters. LaPaglia said he and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play mean brothers, and LaPaglia said he was bowled over by the script. “It’s wildly ambitious and imaginative, deals with that subject matter in a way it hasn’t been dealt with before,” LaPaglia told me. “The way the cast has shaped up, it’s exciting to be involved.” It will be the second film in a row where LaPaglia can readopt the Australian accent he grew up with but dropped for many of his Hollywood roles and the series Without A Trace. He wrapped the PJ Hogan-directed Mental with Toni Collette and Liev Schreiber, a film that LaPaglia said is partly based on the filmmaker’s own experiences. “I play the father, who in real life had committed his mother to a mental institution, who had five kids, picked up a hitchhiker [Collette] on the way back and said, you’re taking care of the kids now.” LaPaglia said Hogan got rights to tunes from The Sound Of Music, and uses them in unexpected ways. “I absolutely assassinate “Edelweiss,” just tear it to shreds so badly that I’m sure Christopher Plummer would have a fit. It was meant to be terrible, and it is.”

Now that he’s rebuilding his movie career after a seven-season TV run, LaPaglia can’t help but notice how badly the conditions for actors like himself have deteriorated. “I could see the writing on the wall back then, where the film business was going and what my place would be in it, and between that and my wife telling me she was pregnant and me wanting to stay home and see my daughter grow up, I made a decision that was ahead of the curve,” he said. “It was a pragmatic decision that a lot of people didn’t understand at the time.” So how are things now? “When you work for studios, the majority of the acting budget goes to the handful of megastars, and what is left is surprisingly small, and surprisingly non-negotiable. They actually go down a list, start at the top and say, ‘Will you do the part for X,’ and if somebody says no, they go right on to the next actor. That’s not a criticism, just a recognition of how the business runs now.” LaPaglia puts himself in a group he calls “careers in various states of disrepair,” and he said it encompasses the largest pool of working actors, many of whom have to do six or more movies a year just to make ends meet. “It doesn’t seem the ideal way to cast a movie, but somebody on that list is going to say yes. I’d like to get back into studio movies but am happy I can take my time. There are more interesting things in the independent sphere, generally speaking. Why do you think so many veteran actors are turning to TV series?” LaPaglia said he enjoyed his TV run, but if he ever does another, it would likely be the edgier kind on cable. “Network TV series are designed to hit straight down the middle, to appeal to the masses, a common denominator that neither offends or excites anyone. If I ever went back on TV, it would be cable, and I’d never say never.” LaPaglia is repped by CAA and Industry.