Despite spending the first 25 years of his life in Adelaide, Australia, Anthony LaPaglia is best known for playing street-savvy Italian New Yorkers. This was not, however, LaPaglia's original plan. Rather than testing the waters of show business, LaPaglia traveled to the United States intending to pursue a full-time teaching career. As luck would have it, however, one of LaPaglia's odd jobs was a small role in Cold Steel (1987), a low-budget detective drama. LaPaglia began pursuing theater and television in his spare time -- one of his more notable early performances was in 1988's Frank Nitti: The Enforcer -- and considered himself a full-time actor by 1989, when he made his feature-film debut in Slaves of New York. It was 1990, however, when the young actor earned critical recognition for his role as an exceedingly polite mobster in Betsy's Wedding.
LaPaglia continued to build his résuméthroughout the early '90s, most of which he spent playing either kindly policemen or good-hearted mobsters, and was delighted to work alongside a variety of noted actors so early in his career. Among those actors were Alan Alda in Betsy's Wedding, Michael Keaton in One Good Cop (1991), and Nathan Lane, Sharon Stone, and Kevin Bacon in He Said, She Said (1992). Later in 1992, LaPaglia could be found playing his first leading role in George Gallo's gangster farce 29th Street. Though the film did not fare particularly well, audiences were nonetheless impressed with LaPaglia's intensity, and he played a more serious gangster with great success opposite Susan Sarandon in The Client (1994). The actor switched gears for his next handful of films; in Mixed Nuts (1994) he played a disillusioned Santa Claus, while Empire Records (1995) found him as a down-on-his-luck store manager, and the Australian-helmed Brilliant Lies (1996) featured him as the defendant in a sketchy sexual-harassment case.
Despite a smattering of mediocre films between 1995 and the early 2000s, LaPaglia continued to earn critical acclaim for many of his endeavors, such as Steve Buscemi's directorial debut, Trees Lounge (1996), for which LaPaglia joined a star-studded supporting cast, as well as for his role as a detective in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam (1999). Luckily for him, 2000 and 2001 proved excellent for his career, as it was during this period that he played a wealthy businessman in The House of Mirth and an adulterous police detective in Lantana. In addition to receiving international success, Lantana earned LaPaglia the prestigious Best Actor award from the Australian Film Institute, as well as a nomination from the Film Critics Circle. In the meantime, he was adding several major television credits to his résumé, including a starring role as the head of the FBI's Missing Persons Squad on CBS's Without a Trace, and a recurring role on the long-running sitcom Frasier, a performance for which he would receive an Emmy in 2002. Far removed from his fledgling days as a teacher, 2002 also found LaPaglia working with Val Kilmer for The Salton Sea; Sigourney Weaver for The Guys; Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal in Analyze That; and Eric Stoltz in Happy Hour. In 2003, after filming Manhood with Janeane Garofalo and the late John Ritter, LaPaglia agreed to star in director Josh Sternfeld's Winter Solstice (2004).
Over the next several years, LaPaglia would appear in a number of big screen projects, like Balibo (2009), Overnight (2012) and A Good Marriage (2014).