Ever since he gained worldwide critical and audience attention for his portrayal of Private Jackson in Steven Spielberg’s classic, Academy Award-winning feature Saving Private Ryan, Vancouver Island-born actor Barry Pepper has been sought for compelling roles by a variety of filmmakers in Canada and in the United States.
Although born on Vancouver Island, his family later relocated to a farm on one of the small Gulf Islands off the West Coast of British Columbia, but not before spending a few years wandering the world on a boat. Barry Pepper was just five-years-old when his family launched a 50ft sailboat, which they hand built in a barn behind their home. Christened the “Moonlighter”, she became their home for the next five years, on an incredibly adventurous voyage throughout the Islands of the South Pacific. Like the early explorers before them, they used a sextant and celestial navigation to find places like Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, and the Marquesas Islands.
Pepper and his brothers were home schooled by his parents and enrolled in public school whenever possible, in such places as Rarotonga and New Zealand. The Polynesian people they met and lived with on the remote atolls and islands were unbound by Western reservations, young and old expressed themselves through music, singing, dancing, and storytelling, intrinsic to their way of life. These formative years developed his love of performance and with no television, and confined to a sailboat for month long crossings between countries, the young future actor intensely nurtured his imagination and creativity skills. When the Peppers returned to Canada they built a farm on a small Gulf Island off the West Coast of British Columbia.
Back in real school, he discovered his ability to act thanks to Mrs. Salter, his high school drama teacher, and went on to train under the gifted Mel Tuck, who created both the Gastown Actors’ Studio and Austin-Tuck Studios in Vancouver.
Pepper first worked in Vancouver’s film and television industry, appearing in five features or made-for-television movies before packing everything he owned into his car and driving to Los Angeles. In 1998 we was cast in Saving Private Ryan and everything changed.
His starring role as the New York Yankees’ Roger Maris in the critically acclaimed telefilm 61*, directed and executive-produced by Billy Crystal, earned him Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and Emmy Award nominations. A decade later, Pepper would win an Emmy Award for portraying the iconic Robert F. Kennedy (pictured above) in the miniseries The Kennedys, directed by Jon Cassar, as well as a Gemini Award.
In 2003, Barry Pepper executive-produced and starred in the feature The Snow Walker, which earned nine Genie Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director for Charles Martin Smith. He also executive-produced and starred in the title role of the television movie 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story, a biopic about the NASCAR legend, and was honoured with a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.
Among his other films are Tommy Lee Jones’ The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, for which he was recognized with an Independent Spirit Award nomination; George Hickenlooper’s Casino Jack, for which he received the Hollywood Spotlight Award from the Hollywood Film Festival; Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile; Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit; Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers; Spike Lee’s 25th Hour and many, many more.
Also see: Barry Pepper’s filmography.
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