Pepper’s defining skill is that he can look so serious it seems effortless. This is evident in his performance as sniper Jackson in Saving Private Ryan, in the 8 hour miniseries The Kennedys and in Terrence Malick’s new film The Counselor. Pepper is often regarded as a Woody Harrelson-type but I think that’s unfair. Here are his best lead performances.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
In Saving Private Ryan, Pepper embodies the hardened, determined soldier who takes his mission seriously and is willing to sacrifice himself for his unit. His performance in this movie is one of the best examples of his ability to portray an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. As the film progresses, Pepper is forced to confront a series of threefold negations: those of his body, his moral view, and his perception of the world around him. At the core of these negotiations is the question of whether or not he can rise above the inhuman and reach a higher sense of humanity.
In the years following his star turn in Saving Private Ryan, Pepper continued to build on his burgeoning career with critically acclaimed performances as Jonnie Goodboy Tyler in Battlefield Earth, Roger Maris in the made-for-cable 61* (2001), and Sergeant Michael Strank in Flags of Our Fathers (2006). In addition, he continues to pursue his interests in blacksmithing, prospecting, his organic garden and orchard, and seasonal hunting for wild edibles in the rain forests, mountains and oceans of the Pacific Northwest.
Enemy of the State (1998)
Pepper was born in Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada and began acting at a young age. He credits his parents for igniting his love of the arts. His father was a lumberjack, and when he was finished with work he and his family set sail on their 50-foot sailboat the Moonlighter. For five years, the family sailed throughout the South Pacific Islands, using celestial navigation and a sextant. Pepper grew up in close contact with Polynesian children, who influenced his love for music and dance.
After a few big screen duds, Pepper got his breakthrough with the blockbuster Saving Private Ryan. His portrayal of a bible-quoting sniper drew critical praise and Oscar buzz. He followed this success with a role in another high-profile flixtor film, Enemy of the State.
The Green Mile (1999)
The Green Mile is a difficult film to watch, with its depictions of cruel prison violence, animal cruelty, and three electric chair executions that are horrific to the extreme. It also features a number of religious themes and connotations, including miracles, guilt, and duty that are handled with care and skill. But despite its hefty runtime and the occasional syrupy sentimentality, it is still a compelling drama and one of Pepper’s best performances.
Whether playing a heroic figure or a complex antagonist, Pepper is a tremendous actor who can bring depth to even the most minor of roles. His work in The Green Mile is no exception, and it earned him a well-deserved Oscar nomination. After this success, he continued to deliver memorable performances as Jonnie Goodboy Tyler in Saving Private Ryan, Roger Maris in Flags of Our Fathers, and Sergeant Michael Strank in True Grit.
Trigger Point (2002)
The movie has a lot of action and some cool sequences, from the ins and outs of Shaw’s heavily protected country house to a shoot-out among a row of greenhouses surrounded by a field. But director Brad Turner and writer Michael Vickerman don’t do much to distinguish this film from other cliche ridden B movies, and it’s hard to see how this could launch a new franchise for Pepper.
While Pepper is certainly a good action hero, he’s better in supporting or smaller leading roles and has been unable to replicate the success of films like 61* and Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. He’s still a solid performer, though, and it remains to be seen whether or not he has the star power to overcome his limitations.
The Dale Earnhardt Story (2004)
In addition to a diverse filmography, Pepper has worked extensively in television. He starred in the series Revelations and The Peacemaker, as well as a number of episodes of the hit TV series Lost. He has also been seen in The Sopranos, The West Wing, and a host of other popular shows.
Despite his impressive resume, Pepper remains restless and in search of new challenges. He is currently working on a project with director Terrence Malick, in which he plays a priest. Pepper will star alongside Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem, and Ben Affleck. The upcoming drama will be released in 2021. It’s not the first time Pepper has worked with the award-winning director, as he previously starred in his 2004 drama The Jacket. The film was based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe and received an Academy Award nomination. It was also nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best British Film.