Barry Robert Pepper was born on April 4, 1970, in Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada. He has two older brothers named Alex and Doug Pepper. The Peppers didn’t stick around Campbell River for too long. They had been building a ship in their backyard for years. When Barry was five years old, the ship was done and the family set sail. The ship, named “The Moonlighter,” was a 50-foot craft that would be their home for the next five years. They navigated through the South Pacific islands, using only a sextant and the stars as guides. While visiting such exotic locales as Fiji and Tahiti, Barry was educated through correspondence courses and sometimes enrolled in public schools. He grew up around Polynesian children and credits them for his love of dance, music and other expressive arts. Barry had plenty of time to practice his newfound loves, too. Without television as entertainment on the ship, the family relied on games and sketch acting for fun. When the five-year cruise was over, the Peppers returned to their native Canada, where they set up shop on a small island off the West Coast near Vancouver. They built a farm on the outskirts of a small artists’ town, which was populated mainly by hippies, poets, musicians and other craftsmen. While in high school, Barry was enthusiastic about art and excelled in sports. In addition to playing volleyball, he was an excellent rugby player. He graduated in 1988 from George P. Vanier High School in Courtenay and then enrolled in college and majored in marketing and graphic design, but after getting involved with the Vancouver Actors Studio, he changed his course. Once again, he was using “the stars” to navigate. Barry landed his first role on Madison (1993) (a sort of Canadian 90210) and other prominent television series before moving on to more prestigious roles in the US. Television movies followed, most notably the mini-series Titanic (1996), which costarred George C. Scott. Still, Barry’s career really wasn’t taking off. He was a hard-working actor, but not a star. That all changed in 1998. After a string of big screen duds, Pepper obtained his breakthrough role as a Bible-quoting sniper in Steven Spielberg’s WW II drama Saving Private Ryan (1998). With the success of the film came sudden stardom for its cast–complete with photo spreads, interviews and even some Oscar buzz. Barry followed the film with a small but noteworthy role in the blockbuster, Enemy of the State (1998) opposite Will Smith and Gene Hackman. Next he co-starred in an Oscar-worthy film starring Tom Hanks: Stephen King’s The Green Mile (1999). Barry received much critical acclaim in 2001 for his portrayal of Roger Maris in the made-for-cable drama about the 1961 home run race between Maris and Mickey Mantle called 61* (2001).
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