In his latest film, Barry Pepper tries to make things right in a Broken City.How did Barry Pepper train for a life of on-screen adventure? You could say he got his feet wet as a kid, when his family built a boat and sailed the islands of the South Pacific for five years. “We managed to survive without television, video games or computers, not a single tweet or a text,” he says. “My daughter finds it hard to believe.” Now the 42-year-old, Canadian-born actor gets his kicks starring in prestigious big- and small-screen projects including Saving Private Ryan, 61 and 2011’s miniseries The Kennedys, for which he won an Emmy. This year will be a big one for Pepper, as he’ll grace the big screen in three major films: July’s The Lone Ranger; Snitch, out next month; and this month’s Broken City, in which he plays a wide-eyed politician taking down a corrupt mayor.
American Way: You’re offered so many varied roles. What drew you to Broken City?
Barry Pepper: I honestly couldn’t put the script down. There is something eminently satisfying in watching corrupt people get their due. Film audiences rejoice when villains go down because we don’t get the opportunity to applaud it often enough in real life.
AW: How much does shooting on the streets of New York influence the feel of the movie?
BP: New York City is a character of its own. It reminds me of a big-top circus: all the aromas; the peanuts, popcorn and hot-dog vendors; the horse manure; the bearded ladies — I love it. I’m a U.S. citizen now, and I feel very much at home in New York.
AW: You’re known to take your characters seriously. How tough is it to shake them off at the end of the day?
BP: I used to have a very difficult time. My wife would often have to bring me back to bed from sleepwalking and talking in character. I’ve been blessed to work with some very generous mentors who have taught me how to internalize a character without allowing it to overcome me. Now, I lock him away in the trunk when I leave set.
AW: How do you unwind when you’re off the set?
BP: Fishing is my day at the spa. I’ve been shooting The Lone Ranger on location in some of the most epic adventure destinations in America. Gore Verbinski and I are both hard-core about fly-fishing, so we’d hit the rivers whenever we had a morning or evening off.