Barry Pepper a bad guy for a change

 

Jack Abramoff biopic Casino Jack opens Friday

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By Madeleine Marr

Barry Pepper may play a greedy scam artist in Casino Jack, about the fall of corrupt D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but in reality, he couldn't more different. Speaking from his home last month in his native Canada, the actor best known as the devout sniper in Saving Private Ryan was readying gift baskets at his farm, which includes a garden and orchard. "We're very traditional so there's not a lot of shopping that happens," says the married father of a 10-year- old daughter.

"We sort of have gone back to the origin of Christmas. All year we're harvesting. We can and jar and dry fruits and vegetables." Pepper, 40, sees the irony of play- ing Abramoff sidekick Mike Scanlon, a former communications director for Rep. Tom DeLay, lobbyist, and PR executive who plead guilty to corruption charges in 2005. ‘‘I couldn't be more opposite," says Pepper, who also costars in True Grit, adding, "Though I personally don't know Mike Scanlon."

The actor thinks they are similar in one respect -- a dual life. ‘‘I sort of have one foot in Holly- wood and one foot in Canada," says Pepper, who became a dual citizen in 2006. "After 15 years of paying taxes I figured I should be able to vote." Pepper enjoyed playing the free- spending playboy -- it was a refresh- ing change from some of his previous straight-up roles; e.g, a prison guard in The Green Mile, baseball great Roger Maris in HBO's 61* and journalist Joseph L. Galloway in We Were Soldiers.

"It was fun but much more of a challenge than I expected," Pepper admits. "You don't have a mask to hide behind and you're not covered in dirt or wearing wooly chaps or carrying a machine gun."

The movie is out Friday.

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