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Why Private Jackson From Saving Private Ryan Looks So Familiar

There are many reasons why Saving Private Ryan is still considered one of the best war movies ever made. From its horrifyingly realistic recreation of the Omaha Beach landing on D-Day to its willingness to dissect the morality of soldiers fighting on both sides, the film is more than just a war movie, but an education in the toll World War II took on soldiers. 

Another crucial element that helped Steven Spielberg's film come to life was its stellar cast that included stars like Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and Ed Burns. Even those cast in small cameos are instantly recognizable — from Ted Danson to Bryan Cranston to Vin Diesel to Paul Giamatti. But another actor in the film should look familiar to many audiences.

Journeyman actor Barry Pepper played Private Daniel Jackson, a soldier aiding Captain Miller (Hanks) in the mission to locate and send home Private James Ryan. Jackson is most memorable for two things: his Christianity (he kisses the cross and quotes scripture while fighting) and his deadly aim as a sniper (he claims God made him a "fine instrument of warfare").

Pepper and the film are memorable for many reasons, but it's likely you've seen the actor in many other roles, including in films like *61 and 25th Hour. Here are a few more of his most notable movies.

Pepper played a corrections officer in The Green Mile

After the massive critical and commercial success of Saving Private Ryan, Pepper reunited with Hanks to co-headline the 1999 film adaptation of Stephen King's The Green Mile. In the film, Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, a correctional officer working in a 1930's Louisiana penitentiary and supervising a young guard, Dean Stanton, played by Pepper. Pepper's character is notable for being one of the sympathetic guards working on death row. 

Stanton was a young father of three who narrowly escaped death after being strangled by new inmate William "Wild Bill" Wharton (Sam Rockwell). In an interview with entertainment reporter Bobbie Wygant, Pepper said the role was "emotionally difficult and taxing" because of how visceral the execution scenes were. "I don't think that my character ever really enjoyed coming to work, but it was a necessity to survive, providing for his family." 

The tragic story contributed to the shoring up of Pepper's dramatic bona fides, which had already been established by his work in Saving Private Ryan.

Pepper drastically altered his appearance to play a villain in True Grit

It would seem Pepper is unable to escape his Saving Private Ryan co-stars, as he again acted alongside Damon in the Coen Brothers remake of the 1969 John Wayne Western, True Grit. Instead of fighting Nazis together in France, Damon and Pepper go further back in time to the Old West. Damon plays LaBoeuf, a Texas ranger who helps aid in the search for Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed Mattie Ross' (Hailee Steinfeld) father. Pepper plays "Lucky Ned" Pepper (no relation), a spittle-spewing bandit who's as unattractive as he is evil.

The role, originally portrayed by Robert Duvall in the 1969 version of the film, turned the handsome, often heroic, Pepper into a crooked toothed, dirt-faced villain. Pepper said he only filmed the role for a few short weeks and ended up with "maybe 15 minutes on screen," but he told the The Wall Street Journal that filming the movie was an "extraordinary adventure" and he praised the Coen Brothers for their "effortless grace" as filmmakers.

Pepper also received personal acclaim for his portrayal of "Lucky Ned," with Collider writing that the actor "disappears in the role." A Reddit thread created by user thumbtackpress said that despite Pepper's limited screen time he "certainly left an indelible mark in my mind."

Pepper led the resistance in The Maze Runner franchise

One of Pepper's most recent roles was also one of his most high-profile. Breaking from a pattern, Pepper doesn't reappear alongside any of his Saving Private Ryan co-stars in this one. 

Pepper was added to the Maze Runner cast for its sequels, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. He played Vince, the leader of a resistance group called the Right Arm that aims to fight the villainous organization WCKD.

Pepper surprised fans in 2016 when he posted a video to his YouTube channel entitled "BlacksmithPepper" in which he revealed he forged custom knives for his characters. In the video said he wanted to build a "badass post apocalyptic knife for Vince out of a railroad spike." He then proceeded to craft the weapon and admits what he's doing is "not very advanced blacksmithing." But it's pretty cool considering most actors don't commit so heavily to their roles as to build custom weapons for them.

That's apparently just the kind of actor Barry Pepper is: committed.