VetFamily: Peter Sarsgaard, Actor

Peter Sarsgaard

Actor Peter Sarsgaard was born on a U.S. Air Force base, grew up living the military brat lifestyle, and is successfully channeling his wide range of experiences into A-list movies such as Jarhead, The Magnificent Seven and 2017 Oscar hopeful Jackie in his lead supporting role of Bobby Kennedy.

“Unlike most of the actors in the film, I know this world,” he told the New York Times after the release of Jarhead, about Marines during the first Gulf War of 1991. “I was born on an Air Force base in Illinois; my uncle was killed in Vietnam, and I have a cousin in a covert branch of the military who told me that he's using the same weapon, an M-203, that I'm using in Jarhead."'

Ever since he was born at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, where his father served as an air traffic controller, Sarsgaard seemed destined to thrive as a military brat – a life filled with travel and diverse experiences. During his childhood, he moved 12 times, including his father’s service and civilian career at IBM, which Sarsgaard jokingly calls “I’ve Been Moved.”

“I think it might be what makes it so that I can have the idea of the variety of people in the world, different incomes,” he told Indiewire.com “That helps. When you’re going to play someone, it’s interesting and nice to see experiences that aren’t like yours. But there’s always the remarkable similarity of all people”

Sarsgaard’s career has spanned two decades and thrust him into the spotlight with big movies. He made his screen debut in Tim Robbins' Dead Man Walking in 1995, then picked up roles in other noteworthy screenplays such as Boys Don’t Cry in 1999, and later critical acclaim in Shattered Glass in 2003 and Kinsey in 2004. His performance in Shattered Glass netted him a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the Golden Globes.

A year later, it was his moving depiction in Jarhead, a screenplay written by Veterans Advantage Advisory Board member and Marine William Broyles, that we see him breaking out. Soon after our nation’s second military conflict in Iraq began, the movie is now seen to foreshadow the challenges of transitioning military today.

“It gave me some insight into what happens in boot camp, what they are doing to them,” he told indieLondon. “It’s to remove that little section of your brain that would make you hesitate before you even think of killing someone who was about to kill you, or someone next to you. Hopefully, they don’t remove so much of it that you start killing people who aren’t about to kill you. It’s a very delicate thing that they are doing to their minds.”

Jackie, which is expected to pick up nominations for the Academy Awards on January 24, depicts the four days after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It opened recently to wide critical acclaim. Rolling Stone called it a “Major Oscar Contender,” and Sarsgaard’s role “outstanding.” Variety magazine reported this month that Luminoso Technologies, an artificial intelligence startup, is predicting it will win the Oscars Best Picture category.

Once again, it seems Sarsgaard has a picked a movie that is a lesson for our nation’s current climate.

“To me, it was a time, especially when you look at what’s going on now, where America was one,” he says in a video interview on IMDB. “I think of it as a time when the country was incredibly together, and she (Jackie Kennedy) gave people that opportunity by sharing her grief. She did not have to share her grief.”

A father of two, Sarsgaard is married to actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, the sister of Jake Gyllenhaal, who co-starred in Jarhead with him.

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