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Political films havent fared well at the box office in recent years.

“Fair Game,” despite its starry cast, has hauled in less than $9 million since its Nov. 5 release. And films involving ideologically charged topics like the Iraq War have also struggled to reach a mass audience.

Mr. Pepper is optimistic about the film’s commercial chances. He sees movie audiences as sophisticated consumers “eager to exercise their First Amendment right in terms of dissension,” he says. Its why he tackled a project like “Casino Jack.”

Mr. Pepper’s handsome, severe visage serves him well when playing bad boys on screen. But he doesnt relish the chance to wear a black hat on screen over and again.

“I don’t take any joy in playing villainous characters. It’s quite a drain, emotionally,” he says.

“Casino Jack” may seem similarly disheartening on the surface, but the film bounces along in satirical fashion, powered by Mr. Spaceys Golden Globe- nominated performance.

Theres nothing funny about the take-away message, he warns.

“I hope the film is a cautionary tale, how our democracy is drowning under a tsunami of corporate financing and campaign fundraising,” he says. “Whats remarkable about this story is not what was illegal but what’s still legal.”