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The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly About Tom Sizemore

By Brian Richards | Obituaries | March 6, 2023 |

By Brian Richards | Obituaries | March 6, 2023 |


Sizemore, Tom.jpg

Tom Sizemore, the character actor known for his roles in films such as Heat, Saving Private Ryan, Natural Born Killers, and Black Hawk Down, died this past Friday at the age of 61. He had suffered a brain aneurysm last month and had remained hospitalized, with recent news from Sizemore’s family stating that, according to his doctors, there was little to no hope of recovery for Sizemore, and that they would need to make an end-of-life decision on his behalf.

From CNN:

[Tom] Sizemore “passed away peacefully in his sleep” at Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, with his two sons and his brother, Paul Sizemore, by his side, [Sizemore’s representative Charles] Lago said in a statement released on behalf of the family.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my big brother Tom,” Paul Sizemore said in the statement. “He was larger than life. He has influenced my life more than anyone I know. He was talented, loving, giving and could keep you entertained endlessly with his wit and storytelling ability. I am devastated he is gone and will miss him always.”

Sizemore was best known for bringing unforgettable intensity to each and every one of his characters, who were often tough and not to be trifled with. An ex-cop-turned-private investigator with a terrifying dark side. A thief who can’t get enough of his work no matter how much money he had waiting for him at home. A cop who will literally do anything in his hunt for a pair of married serial killers. A soldier expected to carry out a near-impossible task of risking his own life to rescue another soldier so he can be sent home to his family. Sizemore’s characters, whether good or bad or walking on the edge of a razor blade where he played around with being both, would be the kind of person who would make others feel either grateful to have them as a friend, or terrified to have them as an enemy.

Sizemore made his feature film debut in the film Lock Up, opposite Sylvester Stallone as a prison inmate who befriends and then betrays Stallone’s character. He then appeared in the films Rude Awakening and Penn and Teller Get Killed, and had a recurring role on the ABC series China Beach, before snagging a role in Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July, where he played a Vietnam vet opposite Tom Cruise. He went on to grab more small but notable roles in other films like Blue Steel, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, and Flight of the Intruder. One of his most memorable appearances, despite being onscreen for less than three minutes, is in Point Break, as an undercover DEA agent who is pissed the f-ck off at FBI agents Johnny Utah and Angelo Pappas (Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey) for screwing up his three-month-long operation and causing things to go completely pear-shaped.

Sizemore would soon move on to bigger roles that would make audiences in movie theaters and execs in Hollywood sit up and take notice of what he was capable of. He co-starred in Passenger 57 as Sly DelVecchio, an airline executive who offers his close friend John Cutter (Wesley Snipes) a high-ranking position with the airline’s antiterrorism unit that results in Cutter ending up on an airplane that is soon hijacked by terrorists.

Heart and Souls had Sizemore portray Milo, a small-town thief who is killed in a bus accident along with four other people, and who maintains contact with a young businessman (Robert Downey, Jr.) in order to help him in his own life while struggling to overcome his own guilt so that he can finally move on and rest in peace.

True Romance had a large cast with many familiar faces who would later go on to achieve greater fame, Sizemore included. He played Detective Cody Nicholson, a cop who, along with his partner, Nicky Dimes (the late Chris Penn) is determined to find Clarence and Alabama Worley and take them down for trying to sell a quarter-million dollars of cocaine to a Hollywood movie producer (Saul Rubinek), though he soon grows to admire Clarence for how dangerous and unpredictable he turns out to be.

In one of his best-known roles, Sizemore appeared in another crime film with a very large cast of familiar and talented faces: Heat. He played Michael Cheritto, a highly skilled thief/bank robber who is addicted to the action and the danger that comes with his line of work (“Well, you know, for me? The action is the juice.”), even if it means being hunted by the cops and getting into a massive gunfight with them in the busy streets of Los Angeles. The film’s writer-director, Michael Mann, described Cheritto as someone who loves and adores his wife and kids, doesn’t give a damn about anyone else’s wife and kids, and would even use someone else’s child as a shield in a gunfight to protect himself. This is exactly what he does, despite Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) practically begging him to take his money and his family and disappear to greener pastures. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for Cheritto when Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) gets him in his crosshairs.

(And like many others on Twitter have already pointed out, this moment right here of Cheritto simply looking at a nearby diner customer to let him know that death and suffering is what’s coming to him if he doesn’t go back to minding his own business? One of Sizemore’s very best moments in any movie he’s appeared in.)

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In 1994, Sizemore played Bat Masterson opposite Kevin Costner and Dennis Quaid in Wyatt Earp, a.k.a. “the other film about Wyatt Earp that isn’t Tombstone.” He also appeared in Oliver Stone’s extremely controversial Natural Born Killers as Jack Scagnetti, a cop who is utterly relentless in his pursuit of the homicidal couple, Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis), and who spends his free time sleeping with sex workers right before murdering them.

In the same year that Heat opened in theaters, Sizemore also appeared in two little-seen but much-beloved cult classics: He was in Devil in a Blue Dress as DeWitt Albright, a private investigator who hires Easy Rawlins (Denzel Washington) to find a missing white woman named Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals). And he was also in Strange Days as Max Peltier, ex-cop-turned-private investigator, and best friend to fellow ex-cop-turned-SQUID dealer Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes). If you’ve seen Strange Days, you know what Sizemore truly brings to the table, and how he turns out to be more than just the tough-but-loyal sidekick. And if you haven’t seen Strange Days? You need to fix that ASAP.

In 1997, Sizemore scored his first lead role in the horror film The Relic as a detective who teams up with a biologist (Penelope Ann Miller) to stop a monster that is killing anyone and everyone in its path inside of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

That same year, Sizemore had one of his biggest roles in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan as Sgt. Horvath, second-in-command to Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks), who accompanies him on their mission to find Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) and retrieve him so that he can be sent home to be with his family after his three brothers are killed in battle.

Sizemore went on to appear in other films such as Enemy of the State, Bringing out the Dead, Get Carter, Red Planet, Pearl Harbor, Dreamcatcher, Witness Protection, and Black Hawk Down, and in television shows such as Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Hawaii Five-O, Lucifer, Shooter, and the third season of Twin Peaks. He also provided the voice of mobster Sonny Forelli in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and had the lead role in the short-lived but critically acclaimed CBS series Robbery Homicide Division, in which he played Sam Cole, chief detective for the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide unit which handled many of the worst high-profile crimes occurring in the city. If Robbery Homicide Division sounds exactly like Heat: The Series, that’s because it pretty much was, as even Sizemore’s portrayal of Cole was similar to Vincent Hanna, and how Pacino portrayed him onscreen.

When news became public of Sizemore’s declining health, followed by his death, many of his former colleagues and peers reached out to pay tribute to the actor.

From USA Today:

John Travolta recalled making his 2018 crime drama “Speed Kills” with Sizemore. “I found him to be an excellent character actor,” Travolta wrote in an Instagram Story. “He knew exactly what he was doing.

“I enjoyed the experience working with him very much. He will be missed.”

Despite how much attention Sizemore received for his immense talent as an actor, he also received attention from the media for more unfortunate reasons. Since the age of 15, Sizemore had dealt with drug addiction, and that very same addiction contributed to many of his legal issues as an adult, including his 2003 arrest for domestic violence against his then-girlfriend, Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, his 2007 arrest for possession of methamphetamine outside the Four Seasons Hotel, and an actual claim from Sizemore that Elizabeth Hurley, who once dated Sizemore, was once involved in an affair with President Bill Clinton. It wasn’t until legal action was pursued against Sizemore that he admitted this to be entirely false, and something that he admitted to making up while he was still dealing with substance abuse. According to Sizemore, Robert De Niro himself stepped in to help him seek treatment and enter rehab, but unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep him clean and sober. He would later be arrested for misdemeanor drug possession in 2019.

As if all that wasn’t enough to make his fans and his peers shake their heads in disappointment, The Hollywood Reporter revealed in a 2017 article that Sizemore had been removed from the set for the film Piggy Banks (later retitled as Born Killers) for sexual molestation of an 11-year-old during production.

When contacted, the now 26-year-old former actress, whom THR is not identifying at her request, declined to address the matter except to note that she’s recently hired a lawyer to explore legal action against the actor as well as her parents. Sizemore declined to address the situation. “Our position is ‘no comment,’” says his agent Stephen Rice.

THR spoke to a dozen people involved with the production of the film, a crime thriller called Born Killers (shot as Piggy Banks). They confirmed Sizemore was sent home over the alleged incident. According to these cast- and crewmembers, rumors swirled and emotions rose on set over what had allegedly transpired. Sizemore is said to have denied the young actress’ claim as soon as he was confronted with it. His management firm Untitled and talent agency CAA quietly dropped him shortly afterward.

There were no charges filed against Sizemore by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office due to “witness and evidence problems,” and in 2018, a lawsuit was filed against him by the then-26-year-old actress he was accused of abusing on set. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2020, and Sizemore spoke out about the effect this experience had on both himself and his career.

“Beyond the loss of work and the pain and humiliation this has caused me and my family, the thought that an 11-year old girl would think I violated her, whether it be because she misconstrued some inadvertent touching when the director placed her upon my lap for the photo shoot or someone else instilled this idea in her head for whatever malicious, self-serving reasons, is what devastates me most.”

Because of his combined issues with drugs, his arrests for domestic violence, and the accusations of sexual abuse, Sizemore’s career had faltered, and would never again reach the heights that it did in the 1990s. He was able to continue finding roles in low-budget, direct-to-DVD films such as Company of Heroes, SEAL Team 8: Behind Enemy Lines, and Murder 101 that kept him booked and busy until he was recently hospitalized. Sizemore also wrote a memoir, with co-author Anna David, about his life titled By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There, which was published in 2016.

Tom Sizemore’s death is another unfortunate example of an immensely talented artist who gave critics and audiences so many reasons to love and admire their work, while also giving them reasons to be angered and disgusted by decisions in their personal life that were hurtful and destructive to the people around them. Many of us are clearly aware (either from personal experience, or from knowing and loving someone who has struggled with it) of what addiction to drugs and alcohol can do to a person, and that it’s easier said than done for someone to take the necessary steps to become clean and sober, and to stay that way. Sizemore isn’t the first celebrity whose issues with substance abuse has damaged their life and their career, and as painful and difficult as his struggle may have been, it doesn’t excuse nearly everything he did to others that resulted in him being escorted in handcuffs multiple times to appear in court. So much like the deaths of XXXTentacion, and of John Singleton, and Paul Walker, don’t be too surprised if you see that the responses to Sizemore’s passing are divided between those who will miss him and are sorry that he’s gone, and those who are far less upset about his death, and who refuse to let his resumé as an actor whitewash his abusive behavior toward women.

Tom Sizemore is survived by his brother, Paul, and his two sons, Jayden and Jagger.

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Header Image Source: Christopher Polk/FilmMagic; Getty Images