Actor Tom Sizemore, known as much for his struggles with drug addiction and run-ins with the law as for his tough-guy roles in such films as Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down, died on Friday (March 3) at age 61, said his manager, Charles Lago.
Sizemore, who was hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a brain aneurysm on February 18, died in his sleep at a hospital in Burbank, California, Lago said in a statement on Friday.
A native of Detroit, where his mother worked for the city’s ombudsman and his father was an attorney and philosophy professor, Sizemore attended Wayne State University and earned a graduate degree in theater from Temple University in Philadelphia.
As an aspiring actor in New York City waiting tables and performing in plays, Sizemore got his first break when director Oliver Stone cast him in a bit role as Vet #1 in the 1989 anti-war film Born on the Fourth of July.
Additional supporting parts followed in the early 1990s, leading to a string of higher-profile work playing hard-boiled detectives in such films as Stone’s 1994 mass murder drama Natural Born Killers, the 1995 noir mystery Devil in a Blue Dress and 1995 cyberpunk thriller Strange Days.
He also landed prominent supporting roles as frontier gunfighter Bat Masterson in Kevin Costner’s 1994 western Wyatt Earp, a violent sidekick to Robert De Niro’s career criminal in the 1995 ensemble heist movie Heat, and a paramedic with a messianic complex in Martin Scorsese’s 1999 psycho-drama Bringing Out the Dead.
Sizemore’s first major leading role came in the 1997 horror thriller The Relic, again playing a police detective. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2000 as best actor in a miniseries or made-for-television movie for his role as a mob snitch in Witness Protection.
But he is best remembered for playing battle-hardened soldiers in two films – Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War Two epic Saving Private Ryan Ridley Scott’s 2001 portrayal of the U.S. military’s ill-fated 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia, Black Hawk Down.
On television, Sizemore won plaudits for his starring role as a police detective in the short-lived CBS television drama Robbery Homicide Division. He previously had a recurring role on the ABC network’s Vietnam War drama China Beach, playing an enlisted man who falls for star Dana Delany’s character.
Through it all, Sizemore’s career was largely overshadowed by personal upheavals stemming from his acknowledged long-time bouts with substance abuse, which landed him in and out of jail and drug rehabilitation treatment, and a relationship with onetime Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.
He was convicted in 2003 of domestic violence against Fleiss during their stormy yearlong romance, resulting in a six-month jail sentence.
Fleiss, who had served time in jail for running a 1990s call-girl ring for Hollywood’s rich and famous, testified that Sizemore stubbed a cigarette out on her and once knocked her to the ground outside his home.
Sizemore, who denied the charges but did not testify at his trial, said in a letter to the judge that he had “permitted my personal demons to take over my life.” The actor, then 41, also wrote that he was “convinced that if I had not been under the influence of drugs, I would have controlled by behavior.”
A separate conviction on charges of methamphetamine possession led to court-ordered drug rehab.
In 2005 he was jailed for violating terms of his probation from the domestic abuse and meth convictions by failing a drug urine test when he was caught trying to use a prosthetic penis device, called a Whizzinator, to fake the results.
Sizemore’s probation was reinstated after he checked into a psychiatric hospital for treatment of chronic depression and drug dependency that a doctor said the actor had fought for years.
He was arrested again on suspicion of domestic abuse in 2016 and the following year pleaded no contest, the legal equivalent of guilty in California, and was sentenced to three year’s probation.
In 2010, Sizemore parlayed his notoriety and history of addiction into an appearance with Fleiss on the third season of the VH1’s reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
Sizemore chronicled his turbulent life in the 2013 memoir, By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There.