Actor Tom Sizemore, known as much for his struggle with drug addiction and trouble with the law as for his tough-guy roles in films such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Downed,” died on Friday at the age of 61, his representative, Charles Lago, said.
Sizemore, who was hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a brain aneurysm on Feb. 18, died in his sleep at a hospital in Burbank, California, Lago said in a statement Friday.
Originally from Detroit, where his mother worked for the city’s ombudsman and his father was a lawyer and professor of philosophy, Sizemore studied at Wayne State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater from Temple University in Philadelphia.
As an aspiring actor in New York, where he waited tables and acted in plays, Sizemore got his first break when director Oliver Stone gave him a small role as a veteran in the 1989 anti-war film “Born on July 4.”
Other supporting roles followed in the early 1990s, leading to a series of high-profile jobs playing tough detectives in films such as “Killers by Nature” (1994).
He also landed notable supporting roles as border gunslinger Bat Masterson in Kevin Costner’s western “Wyatt Earp” (1994), a violent sidekick of Robert De Niro in the heist film “Heat” (1995) and a paramedic with messianic complex in Martin Scorsese’s psychodrama “Bringing Out the Dead” (1999).
Sizemore’s first starring role was in the 1997 horror thriller “The Relic”, again in the role of a police detective. In 2000 he was nominated for a Globe of Gold as best actor in a miniseries or television movie for his role as a mafia snitch in “Witness Protection”.
However, he is remembered above all for playing military men seasoned in a thousand battles in two films: “Saving Private Ryan”, the World War II epic directed by Steven Spielberg in 1998, and “Black Hawk downed”, the portrait that Ridley Scott made in 2001 of the ill-fated incursion of the US Army in Mogadishu (Somalia) in 1993.
Regardless, Sizemore’s career was largely overshadowed by personal problems stemming from his notorious addictions, which led him to get in and out of prison and undergo rehab treatment, and his relationship with Heidi Fleiss, a former Hollywood madame.
In 2003, he was sentenced to six months in jail for domestic violence against Fleiss during their stormy one-year romance.
Fleiss, who had been in jail for running a network of prostitutes for Hollywood’s rich and famous in the 1990s, testified that Sizemore put out a cigarette and once threw 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 “allowed 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 my behavior.”
Another conviction for methamphetamine possession landed him in court-ordered rehabilitation.
In 2005, he was jailed for violating the conditions of his probation for domestic abuse and methamphetamine use by failing a urinalysis in which he was caught trying to use a penile prosthesis, called Whizzinator, to falsify the results.
Sizemore’s probation was restored after he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment for chronic depression and drug dependence that a doctor said the actor had suffered for years.
He was arrested again on suspicion of domestic abuse in 2016 and the following year pleaded guilty in California, and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Sizemore recounted his turbulent life in the 2013 memoir, “By some miracle I got out of there.”