Tom Sizemore Cleans Up

By Anna David 06/12/11

The seriously-sober actor reflects on nearly losing it all, the secrets of Celebrity Rehab, his bloody battle with Heidi Fleiss, and the hardest thing about staying clean in Hollywood.

Saving Private Ryan was the least of his worries.

It’s hard to say just when the public first gave up on 47-year-old Tom Sizemore, the hulking, intense, and once widely respected actor who hit a trifecta of excellence in the 90s by starring in True Romance, Heat and Saving Private Ryan. Was it when he started dating Heidi Fleiss? Or when he was arrested for punching her? Maybe it was when his reality show about his increasingly downgraded life, Shooting Sizemore, began airing on VH1?

Whenever it was, the last thing we ever expected to happen was for the guy to survive—let alone thrive. This is not the way the narrative goes. But, a year and a month after first appearing on the third season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, the nearly two years sober father of two has re-joined society with a vengeance, shooting seven movies in the past year.

And he certainly hasn’t done it the Charlie Sheen, I-recover-at-home-on-my-own way. When Sizemore first got sober on May 30, 2009, he took an eight-month break from working. Then he hired a sober companion—a dour, longhaired man with 18 years of sobriety who lives with him and urges him to wear a suit and tie to A.A. meetings. (Sizemore sometimes hits two a day.) He’s also quite clear about what he needs to do. “I’ve got three priorities,” he says softly, in between swigs from a Hansen soda, when we met recently in a conference room of the building where he’s living. “One: stay clean. Two: stay clean. And three: stay clean.”

But the most surprising thing about Tom Sizemore isn’t that he wears a tie to A.A. meetings, let alone that he takes orders from people. No, the shocking thing about the guy who once failed seven drug tests in a month (while he was in treatment and on probation) is that he’s genuinely fun to be with. Whether he’s determined to prove that he can hit a football at a stop sign (by refusing to stop trying until he does) or goofily talking you into accompanying him to buy fake Uggs and workout pants at Big 5 (where a teary-eyed, star-struck security guard greets him with, “Sizemore, you look gooood—man, you been in my prayers”), the shockingly well-read actor knows how to make life’s most mundane moments exciting. After a decade of scarily self-destructive behavior, he clearly understands that his newly mellow life is as exciting as it’s gonna get. How did a guy that Hollywood gave up for dead manage to find his way back? Not easily.

You’d tried to get sober many times before you landed on Celebrity Rehab. What was different this time?

It was a few things: I was no longer young and addiction is a young man’s game. Also, I missed myself. And I didn’t want to die. Now that I have real clarity, I realize how dangerous what I was doing was. Not only were the drugs dangerous but also the people I was dealing with: drug dealers, hookers, layabouts, gangsters. I was so ashamed of myself that I couldn’t even go around Hollywood people doing drugs so I found myself with—well, not street people but people above it: people who just live to use and use to live.

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