Exit Interview: Tom Sizemore

Temple alum Tom Sizemore’s breakout roles as a psycho cop in Natural Born Killers and a soldier under fire in Saving Private Ryan seem tame compared to his real-life personal dramas. There’s the drugs (heroin and meth). The booze. And, of course, the women. (His split with Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss led to a domestic abuse conviction he's appealing.) We didn't even get into the 44-year-old's homemade sex tapes before he had to cut our chat short, but thanks to his frank talk (and a cameo by Robert De Niro), Sizemore turned in another fine performance. Be forewarned: This is rated R.

Exit Interview: You grew up in Detroit. Why Temple?

Tom Sizemore: I didn’t have the money or the wherewithal to live in New York. I’d heard about the Professional Actor Training Programs, and Temple was one of the best 12 programs in the world.

EI: You once said you were the best actor in your class at Temple. …

TS: No. Faculty members told me I was the best actor who’d come through there in years. It meant a great deal to me.

EI: In terms of Temple’s current theatrical reputation …

TS: It’s in the shitter, isn’t it?

EI: Well, I was going to say that calling you the best actor at Temple is like saying you’re the best chef at the Olive Garden, but it was different then.

TS: [laughs] Yes, it was. One of the things I liked about theater school was set-building. I built puppets when I was little. I had a very dense fantasy world. Unfortunately I started living it out in my real life. At 40. [laughs] And some of my fantasies have changed, too.

EI: Yeah, I bet the puppets look a bit different now.

TS: [laughs] My first puppet show when I was seven was called “Nice City.” Mr. Nice was the head of the family, and there was a nice mom and nice school buses.

EI: After Nice City, it was all downhill.

TS: Little did I know.

EI: The Philadelphia Inquirer called one of your college performances “enthusiastically ludicrous.” Did that accurately describe your technique at the time?

TS: Might have been the Tennessee Williams piece. I did a real wild turn there. [call waiting buzzes in] Goddamn it, hang on. [about a minute passes] Everybody’s worried about me.

EI: Friends checking in?

TS: Bob De Niro. [in De Niro voice] Stay strong. You gotta stay strong. I said, Bob, I’m doing an interview. What? I gotta go. Why? He’ll “why” ya to death.

EI: I’m honored that we trumped De Niro. If you want to put him on the line, I’ll be happy to sit back and listen.

TS: No, no. You don’t want to talk to him. He doesn’t say anything! He does this: Y’know, maybe, I was thinkin’, uh, I don’t know, this thing, y’know. Know what I mean? Fuck no! You haven’t said anything to me. He does that shit all the time. The drugs, yeah, wow, no, y’know? What? They’re not good for me? I was thinkin’ maybe not. Look at all the shit you’re in. [laughs] That’s actually really clear for him.

EI: De Niro, Oliver Stone, Michael Mann, Steven Spielberg — they’ve all tried to help you straighten up. Why did they fail?

TS: All I care about is the work. The heroin problem, that had to be dealt with. It was going to kill me. I never did hard narcotics until I came to Los Angeles. I had excessive appetites, but I never had any money. When I got here … there’s a part of my personality that’s immature. I live in my head. It’s my favorite place.

EI: Probably not Nice City in there anymore.

TS: Not nice at all! So heroin, I wanted that to stop. I’m lying. I didn’t want that to stop. When Bob confronted me, I denied it. What are you going to do? He’s the guy I wanted to be as a teenager.

EI: You kicked heroin, but then …

TS: There was a meth thing. It all dovetailed into each other. The divorce dovetailed into Heidi dovetailed into the meth dovetailed into the mid-life crisis dovetailed into the sex, then [makes explosion sound]. It all blew up.

EI: You’re on probation now?

TS: Yeah, it’s almost over. I’ve been cast as the lead in The Last Crew, which is the prequel to King of New York, and I’m playing Chris Walken’s part. I’m going back to treatment any day now. Not because I’m using, but because my mind’s not right.

EI: Can you laugh about some of what you’ve been through?

TS: All of it. That’s one of the things that got me through it.

EI: Like getting busted trying to beat a drug test by running clean urine through a fake penis?

TS: That was hysterical. Howard Stern called and said, “I hear your cock’s really popular in Hollywood.” I said, “Call the D.A., he’s got it now.” I got away with it for 18 months before I got caught!

EI: Was there a supervisor in the bathroom who saw you pull it out?

TS: I had it beat. My [prosthetic] dick was between two pairs of underwear sewn together, you couldn’t see a fuckin’ thing. He said drop your underwear, drop your pants — boom! Nothing! He was truly puzzled [laughs], because he knew I was cheating [laughs]. I was obviously intoxicated. He said, “I want to search you.” I said, “Search me? I’m naked!” I thought he was dumb enough, but no.

EI: Just smart enough to find an extra penis in your pants.

TS: [laughs] In my underwear, man! And they almost missed it, too, because I had it to the side!

EI: Would you say that women have gotten you into as much trouble as the drugs?

TS: [laughs] They’re best friends. They live in the same condo.

EI: Your turbulent relationship with Heidi has been well-documented, but …

TS: She’s a great girl. I still like her, despite all this bullshit. I’m Desdemona. She’s Othello. And sex is Iago.

EI: That’s heavy. So does this mean you don’t have her name tattooed above your man-tool anymore?

TS: No, the only reason it’s still there is because it hurt so damn much when I tried to have it removed. I have a girlfriend now, she wants it removed. I might have to go under [laughs], get sedated or something. [call waiting again] That’s my lawyer, believe it or not. [we believe it] Hold on one second. [minute goes by] We’ve got to talk. But call me back in a minute. I’m not done.