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Tom Sizemore, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ actor, dies at age 61


BURBANK, Calif. (AP) — Tom Sizemore, the “Saving Private Ryan” actor whose brilliant ’90s stardom burned out under the weight of his own domestic violence and drug convictions, died Friday at age 61.

The actor had suffered a brain aneurysm on Feb. 18 at his home in Los Angeles. He died in his sleep Friday in a hospital in Burbank, Calif., his manager Charles Lago said.

Sizemore rose to stardom with critically acclaimed performances in ‘Natural Born Killers’ and the cult classic crime thriller ‘Heat’. But severe drug addiction, allegations of abuse and multiple run-ins with the law destroyed his career, left him homeless and sent him to prison.

Like the wave of the global #MeToo movement Combed in late 2017, Sizemore was also accused of groping an 11-year-old Utah girl on set in 2003. He called the allegations “deeply upsetting” and said he would never touch a child inappropriately. No charges were filed.

Despite the many legal troubles, Sizemore had plenty of steady film and television credits – though his career never regained its former momentum. Aside from “Black Hawk Down” and “Pearl Harbor,” most of his 21st century roles came in low-budget, little-seen productions where he continued to play the gruff, tough guys for which he became famous.

“I was a man who came from very small and rose to the top. I’d owned the multi-million dollar home, the Porsche, the restaurant I part-owned with Robert De Niro,” Detroit native Sizemore wrote in his 2013 memoir, “By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There.” “And now I had nothing at all.”

The title of the book is taken from a phrase uttered by his character in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, a role for which he received Oscar fame. But he wrote that success turned him into a “spoiled movie star,” an “arrogant fool,” and ultimately “a hope-to-die addict.”

He made a string of domestic violence arrests. Sizemore was once married, to actor Maeve Quinlan, and was arrested in 1997 on suspicion of beating her. Although the charges were dropped, the couple divorced in 1999.

Sizemore was convicted of abusing ex-girlfriend Heidi Fleiss in 2003 — the same year he pleaded no contest and avoided trial in a separate abuse case — and sentenced to prison. The former Hollywood madam testified that he punched her in the jaw at a hotel in Beverly Hills and beat her so much in New York that they couldn’t attend the premiere of “Black Hawk Down.”

The sentencing judge said drug abuse was likely a catalyst, but that testimony had brought to light a man who had major problems interacting with women. Fleiss called Sizemore “a zero” in a conversation with The Associated Press after his conviction.

Sizemore apologized in a letter, saying he had been “chastised” and that “personal demons” had taken over his life, though he later denied abusing her, accusing her of faking a photo showing her bruises.

Fleiss also sued Sizemore, saying she suffered emotional distress after he threatened to have her own probation revoked. Fleiss was convicted of running in 1994 an expensive call girl ring. That lawsuit was settled on undisclosed terms.

Sizemore was the subject of two workplace sexual harassment lawsuits related to the 2002 CBS show “Robbery Homicide Division,” in which he played a police detective. He was only arrested in 2016 in another domestic violence case.

Sizemore was jailed from August 2007 to January 2009 for failing numerous drug tests while on probation and after authorities in Bakersfield, California found methamphetamine in his car.

“God is trying to tell me he doesn’t want me to do drugs because every time I do them I get caught,” Sizemore told The Bakersfield Californian in a prison interview.

Sizemore told the AP in 2013 that he believed his dependence was related to the trappings of success. He struggled to maintain his emotional composure as he described a low point when he looked in the mirror: “I looked like I was 100 years old. I had no relationship with my children; I had no work to speak out. I lived in a squat.”

Appearing on the reality TV show “Celebrity Rehab” and its spin-off “Sober House,” he told the AP he did the shows to get help, but also in part to pay off accumulated debts that ran into the millions.

Many of Sizemore’s later career films have been science fiction, horror or action: in 2022 alone, he starred in films with titles such as ‘Impuratus’, ‘Night of the Tommyknockers’ and ‘Vampfather’. But Sizemore still landed some meaty roles — including in the “Twin Peaks” revival — and guest starring roles on hit shows like “Entourage” and “Hawaii Five-O.”

A stuntman sued Sizemore and Paramount Pictures in 2016, saying he was injured when the allegedly drunk actor ran over him while filming ‘Shooter’ in the US. State records obtained by the AP showed that Sizemore was only allowed to sit in the stationary car and that he “improvised at the end of the scene and drove off in his car.” Sizemore was fired from “Shooter” and the stuntman’s lawsuit was settled on undisclosed terms.

In addition to his film and TV credits, he was part of the voice cast for the 2002 video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”. According to recent advertisements, he also taught at the LA West Acting Studio.

He is survived by his 17-year-old twin sons, Jayden and Jagger, and his brother Paul, all of whom were by his side when he died.

“I’ve lived an interesting life, but I can’t tell you what I would give to be the man you knew nothing about,” Sizemore wrote in his memoir.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.