When Tom Sizemore answers the phone in his Miami hotel room, the tough-guy actor of the iconic 1990s films “Saving Private Ryan," "Natural Born Killers" and "Heat" begins speaking in a chain of short-burst, non sequiturs, interrupted by coughing and throat clearing. “I’m in Miami, and I just came back from Cannes [Film Festival],” he says, followed by, “My book’s doing good. Things have really turned around.”
Sizemore then pulls his mouth from the receiver and — not for the first time during this 25-minute interview — lets out a moan, followed by a coughing spasm. As if defensively responding to a question that was never asked, the actor says, "I'm just a little beat up. We flew all the way from Cannes yesterday, from Heathrow, and from Heathrow to Dulles to Miami. It was a 21-hour thing. I’m older now, and I don’t do drugs anymore, so I don’t have that kind of energy. I have a 5:30 downstairs birthday party. I’m happy to be invited to anything these days."
Sizemore isn’t kidding. The 51-year-old embattled star has struggled with well-publicized addictions to crystal meth, heroin and cocaine for the past 20 years. And the drug-fueled downward spiral, he writes in his new memoir, "By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There," had tarnished his reputation in Hollywood. "And here’s how I feel at this point,” he writes. “I’d never hire me."
The actor, last seen in South Florida filming the 2002 Tim Allen comedy "Big Trouble," will collect a Career Achievement Award on Tuesday night at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale. The event will toast his best cinematic moments — and there are many — with a clip reel, followed by a Q&A given by Rob Davis of Classical South Florida.
"I’m a really conservative person, which is a shocking thing to hear, I know," Sizemore says with a laugh. "I didn’t start doing drugs until I was 31 years old, which is late. I was curious, you know? If you sit in a pizza parlor and there’s pizza there, eventually you’re going to have a piece of pizza. I chose to stay and grab a slice. But do I feel like a celebration is warranted of my career? Sure. These were some of the best movies ever done in the ’90s. I hope to be doing more things like that in the future."
Sizemore, who says he will mark his fourth year of sobriety on Wednesday, rose from hardscrabble Detroit actor to big-shot celebrity starting with Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July,” followed by roles in "Passenger 57" and "Natural Born Killers." His tell-all memoir traces his ascendant career path, at once marred by controversial relationships with movie beauties such as Elizabeth Hurley (then dating Hugh Grant), a 19-year-old Juliette Lewis and Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. Then came an addiction to methamphetamines, introduced during his mercurial relationship with Fleiss, followed by a jail stint in 2007 over a meth bust and multiple trips to rehab clinics, the most prominent of which was chronicled in the third season of the reality show "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew."
Sizemore, who admonishes himself in the memoir as a "hope-to-die addict," says he no longer feels that way. "I wrote that two years ago," he says.
The actor interrupts a question about his reputation in Hollywood, insisting, almost with a shout, that he has repaired relationships with high-profile directors such as Michael Mann ("Heat").
"Hollywood is a 'show-me' town. 'Well, I heard Sizemore’s doing well, so I’m going to hire him.' But still, if I had a lot of money invested in a movie, I’d be hard-pressed to hire anybody that had had a drug problem," he says, and moves his mouth from the receiver to release a noise that sounds like a howl.
"Oh, I was just reaching over to fish up my cigarettes. I’m 50," he says with a small cough. "That’s what happens when you’re 50."
"The book and my life aren’t only about addiction," Sizemore continues. "It’s about second chances and taking personal responsibility. Keith Richards talks about in his [biography] that when the Stones go on tour, if he was on the road longer than a week, all he could think of was, 'How am I going to get more stuff?' When I get on the road now, all I can think of is, 'What do I pack? Can my kids come?' It’s really nice to be back to simple stuff. I just want to pick up the pieces where I left off."
"An Evening With Tom Sizemore" will begin 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $10-$15. Call 954-525-3456 or go to Fliff.com. Sizemore will also sign copies of his book from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Michele's Restaurant, 2671 E. Oakland Park Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale.