I’m Back: Tom Sizemore on ‘Cellmates’ and His Career Revival

The star of the new racism comedy talks about the thin line for racial humor, his upcoming auditions and his experiences on 'Celebrity Rehab.'

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


Tom Sizemore has a new movie out. In Cellmates he plays a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon in jail with a Mexican cellmate. It’s a comedy. That may be a tough sell and it’s opening in very limited release, but it gave us a chance to meet Tom Sizemore. Sizemore’s battles with addiction were well publicized, and he went on “Celebrity Rehab” to kick his habit in front of the cameras. Now we got to meet the new and improved Tom Sizemore, who hyped up his latest movie and opened up about his recovery.


CraveOnline: Did the idea of a humorous take on racism appeal to your rebellious spirit?

Tom Sizemore: I’m not really rebellious. People think I am, but I’m not. What appealed to me was [director] Jesse Baget and the script. I just thought he’s extremely talented, really bright. A Ku Klux Klan comedy, it doesn’t sound like a very funny sentence but after I met him, he just knew exactly what he wanted to do, right down to the tone, the color palette and everything about the movie that’s good. So that’s why I did the movie.


With the tone, is it possible to go too big?

You have to trust him. I can’t see it. I’m an actor. I had an idea about it. It walked a fine line there but I thought it worked. There is a fear you’re going to be too big. I did ask him, “Are you sure we’re not going a little too broad with this?” He said, “No, trust me” and I did. I trusted him.


Was it a nice chance to get to have a romance in a movie? Your characters don’t usually get the girl.

Yeah, she’s wonderful. Those scenes aren’t romantic as much as they are funny. We don’t have a romantic kiss or anything like that. That’d be cool but just working with Olga [Segura], she was so intuitive, an intuitive sense of what’s funny, when to do something, when not to do something. As an actor, it’s important to know what you can and can’t do. It’s almost more important to know what you can’t do. Some actors try to play parts and do things they can’t do. Being funny is one of them. Being funny’s hard. You need to be with other people that are funny and Jesse just made an atmosphere. All these actors had something about them that was funny, understood what was funny, makes something funny cinematically.


Is it hard to say the racial slurs, even in a comedy?

It’s just acting. I take acting seriously but up to a point. I don’t share any of Leroy Lowe’s worldviews. I’m a liberal. I don’t use the N-word. It’s a word that I think is an ugly word, very marginalizing word, a violent word. But in a movie, if it helps you understand who these people are in the story, and it’s discreet in some ways, yeah, I don’t have a problem.


It’s an independent movie coming out June 1 in the middle of the summer. What are your hopes for the film?

I hope people see the movie. I think the movie’s really good. For no other reason, to see Jesse Baget’s directorial debut. He’s doing a movie right now with Nic Cage and he’s moving really fast. He’s going to be somebody to reckon with.


When you see the big Hollywood movies like Battleship and Dark Shadows tanking, do you think audiences are craving something different?

I don't know. I didn’t see those movies. I don’t really go see those blockbuster movies so much unless it’s Michael Bay or something where I know I’m going to see something that’s at least cool looking in a way. Michael knows what he’s doing. Dark Shadows, I mean come on, you’re sh*ttin’ me, right? You can’t think of anything better than that?


You do work a lot, like 6-7 movies a year. Can you really treat all of them equally?

I don’t work that often. That IMDB thing is a bunch of bullsh*t. The internet’s a bunch of bullsh*t, you know. It’s just a great way to waste your time.


How many movies do you make a year?

Well, I didn’t make many for several years. I was f*ckin’ incarcerated, in rehabs and prison. This year I’ve done three and there’s a fourth one that if it happens, it’s with one of our greatest stars and greatest directors. I’d be the lead and it’s between myself and another actor who’s younger than me and hotter than me. If I were them I’d probably hire him but I’ll know in the next couple of days. But I’ve done three this year. I like to work.


Even in the ‘90s you were doing three or four a year.

Yeah, I like acting. The way you get better at acting, I found for me, is like anything else. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Whatever it is, if you draw, you paint, you’re a carpenter, you play football, the more you do it, you’re a journalist, the more stories you write, the more people you interview and navigate your way through these different personalities to get your story, the better you’re going to get at it. Acting’s no different.


Who is the big director you’re out to?

I’m not going to tell you.


It may be a difficult question, but was “Celebrity Rehab” a good experience for you?

I’m three years sober now. I didn’t want to do that. I wasn’t going to go to rehab. I called Drew before the show. I wanted help and then he’d come to get me and I wouldn’t go. Then the show happened and I needed money so he said, “Why don’t you do this too?” I’d known Drew since ’92. I’d known Bob [Forrest] for 21 years, I’ve known Bob since 1991. I don’t regret it at all now. I didn’t regret it then. I was just completely lost and hurting and had hurt myself really badly and full of remorse and regret and shame, just terrible and unhealthy. I hate to think what would’ve happened if I hadn’t done it because after I did it, when the “Sober House” part ended, I went back into rehab. I wasn’t ready. I still do what Drew says. I talk to him all the time. That’s how I stay clean. I went back into rehab after “Sober House.” I went back in for six months. It was time for me to get clean. I knew that. The big thing was I wanted to but I had wanted to before I thought. This time, I don't know what was so different this time except for this. I did everything that Drew asked me to do. If he asked me to stand on my head in that corner for 10 minutes, I would go do it. I did not question him. I didn’t say oh, why this, why that, I just did it. That’s how I got clean. I didn’t question the whys of anything, I didn’t care how I felt. I cared about what I did. If I did enough things right, then I would feel better. Sitting around thinking about how I feel, I felt like sh*t but I didn’t do a god damn thing. So that was one of the things he taught me. It was hard. How you feel is important, but it’s not really. Not when you’re dealing with this addiction thing.


Have you had any contact with Heidi Fleiss since the show?

I talked to her on the phone twice. I wish Heidi the very best.


It seems like you’re in a good place.

I’m in the best place I’ve been in 10 years. I am humble. I’ve been humbled. I’m just really grateful to be anywhere, especially here. I love what I do, I love what I did and love what I was doing. One of the reasons I think it went on for such a long time was I was afraid of the damage I’d done, to look at it. I didn’t want to because I knew it was bad. But finally with Drew’s help I had the courage to take away the numbing medication, the drugs and look at the train wreck that had become mine.


Are any of your movies hard to watch because of where you were at the time?

No, I always had fun working. Not really. I love making movies. I love being with movie people. I always have.


Whether it’s this potential big project or something later?

I just love movies. I love being in them. I love movie people. It’s always the people that make it fun.


Can you still go out to audition for Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay who you worked with before?

Oh, I’m talking to those guys about movies right now. I’m talking to two of those guys about movies right now. I’m back. I really am.


Hollywood loves a comeback, don’t they?

It’s not a huge comeback yet but it’s going to be. You know why? Because I want to do it. I know how to do it and I’ve got a lot of good people around me. No narcotics or foolishness.