In ‘Cellmates,’ Tom Sizemore plays Leroy Lowe, grand dragon of the Texas Ku Klux Klan, who is sentenced to three years of hard labor on a prison work farm. His roomie in the joint is Emilio, a Hispanic field worker who has been put behind bars for fighting for labor rights. While in jail Leroy falls for Madalena, a beautiful Mexican maid who cleans the warden’s office and he finds himself unexpectedly taking a new path in life.
Sizemore, who has appeared in movies like ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ‘Black Hawk Down,’ and ‘Wyatt Earp,’ was derailed for years by drug and legal problems, but he’s three years sober now and his career is back on track. The 50-year-old actor talked to us about his troubled past, and how he’s a much better actor now.
FOX411: This movie is a bit of a departure for you. It’s a comedy, why did you decide to do it?
Tom Sizemore: Because of Jesse (Baget, the director and co-writer). I met him; he was clearly bright and had a unique kind of idea of a Ku Klux Klan member becoming redeemed and the healing power. I just thought it was interesting. He’s the Grand Dragon of whatever but there’s something very soft about him from the beginning. It was a lot of fun.
FOX411: Did you do any research like meet any KKK members?
TS: No! I actually have met a KKK member for another movie I did called ‘Sins of the Father’ in 2000 about the Birmingham bombing.
FOX411: Ever have an eye opening experience like Leroy?
TS: Not in regards to something like racism but with drugs, yeah, I had a real eye opening experience with the destructive ability of drugs and the necessity of me not doing them.
FOX411: What was your moment of clarity?
TS: (Laughs) There were several of them. I was tired of a lot of things for some time but I was more afraid that I’d made such a mess of things that I wasn’t confident I could fix things. I called up Dr. Drew and told him I was lost and in trouble. He came to see me and that was the beginning.
You really have to give yourself over to the whole damn thing, as they say. I do what they, Dr. Drew and my sponsor Bob Forrest, say to do. If I don’t know what to do, I don’t do anything.
FOX411: Actors naturally have big egos, was that hard to surrender your ego?
TS: It’s just about drugs and what comes with that, bad people, bad chicks -- excuse me -- bad women. Not necessarily bad, just women that do drugs. I’m older now. I was immature. I was coddled and there is a permissiveness that sometimes goes on with people who are successful as actors. Before you know it you have this monster and I had no idea I had this problem. I just gave myself up. They say you surrender. I used to think that it was garbage, bullshit, something about it didn’t feel right, but I think it was more fear of doing it and that’s why I felt that way. When I did it, it was comfortable but it was still hard. I still had some difficult times. I’m not going to get high today, I know that.
FOX411: Do you go to meetings?
TS: Yeah, I missed a couple of days because I had to travel and stuff. But as much as humanly possible. It’s an hour long. It’s not a big deal. I used to think it was a big deal. I fought it for so long. But it’s easy once you get in the rhythm of it. It’s just like anything else in life. It becomes a good habit. The drug thing was a bad habit. Let me tell you, you spend a lot less time staying clean than getting high. Getting the dope, it’s crazy, it’s like a job. I’m so glad it’s over and all those assholes that come with it.
FOX411: You must have gotten rid of a lot of friends.
TS: Yeah those people are gone. But they don’t want to be around you anyway, you’re clean. They’re getting high they don’t want to be around you, you’re a killjoy and you don’t have any dope.
FOX411: You worked with directors like Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. You really screwed it up!
TS: Yeah I screwed it up bad, but I’m about to do something, I can’t say what it is, but it’s of that ilk. I never hurt anybody; I only hurt myself and my family. I never did anything mean to anybody, I was just mean to myself.
FOX411: Do you think you’re work is better now?
TS: It’s definitely better. It’s more controlled, it’s more discreet. I’m more mindful of my choices. It feels so much better to be clean. I kind of have a good idea of what I’m going to do this time around because I didn’t know what I was doing before.
FOX411: We always saw you in the vein of those great Warner Brothers stars from the 1940’s like John Garfield and Humphrey Bogart.
TS: You like me!
FOX411: You’re a good actor! You’ve got a guy’s guy thing going on.
TS: I am a guy’s guy. I’m all boy.
FOX411: Have you simplified your life?
TS: Yeah I’ve simplified what’s in my head. Like what do you desire? Do you really desire to have sex with six women, or is that something you saw somewhere or something someone said to you? I really desire a partner.
FOX411: So let’s put the word out for you.
TS: Oh stop!