Tom Sizemore’s one-man show: The secret he’s been keeping from Hollywood

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There are plenty of personal things that the public knows about Tom Sizemore, the actor and drug addict who was arrested and went to rehab multiple times, even detoxing on national television when he participated in a season of the VH1 reality show ‘Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.’ Sizemore was also once romantically involved with former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, whose 2003 charge that Sizemore physically abused her landed the actor in jail for 17 months.

But it turns out there’s something Sizemore has left to reveal: he’s half-black.

His childhood, African American grandfather and mother and time in jail are the subjects of a one-man show, ‘I Am Not Sam,’ which the 49-year-old performed for about two dozen producers, actors and friends during a private reading held at the Geffen Playhouse on Tuesday.


For much of the reading, he spoke in the voice of his grandfather, Sam, an angry man with a penchant for drinking and a dislike for ‘white folk.’ (Sizemore’s father was white.) It was evident that the actor spent a lot of time during his youth with Sam, who was the one to explain to a curious 11-year-old Sizemore ‘what black is,’ and who later cautioned him to never reveal his mixed-race heritage to anyone in Hollywood if he wanted to become a bona fide movie star.

The other half of the show takes place largely in jail, where Sizemore is confronted by demons while in isolation, where he was kept due to his celebrity status. He recounts moments when his friends in the industry came to visit him. Robert De Niro -- Sizemore’s ‘Heat’ co-star, who he can impersonate nearly perfectly -- at one point travels from France to see the actor, but is turned away by a guard. Jack Nicholson later comes by, advising Sizemore to ‘straighten the ... up.’

The show lasted for about two hours, during which the Golden Globe-nominated actor spoke in a quick, mostly hushed tone, shedding the script’s pages onto the floor as he finished them. When the reading concluded, Sizemore reluctantly hung out in the back of the room, sitting in a folding chair trying to avoid back slaps from those who wanted to congratulate him.

‘I hate this stuff. I’m going to leave in a second,’ Sizemore, best known for his role in ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ said while hunching down in his seat.

Among those circulating was Cynthia Stafford, one of the producers of the show who is also on the Playhouse’s board. (In 2007, Stafford won $112 million in the California Lottery and has since become a patron of the arts, donating $1 million to the Playhouse.) Stafford said she hopes the play will go on to have a full run at the Geffen, though a spokesperson for the theater said there are no current plans for that to happen.

Sizemore began working on the play last year with writer-director Michael Edwards. He doesn’t seem concerned about where it goes from here. He said he merely wanted to tell a story about his grandfather that didn’t do a ‘disservice’ to the man who died in 1998 at age 98.


Still, his mother warned him against the idea. ‘She thinks it’s too revealing. ‘You’re a martian,’ she said,’ recalled Sizemore.

Too revealing? After all the actor’s appearances in the public eye?

‘They weren’t happy about any of that either. My family is very discreet. White-shoe, you know?’ he said, referring to his father’s upper-crust job as a Harvard-educated lawyer.

De Niro, meanwhile, was somewhat more encouraging. When told Sizemore was going to be impersonating him during the show, the ‘Taxi Driver’ star offered his blessing, advising only: ‘Don’t ... me up.’

-- Amy Kaufman