Skip to content

Tom Sizemore, movie star who passed for White, dead at 61

The one-time Hollywood mainstay who struggled throughout his career with drug addiction has succumbed to illness in California.

Tom Sizemore in the 2001 film "Black Hawk Down". (Sony Pictures)

Tom Sizemore Jr., the actor known for gritty roles in “Black Hawk Down” and “Saving Private Ryan,” has passed away at the age of 61 in Burbank, California after suffering a brain aneurysm.

The actor had been hospitalized and in a coma for weeks after being discovered unresponsive at his home on February 18. He died on March 3.

Louise Conley, Sizemore’s personal assistant, requested prayer for the actor on social media several times in recent weeks, including a note on February 22 indicating he was fighting for his life.

“Let’s give support and respect for Tom, his family, along with their privacy as they get through this unfortunate event,” she wrote on February 19. Sizemore’s publicist revealed in late February that the actor’s doctor said there was “no further hope.”

Sizemore had acted only sparingly in recent years after a run of success in the 1990s and early aughts. He played supporting characters in a number of blockbuster war films, 1995’s “Heat,” and in television and as a voice actor.

Born in Detroit, Sizemore was raised Catholic by a lawyer father and a mother working in public service. He was deeply influenced by his family—including his maternal grandfather, Samuel Schannault, who was African American.

(Sizemore was around one-eighth Black, according to his family history.)

When he expressed his interest in acting, it was Schannault who advised Sizemore to hide his ancestry to avoid scrutiny and possible hangups in Hollywood. The life lesson was one of several included in an autobiographical one-man show Sizemore staged for private audiences in 2011.

He debuted at 27 in Sylvester Stallone’s “Lock Up” (1989), and was soon noted for his talents and prolific output. In later years, Sizemore appeared in more than a dozen films a year.

Sizemore (center left) with his mother and two of his brothers in an undated photo. (The Daily Mail)

Sizemore’s three-decade career was interrupted by various struggles with the law, including a stint in jail later in his career for drug charges and multiple convictions for domestic violence. He had reportedly struggled with substance abuse since his teenage years, when he attended multiple Catholic schools in Michigan.

After appearing on “Celebrity Rehab” and getting clean in 2013, Sizemore relapsed and was again arrested for drug possession in 2019 and 2020, even as he continued to act in various smaller roles.

Sizemore was nominated for a number of major awards during his career, including a Golden Globe in 2000 for his work on “Witness Protection,” and a Screen Actors Guild nod as part of the cast of “Saving Private Ryan.” In 2022, he was nominated for an IndieFest Film Award for his work on “The Electric Man,” one of his last credited roles.

Sizemore is survived by his mother, Judith Sizemore, as well as his twin sons Jagger and Jayden with ex-girlfriend Janelle McIntire. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a seminarian with the Josephites.

Want to support the work of BCM? You have options.

a.) click to give on Donorbox

b.) click to give on Facebook