Steven Spielberg Demanded Daily Drug Tests From Tom Sizemore on the Set of 'Saving Private Ryan'

Actors struggling with substance abuse are nothing new in Hollywood. One performer who has sadly struggled with it throughout his career is the talented but trouble star, Tom Sizemore.

Sizemore’s addiction problems have come back to haunt him multiple times throughout his career, and they threatened to derail his spot in one film he was set to appear in years ago: Saving Private Ryan. That’s why director Steven Spielberg made an arrangement with Sizemore to ensure he made it through the filming clean.

Let’s take a closer look at Sizemore and Spielberg’s deal and how it worked out for everyone. 

Tom Sizemore’s journey with addiction

Throughout the years, Sizemore has battled with addiction issues that have kept him in the headlines for reasons outside his work. For example, just last year he was “caught with drugs after a DUI arrest” according to the U.S. Sun.  

While anyone going through personal issues such as these can seem truly heartbreaking, what compounds the sadness in Sizemore’s case is his talent. Often portraying a heavy or a tough guy in many of his roles, Sizemore has carved out quite a decent career for himself as a character actor.

Outside of Saving Private Ryan, he also had supporting roles in popular films such as Heat and Blackhawk Down

The tough production of ‘Saving Private Ryan’

According to Entertainment Weekly, the World War II buff Spielberg set out to make the film as realistic as possible to honor those who had sacrificed their lives for the cause. 

To establish this extreme realism, he put the actors through a rigorous training regimen to prepare them for their roles. Members of the main cast were put through excruciating training and deprived of the creature comforts they’d become accustomed to. Sizemore summarized it succinctly: 

“You had this skinny little f—ing thing they called a blanket, which wasn’t fit to cover a squirrel….You could either put it on top of you or put it under you. If you put it on top, you’re sleeping on the ground. And the ground — you could literally feel it suck the heat out of your body.”

Sizemore and the rest of the cast (outside of Matt Damon, left out to help harbor resentment among the other cast members that bled onscreen in the finished film) made it through their training. But how was it that someone with a past as troubled as Sizemore’s even got the opportunity to be in the film? It was because he and Spielberg made an agreement before filming began. 

Steven Spielberg and Tom Sizemore’s deal for ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Spielberg is one of the most powerful but also smartest operators in Hollywood. He understands that to make a great film, you need a commitment from everyone involved. He also recognized Sizemore’s significant talent. He not only wanted to give Sizemore the opportunity for Sizemore himself but also to increase the picture’s quality by casting the right person for the role. 

According to Australia’s News.com, Spielberg made Sizemore an offer: he’d cast him in the film if the actor agreed to daily drug tests. If Sizemore failed, Spielberg said he’d recast and reshoot the entire film.

There was no need for that drastic measure, however, as he stayed clean throughout the production and the film was successful. Sizemore may still struggle with substance abuse, but his performance in this film stands as a testament to his ability as an actor that no one can deny. 

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