Tom Sizemore Talks ‘An Honest Thief’

Tom Sizemore was born and raised in Detroit. He left his hometown to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. He realized that dream with star turns in the films Heat, Saving Private Ryan, True Romance and Black Hawk Down, among others. He now co-stars on the Sundance Channel’s The Red Road and is currently working on a Crime Drama entitled An Honest Thief.

[box_light]PLOT: An Honest Thief is a gritty noir thriller about three small-time thieves from Detroit who scheme to rip off a neighborhood pawnbroker of his valuable baseball card collection. This dark comedy begs the question, in a world full of murder, secrets and betrayal, is there such thing as An Honest Thief?[/box_light]

Tom stopped by The Action Elite to chat about this exciting new project and its IndieGoGo campaign.

IndieGoGo Campaign Link:

You’ve been working on a passion project; a Crime Drama called An Honest Thief with a script written by your brother Aaron; how did the concept come about?

My father had three brothers and the eldest and youngest were thieves; they did drugs and could never extricate themselves from that hand-to-mouth lifestyle.  They were extremely poor and their father was a migrant farmer who came up North to Detroit to work in the munitions factory after Pearl Harbour. My dad won an academic scholarship to Harvard; he’s not even sure himself why he didn’t go that path, but they did. They were very bright guys but as kids we had no idea they were involved in that kind of stuff. I did as a teenager but in my boyhood and early teen years I wasn’t really aware.

Carl who was the eldest and Keith the youngest were my uncles and this story is based on them. They were just a really big, charming part of my young life. They both read a lot, saw lots of movies and were a bit more approachable than my dad could be at times.  We come from a big family and he was a Philosophy professor and went to law school.

They both died really close to each other; Keith died in 2000 and Carl died in 1998. Carl… just died and Keith walked in front of a bus high on heroin. It was a very dismal, grim end for both of them and although my father didn’t approve of their lifestyle, he was very close to them.

My aunt passed away 5 years ago and that was the last of his siblings. So my dad called me and he was tearful and said to me that he was an orphan after this sister died.

I called my brother up and said “I’ve got this idea to make a short movie about my dad’s siblings”.

I thought maybe we could concentrate more on Carl and Keith as I knew more about them. I thought it would be cool to create a short film celebrating what was great about these guys. An homage, so to speak.

My brother Aaron is an attorney but has always written; he’s younger than me and when he was younger he’d write a couple of poems and won a few short story contests. He was a very, very good writer. I asked him what he thought and he said “well, what’s the idea?” I said “I don’t know, what about maybe using photographs or maybe you could write a short script?”

Back then I was very close with the actor Thomas Jane; we’re still close friends now but life itself got in the way and made us… less close. I thought maybe Tom and I could play the parts in the short film and he said “let me think about it”.

So a couple of months went by and I got an email from Aaron saying “Tom, I’m going to send you something tomorrow about Carl and Keith but it’s actually 112 pages, so I think it’s really more of a full length feature”. The next day I read about 40 pages of it and I thought it was really good but I didn’t think I was objective. So I called Thomas Jane and asked if there was any way he could come over. He couldn’t but in the next couple of days we got together and read it out loud, just the two of us. About half-way through Tom said “this is a really good script; we should maybe think about trying to get this made.”

So for the first couple of years Tom was attached but that eventually came to an end.

But that’s how it all started as a gift to my father. I was pulling my life together at the time after I had a little slip about a year ago, but I’m doing really well now.

So we met with these investors and we’ve raised nearly half of the money the traditional way. We met with two guys but they wanted to move the movie out of Detroit to New Orleans or Sudbury, Ontario to double as Detroit. My brother was really steadfast about it being in Detroit because the city is practically like a character in the movie. The Detroit we grew up in is a lot different from the Detroit of today and my brother just lives outside the city.

As you well know the city has been struggling economically and has become a really desperate place. So our plan is to hire Detroit people for the crew to try and bring some work to the city and help to improve the economy.

So my brother, not being an actor was intractable about that point; I wasn’t at first but over time I now feel the same way he does about it.

My agent and managers asked if I’d ever heard of Kickstarter and crowdfunding campaigns; Zack Braff had raised a few million dollars for a recent project. I was initially quite ignorant of it but I checked it out and my manager educated me quite quickly.  It seemed like a novel, cool new way of doing things for independent film makers.

Before I wanted to commit to it, I thought we needed another name, so we got Danny Trejo and he really liked the idea of IndieGoGo. Then we had to put together a campaign which took a lot of work but that was the origin of the idea. It’s always a frustrating process for an indie film-maker to try to raise money so we raised the first half of it the traditional way and now we’re going to try and raise the other half using IndieGoGo.

Do you see crowd-funding as the future for independent films?

I don’t really know that much about it but obviously right now there are some people in Hollywood doing it; even some studios have started doing it. I don’t think it’s going to completely take the place of the traditional way you raise money but it might stick around as a way to raise money and not just for movies. I do think it will be another way for film-makers to do it, but I don’t see it replacing the traditional way of doing business here.

The IndieGoGo campaign has just started; tell us about the campaign and some of the prizes contributors can receive?

I didn’t have a whole bunch of ideas but I had a couple which I thought were good ideas which we’ve included. One of my favourites is you can attend a Dodger game here in LA with me and Danny Trejo or a Detroit game with my brother and myself. Whoever the winner is gets to throw out the first ball with me. You can also be an Executive Producer, depending on how much you contribute and we also have several what we call ‘walk-ons’. This means you can get to say a couple of lines in a pretty simple part like a waiter etc. and actually be in the movie.

You can also get more traditional things like hats, t-shirts and jackets. I’ve been trying to get a really famous actor to agree to a lunch which would be cool, so we’ll see how that one goes but I think the baseball one is kinda cool.  So those are my contributions (laughs).

If we work really hard and get a bit of luck we could make a really good movie!

I particularly like $100 dollar screening & Poster…

For $100 you can come to the screening? It should be more than that! (laughs).

Honestly I think this is a really good script; I know in the past there have been good scripts that maybe didn’t go up there on the screen but I think if we work really hard and get a bit of luck, we could make a really good movie!

Your character Danny sounds very complex; do you think he’s one of the toughest characters you would have to prepare for?

Yeah, in no way is he dumb; he’s ignorant of certain things but he’s very intelligent and knows what he’s doing. So his buddy Danny gets his best friend Johnny involved but his girlfriend who he’s known since he was young, begs him not to get Johnny involved in anything illegal and as he’s on two strikes, strike 3 would get him life in prison. Danny ignores their pleas and goes ahead and does it anyway, because he’s a very selfish guy.  At the same time he’s a loyal friend so the challenge is how do you bring those two together? He also rather fancies himself as a rather righteous person but he fraternizes with prostitutes and does drugs periodically and lives a life where he’s a thief, but he considers himself an honest man.

What is it that you look for in a character when you read a script?

The things I like to see in the characters I play is at the beginning of the movie they are a certain type of man; throughout the course of the movie there’s a choice they have to make where they either become who they really are or fall further away from what they could be. Maybe because of this choice they won’t be what they could have been, so by the end of the movie the character has grown or has become a different person, where there’s an arc of some sort. Due to this, he has made some important philosophical choice about himself or life.  Because of what he does in this circumstance, he becomes a different person.

What is it that makes Detroit so integral to the story of An Honest Thief?

Detroit has an idiom and a certain way that it looks; it has a bleakness that’s hard to describe. A bleakness that’s different from say Gary, Indiana or Ontario; Detroit was a hard working city despite its severe winters and racial problems. It’s a city of survivors but it’s more the way it looks with abandoned buildings and for my money there isn’t another city that looks like it.  

There’s a great supporting cast too; how did you assemble such an international cast and crew?

Getting Giorgio and Danny involved was key and it was simply on the strength of the script. For Danny, we did Heat together and he’s big in the recovery community and I go to recovery with him 5 days a week. I mean we’re friends, but he wasn’t going to do the movie until he read the script.

Danny said “I don’t want to put you off, but if I don’t like it and I don’t think it’s for me, then I’m gonna pass. I hope it doesn’t affect our friendship.” I said “I’ll hate your fucking guts, man!” (laughs)

Actors are more prone to doing it, but it’s a much bigger endeavor for a director to take on a movie. Fortunately Giorgio read it and had no trepidation at all and said he wanted to do it. Giorgio’s an accomplished and talented director so it’s the best news we could have got. He can do a whole lot with very little money and he gets a lot of production value and that’s what this movie needs. So his involvement has been the most fortuitous thing to happen so far.

Giorgio has been just terrific; he’s been extremely helpful and generous with his time. He’s been to Detroit several times as a location scout, so he’s incredibly prepared. So we’re ready to go, we just need to get to the dough. 

I interviewed Danny Trejo last year for Machete Kills and he was just the nicest guy; you’d think with all the bad guys he’s played over the years that he would be intimidating, but it was quite the opposite.

Danny is probably the nicest guy I have ever met; he’s such a good guy. He’s a genuinely sweet person; he had a terrible early life and even spent time in prison. For having been through everything he’s been through and to have this magnificent success, he’s just so grateful and a life-loving good guy. God knows he’s been patient with me; he’s been helping me try to get sober since 1992. (laughs) It’s only a twenty year undertaking!

Actors get pigeon-holed and Danny has a severe look and he does those roles really well and people probably tend to think he’s a rough customer but he’s a pussycat.

With all the great social networks out there today, is promoting a film easier than it used to be?

I just got really involved with social media in the last year; I didn’t want to bother at first because with everything I went through with drug addiction, the internet just seemed to make everything worse.  It was just constant every day, if you did something wrong or somebody got arrested, then it’s there for everybody to see. I’ve always had a kind of love/hate relationship with the internet.

Then I got someone to help me set up the Honest Thief Facebook page and I got something like 5000 friends in about a week and I’d never done it before. You can definitely publicize things easier, don’t you think?

Agreed, it’s given us a lot greater access to people, especially for guys like me who run a website…

Yeah, I’m trying to look at the internet as a good thing now whereas before in the early 2000’s, I had a sour attitude towards it. It is a great way for people to come together who otherwise would never know each other, share opinions or even make a movie together.

The part I don’t really like about the internet and modern life in general is it’s the end of privacy. Everybody’s got a smart phone so everyone is on film and in bright lights (laughs).

At the same time I can go on to Facebook I can tell people what I want them to know; I don’t need to go into great detail about my family or personal life. I think it’s a good thing, I mean we’re talking and I’ve made a couple of genuine friends on Facebook and I’ve never even met them. I’ve got a friend in New Zealand and we talk pretty much every day on Facebook. We like the same books and movies and we just chat about everything.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us and all the best with the film.