yearzerowriters

Sizemore in Vineland

      There’s a short Mexican guy waiting on a Californian porch deck with an obelisk of weed standing beside him. In the background, tanned Los Angelinos are skating and running along the beachfront. The door opens and it’s Tom Sizemore. He takes in the whole picture; the giant vertical slab of hash, the Mexican’s grin, the gun by his hip. He shrugs his shoulders, as the Mexican tells him he’s gonna come with him and do exactly what he wants him to do.

      In the screening room where this was being played for the first time, sat Sizemore himself, the director, a couple of producers and exec’s, myself (the only journo allowed in), and the film’s other main star, Mr. Jason Patric. The film, an adaptation of cult novelist Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Vineland’, had been shooting for over a year and the director had just finished his first cut, the one we were watching. Sizemore, sitting on the edge of his chair at the front, had been smiling since the opening shot, and the rest of the audience seemed happy enough in the middle row. Things were going well.

      On screen, Sizemore jerked around his house like a pothead as more federal officers came into his house. Some of them pushed into him, another tripped him onto the floor. “Hey, fuck you, man,” said Sizemore from the carpet.

      Patric coughed, loudly.

      Sizemore heard it.

      “Hey, fuck you, man.”

      Patric didn’t reply. He sat there and watched the rest of the scene play out then stood up and walked up to the screen.

      “This isn’t Pynchon.”

      “The fuck it isn’t,” Sizemore fired back.

      “It isn’t Pynchon. It’s an embarrassment.”

      I watched as their voices grew louder with each volley, thinking that no matter how bad it seemed, nothing would come of it. Hollywood stars always played at fighting; it was never for keeps.

      But the rest of the room seemed to have a different opinion. The director was sinking into his chair as if he had seen a lot of this in the last four months. The others were staring at the screen as if they would be called to testify after the event and this was the only way out of it.

      “What? It’s not like you brought anything to it. You just stand and fucking internalise or whatever the fuck you call it…”

      Sizemore was jabbing at Patric’s chest now.

      “Every time you’re on the screen, fucking Jesus above, I have to close my eyes until you’ve been wiped off. You’re shit. A piece of shit. I sit there, and I watch, and I think, my God, why didn’t we get someone with some fucking class standing there instead? Kev Bacon, Nic Cage…anyone as long as it’s not that bouffant fuck from the Lost Boys!”      

      Sizemore took a breath.

      Patric glared, but said nothing.

      “Can’t speak now, huh? Fucking shitbag…sitting at the back like a fucking bad boy school kid. Mr. Dangerous Minds, telling us the movie’s a piece of shit. What do you know about movies? Nothing. This is the best fucking thing I’ve ever done and I’ve worked with Michael fucking Mann, Al fucking Pacino, Robert fucking DeNiro! So if you don’t like the movie, get out, get out of my fucking screening room. Go, get the fuck out!”

      Patric didn’t get out.

      Two minutes later, it was done.

      After leaving his co-star a bleeding mess on the carpet, Sizemore got back up and took his seat. A few seconds later he looked back at everyone and said quietly, “don’t tell the fuckin’ press…”

      I pushed back into the wall. I was “the fuckin’ press”, and this was my first day.

      My mission: to trail Tom Sizemore while he did publicity in Asia for his new film. My agenda: to ask him questions more about himself than his role in the film, to dig and crawl, to get the dirt. It had seemed like an easy assignment at first; spend time with a fag-end movie star and get some sleaze, but that was before I found out about who my assignment really was.

      Mr. Tom Sizemore. Born sometime in the past and possibly on a battlefield in Hell. Veteran of a mix of trash film and sublime works; The Relic next to Heat. Red Planet on the same filmography as Saving Private Ryan. This guy was the original yo-yo of movie stardom and had spent most of the last eight years crawling around in the trash. He had involved himself in a running feud with Schwarzenegger, impressively refusing to back down in spite of the American-Austrian’s superior muscle to mass ratio; he had starred and co-starred and special guest starred in a string of flops, taking himself out of the cinemas and straight onto DVD; there was his face in the papers alongside Hollywood whore-let Heidi Fleiss; his infamous hotel-made mad porn short, that showed him doing things to underage girls that shouldn’t be done until at least college age, and somehow didn’t result in his arrest on the charge of statutory rape. That arrest did come eventually though, as I turned the fourth page of his profile, with the hit and run incident that had shown the true dichotomy of the man.

      A composite of all the different versions ran something like this: the previous year, high on crack he had run down an eighteen year old Christian boy returning home from an evening of prayer at his local church. Leaving the boy on the road, Sizemore had returned home, turned on the TV then realized something had just happened. Somehow managing to pull himself out of his crack wonderland and put on a jacket (and sense of responsibility), he raced back to the scene of the crime where the boy still lay unconscious. He phoned the police, got the boy to hospital and turned himself in. After a favorable testimony from the recovering boy in his hospital bed, and a videotaped message of forgiveness and absolution from the equally Christian parents, Sizemore was sentenced to four months in a low-security prison near San Diego. This, it was safe to assume, was the low point.

      I had closed the file wondering if this man was really as volatile and tempestuous as this profile suggested. Then I had noticed a small note on the corner of the file. ‘DOES NOT like press. Step carefully’. Shit, I was press. On the plus side, I thought as I arrived at the Warner Bros. studio lot the next day for the first screening of Vineland, reputations are usually misleading, sometimes completely fabricated. Sizemore couldn’t be that bad. He might even be fun; former stars struggling to get back to the top often were.

      Forty-five minutes later, I, and Jason Patric, discovered it was exactly what it said in the file.

      I sat next to Tom on a flight to Hong Kong, crossing the Pacific, heading towards a three day publicity stop in the number one stop-over city in the world. It was a few days after the screening room debacle, and I was surprised to learn in the trade rags that there had been no screening room debacle. No words or whispers from anyone. I glanced at Tom while pretending to read a short piece about Val Kilmer, debating with myself whether or not I should enquire about his feelings on the Patric beating. Before I could make a decision, he leaned over my arm and jabbed his finger at Kilmer on the page.

      “That guy’s a sour little cunt,” he declared a little louder than usual.

      A flight attendant two rows down looked over and said nothing. The men in front turned a little, but also said nothing. They either knew it was Sizemore and feared a beating among the clouds or…

      “It’s Tom Sizemore. Don’t…” the man in front whispered.

      So option one then. They knew it was him.

      “Seriously, you know I worked with him before, right? Yeah, that piece of fluff shit Red Planet…and he was a supreme cunt. An unbelievable cunt…”

      More heads were turning. Parental heads with children. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable, but I also felt that this was exactly the kind of situation that could bring me closer to my man. The whole plane against Tom, with only myself willing to defend him. I had to stop being a pressman and become a confidant.

      I pulled my body across towards him and looked around the audience of faces before speaking.

      “I heard he was a cunt.” I tried to say it at normal conversation level, but it came out instinctively lower than that. “What did he do on Red Planet?”

      Sizemore smirked.

      “He was a cunt because he always stopped the fucking scenes. The director, I can’t remember the clown’s name, and he was a bit of a clown I’ll admit that, didn’t know what the fuck he was doing from the first shot…he just sat there, jaw open like an ape, and Kilmer, that little up himself cock fucker, kept shouting cut. Then he’d ignore the rest of us and talk to his fucking acting coach, like we weren’t standing there waiting for the prick to just say his lines. And there was one line that he just couldn’t get right…what was it?”

      The flight attendant came over and stooped down to ask us to keep our voices down, and clean up the language.

      Sizemore eyeballed her like he was still in prison and I braced myself for blood.

      “I’m sorry honey. I guess I forgot where we were…”

      His face relaxed and even smiled.

      She smiled back, said thank you and walked away.

      “…and how much I’m fucking paying for this,” he said, louder than before.

      The flight attendant stopped, checked her composure then kept on moving.

      Sizemore leaned in towards me and continued his story…

      “I’m tired of looking at your stupid robot face. That was the line. But Kilmer, thinking he’s filming Proust or some high-lit shit like that, starts mumbling and saying shit like, ‘my character would never say this’, and everyone else was standing around so bored we might as well have just been finger-fucking each other in the trailer, so I say, ‘Val, just say the line,’ but he continues… ‘No, my character wouldn’t say it.’ ‘Wouldn’t say what?’ I say back to him. ‘Wouldn’t say stupid robot. It’s not eloquent enough. It’s something a teenager would say, not an educated man.’ The director, the producers, the crew, we’re all getting tired now, so I just say to him, ‘Look, you’re talking to a robot. It’s trying to kill you. It’s a stupid robot. Say the fucking line.’ He looks at me and he shakes his head, doesn’t speak or protest, just shakes his head. So, not much choice for me here, fuck it, and I smack him…the cunt shakes a little more, goes down, good night, Laurence fucking Olivier. No-one goes to help him, and everyone knew he deserved it so whatever. So, I walk over, slap him, get him back up and tell him, ‘You got told. Now say the fucking line and don’t ever shake your head at me again.’ He says the line, and finally we move on. But then, a week later, there’s an interview with him, some arty magazine, and the fucker, he’s laying into me, saying I have no pedigree in acting and basically calling me a piece of shit. So I go to see him on set and I ask him what he’s been saying about me, and again, he starts shaking his fucking head. Seriously, like the other week never happened…so, what can I do, no choice again, I smack him. And this time I give him a second one to really teach him. But he never learnt…I mean, the film got done, yeah, but he’s still saying bad shit about me, even to this day. And only cos he knows I can’t get to him now…fucking coward fuck.”

      I sat back in my seat, aware that everyone on the plane had heard the same story. I wondered how he was going to survive in Hong Kong when this was the kind of story he liked to tell as an anecdote. Would he clean up his language at least?

      “…so don’t think too much of what that cunt says,” he added, flicking Val Kilmer’s paper face.

      I nodded.

      Further down the aisle the same flight attendant as before was coming our way with reinforcements.

      In the customs line at Hong Kong airport we were joined by another man. He was tall, wiry, with one shoulder slumped down to show he’d been leaning into people’s ears all his life. Sizemore shouted a few words at him and he disappeared into the line behind us.

      “Do you know him?” I asked.

      “That’s my dick of an agent. Trying to get into the line with us.”

      “You don’t like him?”

      Sizemore looked backwards, assessing the agent’s face just to make sure he had the right guy.

      “He’s alright, as far as agents go.”

      He turned back for another look.

      “I wouldn’t say he was bad. He’s kept me on despite all the shit I’ve done. But sometimes…I get the feeling he’s playing the hero. Know what I mean?”

      I didn’t have a clue what he meant, but this was Tom Sizemore. I told him I knew exactly what he meant.

      “Like the Jesus sacrifice, putting himself on the cross for my sins and expecting me to love him for it afterwards. But-…”

      Sizemore was interrupted by the customs official directing him to one of the men in the booths. He stepped forward and left me behind. I just watched him at first, expecting there to be some kind of problem, some dispute or irregularity that Sizemore would blunder into, but he sailed smoothly through it and out the other side. It seemed he was capable of control.

      I met back up with him by the luggage belt. I had been thinking of things to ask him, specifically, the ‘shit he had done’ in the past, but before I could form the words, he blocked me.

      “I have a question for you, Press-man.”

      “What’s that?”

      “Are you gonna screw me on this piece?”

      He stared at each of my eyes, one at a time. I sensed danger.

      “No. Why would I?”

      “Because you all do. Every press fucker I’ve ever met has screwed me.”

      “I’m just here to tell the truth.” I tried to make myself sound like Serpico, but sounded more like a liar.

      “No you’re not. I know how you guys use quotes. You’re here to get more shit on my past. Right? You wanna know about that kid, or the crack, or the sex-vid. Right?”

      “Everyone knows about that already.”

      “Yeah, shit, like they care about that. Hollywood’s the land of remakes. They love hearing my story re-told. They whack off over it. That’s what you’re gonna do isn’t it? You’re gonna re-tell my story, aren’t you?”

      He was looking for his luggage now, but couldn’t stop talking.

      “You don’t give a shit about the film, do you? I could tell you it’s the best thing I’ve ever done but you won’t print that. You’re gonna wait till I start yapping about some whore I fucked, how I fucked her, and the funny shit I said. That’s what you’re gonna print isn’t it? Jesus, why did I bring you here? What the fuck do I need you here for? I’m meeting the press for the next three days, and I’ve got you here. No fucking breaks…why did I agree to this shit?”

      He was arguing with himself; get rid of the journo, don’t get rid of him. He was gonna get rid of me. I had to act.

      “Tom. Look, I don’t want to re-tell your story. Really, I don’t. I like you. I like your movies…”

      He stopped and brought me back into his conversation.

      “You like all my movies?”

      “Some of them…”

      “You like the new one?”

      “Yes.”

      I tried to remember what I had seen at the screening. I tried not to remember Jason Patric bleeding on the floor.

      “What did you like about it?”

      “I liked your performance. It had passion, it was alive. It reminded me of your work in ‘Heat’ and the Scagnetti character you did.”

      His face changed, and turned to search for luggage again. He spoke without looking at me.

      “Yeah, well that’s the kind of thing I’m trying to get back to…”

      We waited for our luggage to come in silence. I had managed to keep myself on the team, but I had limited myself in terms of questions I could safely ask. The truth was, although the comeback angle was interesting, I still wanted to know about the shit in the past, and so did everyone else. As we picked up our luggage and found the chauffeur with the ‘Sizemore’ card in the arrivals terminal, I thought of clever ways I could resurrect the dirty shit.

      After checking into our hotel and into our separate rooms, I sat down on my bed and tried to figure out the thrust of the article. Since the airport, I had been having conscience palpitations about the consequences of what I might write about Tom. It would be so easy to tread on him and needle him into some outrageous quotes, but I couldn’t shake the impression that he had been kicked to the ground too many times before. And I was beginning to like him. Perhaps I should stick to his films. No pressman had ever done that for him before. Obviously the “dirty stuff” would have to be mentioned, but it didn’t have to be dwelt on.

      There was a knock on the door. I opened it and saw Sizemore dressed up in black shirt and pants, flanked by his agent. He grabbed me by the jacket I hadn’t yet taken off, and pulled me out into the corridor.

      “I have no idea why I’m not sneaking off without you, but fuck it. It’s time to have some fun.”

      He laughed manically and off we went.

      Six hours and seven bars later, we were in the back of a taxi heading towards Wan Chai, the area of Hong Kong where people went to be scandalous. Tom was still manic, sitting with his arm around me in the back, while his agent had been sent to the front to take care of the driver. Our time in the previous seven bars had brought us closer, and I felt it was a good time to ask a few of the sensitive questions I had thought of earlier. I started with his earlier films, just to ease us in…

      “What do I think of them?” he repeated my question. “I think I’ve made some shit in my time, but so has everyone, y’know? Michael Caine made some fucking shit about killer bees for fucks sake. So I’m not alone. Why are you still asking questions anyway? We’re having fun. It’s fun time, in Wai Chan, or whatever this fuck-town’s called.”

      “What about the last eight years or so?”

      “Fuck, man…I can’t remember the last eight years. I can’t remember getting in this fucking cab. Forget them. Have fun. Enjoy the night,” he leaned in to my ear, practically chewing it, “I’m glad I brought you along, you’re alright. You’re alright, you wouldn’t mind sharing with me, would you?”

      His agent craned his neck round and spoke to me.

      “Don’t ask him any more, please. It just fires him up…”

      I shrugged.

      Sizemore told his agent to keep his eyes on the road.

      “I’m not driving Tom,” he said back.

      “Well someone fucking is, and it’s not me.”

      I tried to make sense of that statement, as Tom decided to return to my previous question.

      “The thing about the last eight years is…the thing you’ve got to remember is…I’m still here. I survived it. I survived everything. I went inside and they still give me movies to make. ‘Cos I’ve got charisma, passion. Like you said before, the audience knows when I’m on screen. And they know when a fucking vacuum like Jason Patric’s on. There’s a fucking difference. That’s why I’ll always come back. And that’s why I’ve been to hell and back. That’s why I’m not afraid to go back there. I’m not planning to, but its part of me, y’know? I’m like a magnet, and bad shit is my fridge. Yeah, quote that shit man, that’s a good one…where the fuck are we? Where are the fucking whores in Wai Chan?”

      He glued himself to the window, looking for women. I continued with questions, losing fear now.

      “Don’t you think you could have made better films though? If you had stayed straight and sober, wouldn’t you be in a better position now?

      He kept his face on the window.

      “Most of my films have been shit, but fuck it, I’ve lived life. And I’ve made a couple of greats. And this one is pretty fucking good too. Vineland, you watch, it’s gonna get me some respect again, as long as that fuck Patric doesn’t derail it.”

      “So this is the start of a new period for you?”

      “That’s right sister. I’m on my new fucking period. I’m only making works of fucking art now. With the best directors, and actors and people and shit. No more pricks, that’s my rule. No more Kilmers or Patrics. Only good people. Fucking Michael Mann and Spielberg again. I’ve still got their numbers. We’ve got their numbers, Andy, give them a fucking ring. Tell them about Vineland. Tell then I’m back and I’ve got my hell shit to explore for them. Tell them I’m gonna show them hell and make art with it. Phone them, come on, get your fucking phone out. Where is it?”

      Sizemore lunged forward and tried to put Andy’s hand into his pocket to fish out his phone. Luckily, the taxi stopped and the driver told us we had arrived in Wan Chai. We all got out and Tom promptly forgot all about Mann and Spielberg and reeled off down the street, shouting behind that he was gonna find a whore for each hand he had. Twenty seconds and fifty yards later, he changed it to a whore for each finger. Andy and I followed behind. Andy was worried.

      “You’re gonna quote him on all of that, aren’t you?”

      “Are you telling me not to?”

      He shook his head.

      “There’s no point. Tom can’t say or do anything worse than he’s done before. And he’s right; despite it all he does survive.”

      “Why did you never get rid of him?”

      “Why? I like the guy. For some reason I like him.”

      “I can see how that happens.”

      We both looked ahead and watched as Tom got down on his knees and pretended to crawl like a tiger towards a badly-made up woman standing outside what had to be a strip joint. As we got closer, I realized I had made a mistake.

      “I’m a mountain lion,” he growled at her.

      She ignored him until he was forced to get up and move on to a different woman.      

      Again we followed at a distance. I was starting to feel like part of the secret service.

      “He really doesn’t care does he?” I said to Andy.

      “He has a philosophy, he says. The only way to live life is to take risks. And to take a risk, he says, means you have to forget about the idea of consequences. Then when they inevitably happen, you get the full experience, without expectation. He says its life as pure experience.”

      “You mean he does things like shooting crack to see what will happen?”

      “Kind of. But more like, he’ll leave his car keys on the table or his credit card and then smoke crack, so he sets himself up for anything.”

      “Is that what he did when he ran down that kid?”

      Andy took a moment, probably regretting what he had said.

      “Yeah. But that was before. Don’t misquote me here…”

      “Aren’t you afraid he’ll do it again?”

      “No. It won’t happen twice. He always hides his car keys now.”

      “So he still does crack?”

      Andy looked at me, becoming colder all of a sudden.

      “You should stick to the film from this point on, I think.”

      And that was the last real conversation I ever had with Andy.

      The next morning I woke up late. I checked the junket schedule that Tom was supposed to follow and saw that he should be two hours into the interviews. Then I remembered the previous night and the two hookers that he had brought back to the hotel around six am. The last thing I recalled was Tom insisting to the desk staff that they were his friends and he had promised them a good time. They hadn’t believed him and had thrown the hookers out, with Tom shouting at them all the way to the front entrance. Not to be denied his fun, Tom saw me walking away down the lobby and screamed out that he was going to “fuck them in the alley round back,” turned to walk out, stopped on the first step, spun back round, adding “I’m gonna fuck them in their alley in the alley,” laughed, spun around again and left, slamming his open palm against the glass of the door as he went. Whether he did it or not was still unclear.

      I got out of bed and quickly got ready for the junket. Today would be relatively easy. Tom would spend all day talking to other journalists, with me sitting in the corner. I could let them do all the leg work.

      An hour later and I was in the junket hotel, but Tom wasn’t. The producers, the director, the hotel staff, the room itself, everyone was pissed. “Jason Patric has been interviewing for the last three hours. He’s a good one. Reliable,” said the director in between interviews himself. “Tom Sizemore is done after this film. Done, for sure. No-one’s gonna hire him after this,” said the producer. Andy was there, but was silent in the corner. No one was defending Tom. This was my chance to get close.

      “Maybe he’s sick. Or stuck in traffic?”

      “Yeah, the traffic in the local whore-house,” said the director.

      “He’s fucking done in this business. We’ve all had enough,” said the producer once more.

      Andy still didn’t say anything. Not exactly a super agent. I made a note to rat him out to Tom later.

      “I knocked on his door before I left and he wasn’t there. I think he’s stuck in traffic, honestly. Or he got lost…”

      I saw Andy roll his eyes.

      “Fucking finished…” the producer muttered as he waddled off down the corridor.

      Andy beckoned me over to the wall he was leaning against.

      “Don’t make excuses for him.”

      “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?” I fired back, mock-angry.

      He didn’t answer.

      Another hour later, Tom finally showed up with a forced smile and huge black smears cradling his eyes. Frankly, he looked like a man who had smoked all the crack in Mexico and sodomized two whores in an alley. The whole corridor had used up all their rage in the preceding two hours so there was nothing else to do but to put him in the room and usher in the first interviewer. Andy and I went in after him.

      “Get ready for the quotes,” he spat in my ear as we took our seats at the back of the room.

      The first guy in was a hack for some local mag that apparently had a readership of 250,000. He had brought in a copy of his mag to show Tom. After a flick through, Tom threw it back and mimed a suicide shot at his own head.

      “There’s no way 250,000 people read that shit, no offense. Unless you have 250,000 mothers.”

      The Tom Sizemore junket extravaganza was on its way…

      The rest of the day was a dazzle. If my intention had been to crucify the guy then I wouldn’t have been short of ammunition:

INTERVIEWER 23: “How do you choose your roles?”

SIZEMORE: “Whatever they send me that I don’t wipe my ass with”

INTERVIEWER 31: “How do you feel about the sex video now?”

SIZEMORE: “I Love it. I whack off to it three times a day. Although it’s myself I’m admiring, not the girls. Just in case they try to drag me back into court.”

INTERVIEWER 35: “What was it like working with Jason Patric?”

SIZEMORE: “What can I say? The guy’s a work of art. He’s a method man. He played an unlikable piece of shit in this movie, and from day one he was an unlikable piece of shit. I heard he’s having trouble shaking it off though. Asshole…”

      They asked all the questions I had been planning to bring up at some point during our three days together, but hearing the answers he fired back, I lost interest. There was something else to be found here. Something no-one had realized before. I realized it when Interviewer no. 42 sat down on the sofa, a guy from one of the more serious magazines, and asked:

INTERVIEWER 42: I’ll be blunt. I used to think your work was offensively awful. You acted like you didn’t care for anything. Now, I’ve seen Vineland and I think I’ve just seen one of the greatest performances I’ll ever witness. The passion you clearly have for this film is infectious on screen and I’ll bet you won’t even get close to an Oscar for it, which is a travesty in my opinion. How do you feel about your work in this film?

      This one took a moment to register. An authentic question.

      Tom opened his mouth, probably to say something incendiary, but the words didn’t come as he realized he had just been praised for his work. This would need a different Sizemore.

      “Are you shitting me?” he finally blurted out.

      “No, I’m serious. If I thought your work was amateur I’d tell you it was amateur. Your work in this film, however, is far from amateur. It’s feral.”

      Tom started nodding his head. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t keep his eyes on the reporter.

      “Thanks. Feral, yeah. Thanks a lot for that. I really gave it all I had on this one, to be honest. And…y’know, it’s Pynchon, who I love.”

      “I can tell. You really seemed to connect with his worldview in this film.”

      Tom was smiling now.

      “His worldview is my world. I live in his world. I love his work. I love absurdist writing, and surrealism, I love it…”

      Andy moved forward as if his chair was pushing him off. This side of Tom was new to him too.

      Tom continued…

      “Everything about it is relevant to me. The absurd…the things people think but don’t act on, that’s what you find in Pynchon and those are the things I act on. And in Vineland, I love the story, the hypocrisy in it, and the sadness of this guy, my character being forced to parody himself by jumping through windows like a maniac. And the love story…the woman he still loves, who went off with…with Jason fucking Patric-…” he laughed out into the room, filling it quickly. “This film and my performance in it, is why I still act. Everyone out there thinks I just live to shoot up, or fu-…sleep with women, or make…those kinds of videos, but that’s not me. Not all of me anyway. That’s just my experience, but I’ll tell you what, I get a bigger high off films like this and reflecting on them and what I’ve done in them, than any of the sensualist shit I do.”

      He finished and looked at me. It was a look that told me it was my job to mimic this reporter and reveal Tom the artist to the world.

      “So this is the path you want to take from now on?” the interviewer asked.

      “Definitely.”

      “And what’s next, after Vineland?”

      Tom thought quickly. I didn’t know if he had a plan for what came next, but he had to make it look like he did.

      “I’ve always wanted to adapt Vonnegut. Sirens of Titan maybe. I don’t think that’s been done yet, right?”

      “No, I don’t believe it has.”

      “Then that’s what I’m gonna try and do.”

      After the interviewer had left the room, Tom turned to me (not Andy), and declared how much he liked that guy. He told me, pointedly, that I should try to be more like him. I said that I would try my best. Before he could say anymore, the next guy was wheeled in and sat down. Tom, still smiling from the last guy, waited for the first question.

      “So Tom…I really enjoyed your performance in this film.”

      “Thank you.”

      “It’s a really brave performance from you…”

      “Thanks, I tried to make it real…”

      They both smiled at each other.

      “Your last film, technically, was the sex video last year. How do you feel about that now?”

      Tom lost his smile. The reporter continued unfazed.

      “And what inspired you, what was the spark that gave you the idea of bending a 15 year old girl into that position?”

      Tom brought the two of them closer and the whole room tensed for blood.

      “You really wanna know?”

      The interviewer nodded.

      Tom looked over at Andy who was shaking his head more out of habit than fear. It seemed to work as Tom drew himself back into his own chair and relaxed his shoulders.

      “I regret my previous actions concerning that tape and swear truthfully that I had no idea of the girl’s true age.” He recited from his time in court. “Interview’s over. Now get out of my fucking room.”

      The junket wrapped up about nine in the evening and when the last interviewer had gone, Tom stood up and told us we were going straight to the hotel bar. Tonight, he proclaimed, would be a wild ride. Andy and I shuffled after him. At the bar, he drank quickly, first pints, then shots. The pace of a sensualist, not an artist, although he would tell me later, with his awakened knowledge of scholarly words, that sensualism and art were symbiotic. I drank slower, but faster than Andy, reasoning that if Tom picked on anyone it would be the slowest.

      For the first hour or two we talked about the day and all the interviews we’d sat through. Tom was scathing about most of them, but when I brought his attention back to the guy from the serious magazine, he became warmer.

      “That guy was the only decent one of the day.”

      “He seemed to like your work.”

      “Yeah, I could talk to him. He understood what I was trying to do.”

      “He seemed nice…”

      “He came to talk to me about the film, and all the other cock suckers came to get dirt. That guy was a prince among them all. The rest were muck. Shit on the fucking carpet.”

      This was the Tom I wanted to write about. Still entertaining, but also insightful. If people saw him like this he would become their favorite star of Hollywood. If I could keep him on this topic, if I could prod him into talking intelligently about his career and his future work, his ideas on life, then his whole reputation would be flipped right over.

      “You told him you wanted to adapt Vonnegut…”

      “Did I? Yeah I did, didn’t I?”

      “Yeah you did.”

      “Yeah I did.”

      He seemed confused. There were five empty shot glasses by his elbow that had probably caused that.

      “So are you going to adapt Vonnegut?”

      “If I can find a good book of his, yeah, why not?”

      He looked past me, out into the space of the bar.

      “You said you liked Sirens of Titan.”

      “I do.”

      He spoke past me. I was losing Tom the artist.

      “I like that book too. I think you’d make an excellent Malachi Constant.”

      “Who?”

      “The main character from the book. The one who is rich and loses everything.”

      “In the book?”

      “Yeah, the main guy.”

      His face changed shape, still looking over my shoulder.

      “What’s wrong?” I asked.

      He finally came back to looking at me.

      “There’s a stunning piece of ass over there. Don’t look.”

      I didn’t look.

      “I need to fuck her. I don’t want any more whores. I’m sick of them. I should be getting something a bit higher class anyway. I’m a fucking movie star after all. Ok, she’s turned away, have a look at her. Quick.”

      I looked. A tall, snobbish looking woman was sitting with two guys on a nearby table. One of the guys had to be her husband.

      “I’m gonna go over there.”

      “What? Now?”

      “Yeah now.”

      He got up.

      “What about the two guys?”

      “They don’t matter.”

      “I think one of them might be her husband.”

      He stopped and analyzed them.

      “Fuck it, I’ll take the risk.”

      “Maybe you should hold back Tom,” said Andy, who up until now had been invisible to the side of us.

      “No. Sensualism. Risk. You know what I like. Hey, do you think she’ll recognize me? Did they get ‘Heat’ here?”

      He didn’t wait for our answer.

      Four in the morning and Tom and I were back in Wan Chai. He had five more hours before he was due back at the hotel for the next round of interviews and despite many attempts by Andy to explain to him the importance of turning up for the morning session at least, we had kept on drinking. The woman in the hotel bar had been with us for a few hours, but somewhere between the hotel bar and the place we were in now Tom had apparently slept with her and sent her back home with the promise of a role in the new Vonnegut film he was filming in Hong Kong. Tom, it seemed, had the same tolerance for alcohol that he had for air. Unlike myself, who had thrown up a couple of hours earlier, possibly at the same time that Tom was “sleeping with” the hotel woman. I wasn’t made to drink; I was made to ask endless questions and to have no solid opinion when I asked them. So, with no women around us at that time, I moved closer to Tom and asked…

      “Are you really going to film the Vonnegut film in Hong Kong?”

      “What? Vonnegut?”

      “Yeah. You told the woman that you were going to make the film here.”

      “Oh yeah, her. She was a nice fuck. I’ll get her out tomorrow too. Y’know, she said she wanted to come visit me in LA, like she wants to marry me or something. I think I was fun that’s why…and those…,the other two guys, she told me, were dull as fuck, so I think…I think she wants my dick full time. What do you think? Me with a nice Asian wife? You think that would be good for me?”

      I had made a mistake by mentioning the woman. Forget about women, stick to the films, I told myself.

      “But about the film…I think you should make the Vonnegut one. The main role is perfect for you.”

      “Yeah, I’ll look into it. I’ve gotta get a role in it for my new wife.”

      He laughed.

      “Hey, where’s Andy?”

      “He went back, remember?”

      Andy had gone back to the hotel three hours earlier, telling Tom that if he didn’t make it to the interviews the next morning then he would have to look for a new agent.

      “Did he? Fuck him then. I’ll get a new Andy tomorrow.”

      “So what about the film? Who would you like to write it? Who would you like in the cast?”

      “The cast…actors.”

      “Yeah, who do you want to work with?”

      “Who? Let’s see…honestly, I hate pretty much everyone I’ve worked with. They’re all precious little fucks. All deadly fucking serious…”

      “What about DeNiro?”

      “Mark Wahlberg…he might be alright. I’ve heard he’s alright.”

      “What about the director?”

      “Oh shit, you are shitting me…”

      His face had contorted. He was drunk-angry. I followed the line of rage and found Mr. Jason Patric at the end of it, standing by the bar with a lady holding onto him.

      “What the fuck’s little miss fairy fuck doing out this late?”

      “Should we go somewhere else?” I asked.

      “No chance. He goes, not us. Or maybe we should invite him over. That girl looks like she might bite. Lets see if I can pry her away.”

      “I don’t think that’s a good idea Tom.”

      “You’re not my fucking Andy agent. You just sit and watch.”

      “You could get arrested if you start something here. The police are strict.”

      He was getting annoyed with me, I could tell, but I was trying to help him. I was his friend now and I didn’t want to have to write about Tom Sizemore locked up again.

      “Could I give a shit? I’m a fucking sensualist!”

      He leaned over the bar, poking his head down barwards.

      “Hey Patric, get over here. Come have a drink with us!”

      “Tom, listen…”

      Jason Patric saw him, as did the whole bar.

      “Stop hassling me pressman. You want a story, watch this.”

      “I don’t want to watch anything. Let’s go back, yeah?”

      “No just watch.”

      He stood up and made himself taller and stronger than Patric, who stayed where he was. He wasn’t going to come over. Tom would have to go to him.

      He leaned back at me.

      “Five minutes, she’ll be on my arm. Just you watch…”

      Then he was off, marching towards his target.

      Roughly one hour later and we were both in a prison cell in Wan Chai station. Tom had a black eye, either from Patric, who as far as I knew was in hospital, or one of the police officers, who had hit out when Tom had tried to take their guns. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing there as I hadn’t hit anybody, but they had seen Tom pleading with me to help him so I was guilty by association. As we sat there, with Tom talking to the floor, I pictured my article on the page and knew that I would have to be extremely dishonest to leave any of this out.

      “Don’t use any of this in your article…” Tom had said when we had first arrived.

      “If I don’t I won’t have anything left to write about,” I had replied, purposefully caustic.

      Tom had been quiet after that, talking only to the police and himself. Andy had taken his phone call but refused to come down and get him out. It was just me and Tom.

      “You’re not going to make the junket tomorrow.” I said trying to break the silence.

      “It doesn’t matter. They never use me on the quotes anyway. Only when I say something dumb.”

      A few more minutes of silence.

      Then Tom spoke to me.

      “You’re not gonna print any of this are you?”

      “Tom, you’ve asked me that already.”

      He looked down at the floor, at his feet.

      “But you’re not gonna write it are you?”

      “Tom-…”

      “You said you weren’t gonna screw me.”

      I had said that. But in my mind he had screwed me by giving me nothing else substantial to write about him.

      “And you owe me…”

      “I owe you? I owe you for what?” This was a surprise. What could I possibly owe him?

      “I was the one who got you this gig. Did Andy tell you that? It was me. I saw your article, I read it, the drugs one with the methadone clinics and the commercial about crack. I got Andy to bring you in.”

      “You read that?”

      “Yeah, I read it. I fucking loved it. Pretending to be from that New York paper to get that producer guy, that was magic, fucking magic. As soon as I read that I knew you’d be right for me, that you’d be fair. Andy said no, he told me not to get you. He said you couldn’t write. You know what he said? He said you were the guy who thought it was art to write in the present tense. He said you didn’t know shit about journalism, but I defended you. I got you on board. So, you owe me.”

      “He said-…Andy said that? About the present tense?”

      “Yeah, but I got you on board. Me. You owe me, right?”

      “Tom, look, that’s a lovely story and I’m happy you liked my stuff and got me on board, but we’re in prison. You got me into prison. I owe you nothing.”

      “I still got you on board though…”

      “Tom…come on.”

      He played with his fingers then traced a line up his forearm over one of his tattoos. He stopped over it and gave himself some time. A few quiet minutes later, his fingers starting moving again.

      “Ok, you don’t owe me. I fucked up. I admit it. But you can’t write about this, you’ve gotta be fair.”

      “That’s what I want, but you have to help me.”

      “You’re gonna be fair to me?”

      “If you help me, yes. Can you?”

      “Yes, I can do that. I can definitely do that. What do you need?”

      “I need you to give me something different, now or tomorrow. And it has to be something honest, something about your films.”

      “Yeah I will. That’s what I want. I’ll be good.”

      I waited another five minutes to see what he would give me.

      His head came up from the floor.

      “It’s not my fault though, all this. Patric is a cunt. If you had put up with him for a four month shoot like I had to then you’d see him my way too. He deserved a punch.”

      I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to print any of this.

      “No-one likes him, you know that? It’s not just me, no-one likes him, not one other person in the business. Ray Liotta told me what he was like. Just before I heard he was on ‘Vineland’ I met Ray and he said, ‘Tom, watch out for that prick, he’s a schemer.’ And he was right. He thinks he’s Brando, but what the fuck has he done? What the fuck has he ever done? The peado film with DeNiro, ok, but what else? Nothing, except that fucking undercover cop film, and what did he do in that apart from stand in the same fucking room as Ray. Jesus, a whole reputation out of that. Christ.”

      I looked at the wall.

      “Christ…one fucking film and he’s the leaping Lord of fucking cinema. What a prick.”

      “Let’s forget about Jason Patric for a while,” I said to the wall.

      “Yeah, whatever. Forget him. I don’t care about that prick. Ask me about something else.”

      “About your films?”

      “Yeah, sure. If that’s what you want to write about.”

      “I’d like to Tom.”

      “But you won’t, will you? You’re gonna write about the other shit.”

      “I don’t want to.”

      “Then don’t. Forget the other shit ‘cos-…’cos you know it’s not my fault. You know that now. You know how it all starts, right? There’s no-one to stop me that’s all. If I had someone to pull me back, maybe I’d stop. But I know, we both know, that people wanna see me lose it. They wanna see me go nutso. I’m like…I’m like a car-crash that no-one wants to clear up. They just leave me on the road and I just keep on burning and crashing.”

      “Are you going to talk about your films, Tom?”

      “Yeah, I am. I’m just telling you that it’s not all my fault. I’m a car-crash that no-one’s clearing up. Remember that when you write your thing.”

      “You want me to quote you on that?”

      “Yeah, exact words. And make sure you get the context.”

      I put my head into my hands and breathed slowly. I liked Tom but he was boxing me into a corner. Perhaps this is what he had done with every reporter.

      Two hours later, Andy the agent did come to get Tom out. Unfortunately, he didn’t think it was necessary to secure my release at the same time so I was forced to sit in that cell for another twenty-four hours. As he left, Tom said he would come back for me later, after the junket had finished, but he never came. I got out the next evening and went back to the hotel to get my stuff. I packed my bags and went down the corridor to Tom’s room to see if he was still there. There was a note on the door telling me that he had caught an early flight back to LA. It seemed that he didn’t want to talk to me about his films after all. On the other side of the note was another message, this one carefully presented so there’d be no misunderstanding. ‘Stay away from Tom. And learn how to write. No-one uses present tense anymore, hack.’ It was signed Andy. I scrunched up the paper and dropped it on the floor. Then, halfway down the corridor, I changed my mind, picked it back up and wrote the following under Andy’s message: ‘It’s better to burn out (using present tense) than to fade away.’ I placed the note on the floor and walked away, knowing that whoever read it would realize that I had won the exchange.

      I headed to the airport and as I waited in the departure lounge I picked up a local gossip magazine and flicked through it. A local pop star had taken a boat trip with two other stars, both male, and had been caught in a bikini. Another star, an actress who wasn’t particularly famous, had been photographed sitting next to a man in her apartment. Andy Lau had gone shopping. I stopped looking and put the magazine back down. The stories were trash. My story would be trash. I didn’t want to write about Tom in the gutter but I really had no choice. Unless there was another way, another story I had missed during the last two days. I decided to think it over on the plane. See if I could save Tom.

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