“CSI: NY ran for nearly a decade. The series, the role and the folks I worked with were all wonderful. Being on set for that long with the same group of people starts to feel like a family. The producers and I started hosting a mid-season bash for the crew and their families with a cookout on the backlot and a Lt. Dan Band concert—each year we tried to top ourselves until, thanks to our incredible special effects crew, we brought out a full pyrotechnics show and a fireworks display. It was really special. Beyond that, however, CSI: NY afforded me the rare stability to do a lot of things. As an actor, your next job is always in question. But being on the series, knowing I did not have to worry about the next acting job during that time, allowed me to travel the world in support of our defenders. It gave me the resources to contribute to non-profit organizations and eventually establish my own foundation. And being on television every week allowed me to bring the public’s attention to many important causes. It was a blessing in so many different ways. I loved our wonderful cast and crew and will forever cherish that time.
“Having just done a political biopic (Truman), I initially passed when I got a call about George Wallace. Not long after, I’m having a meeting with the legendary film director John Frankenheimer, at the Hamburger Hamlet in Brentwood of all places, talking about a project he’s working on with producer Brian Gazer called The Long Rains. Suddenly, Frankenheimer pulls out the script for George Wallace and starts talking about it. I didn’t know he was involved in the project. I took the script home, read it, and told John that I still had some reservations. He shouts, “No! No! You can’t pass on this! Let me come out to your house right now and show you some video tape and we'll talk about it some more!” Before I know it, John Frankenheimer is pulling into my driveway. He’s brought tapes and books on George Wallace and here he is, sitting in my living room, John Frankenheimer, who has worked with everybody in the world and he wants me to do this project with him, and he’s not going to take no for an answer. I’m glad he didn’t. I did the film and George Wallace ended up being one of the best experiences and certainly one of the best acting moments I’ve ever had. And John and I became fast, deep, very good friends. It was something I’ll always be grateful to him for.
“I nearly turned down the role of Jimmy Shaker because I just couldn’t see myself in the guy. When I read the script I hated him. He’s just a purely evil human being. And the fact that I had young kids at the time only made me hate him all the more. But it kept nagging at me, as did the idea of passing up working with Ron [Howard] again. Eventually, I spoke with Ron about it and he was receptive to my concerns about the character. Richard Price was the very talented writer and we, Ron and I, worked with him to shape the role into something we were all satisfied with. From there, I was fully committed to embracing the darkness of Jimmy Shaker—and it was a blast. Everyone involved in the project was top-tier talent. Mel Gibson, producers Brian Grazer and Scott Rudin, a great cast and crew. In Ransom, Ron really crafted an exceptional thriller.
“I had only limited knowledge about Harry Truman when I was approached to play the part. Before I took it on, I knew I’d have to convince myself I could find the essence of the man and bring him to life in a believable way. I also knew it would be an enormous undertaking to cover 35 years of the man’s life in two hours. You’re trying to fit into somebody’s skin, so you have to study the dialect and the mannerisms and then forget all of that and go with your own instincts. After mulling it over for about a week I accepted the part. I'm so glad I did. It turned out to be a terrific acting challenge, through which I ended up with deep respect for the man. It was a true education. A great admiration and gratitude to the producers, director, cast and crew as we worked very long hours.\n\nI was in the make up chair for four hours each day, 25 out of 35 days shooting. The days were long but it was a great experience and well worth it. This kind of role does not come around all the time. I learned a lot.
“In the Summer of ’94, my agents called to tell me, 'There’s an audition for Apollo 13. They’d like you to come audition. Tom is going to play Jim Lovell. There are three other astronauts. Pick one and go read for it.' So I finished the script and it was great, just a great story. What a perfect story to make into a movie. I particularly loved the astronaut who gets pulled from the mission but then has to return to bring the guys home, so I picked Ken Mattingly. I got the part and we went to work. Everybody involved in Apollo 13 was so into it, so invested. There was endless research and material to look into and to pour ourselves into. Ron gave us all copies of the transmissions between Mission Control in Houston and the Apollo 13 crew so we could listen to them in our cars. We went to Space Camp in Alabama, and to Houston where we met many of the folks who were in Mission Control during the flight. We went up in the KC 135 training plane, better know as the Vomit Comet, to experience weightlessness. I went to Florida and saw a shuttle launch up close, which was just—awesome. Ron was really an exceptional director with such a meticulous eye for every little detail. All of these things found their way into the movie including them actually shooting inside the KC 135 when it drops into zero G for 25 seconds each time. It was incredible fun. An amazing experience. We had a ball and it's a great movie.
“There’s no question that wounded Vietnam veteran Lieutenant Dan Taylor has played a bigger part of my life than I ever could have imagined it would while we were shooting the film. A month after Forrest Gump’s release, the Disabled American Veterans presented me with the Commanders Award at their annual convention. I accepted the honor on stage, in front of a crowd of wounded service members who are rising out of their wheelchairs to applaud and salute me. It was a life-changing moment. That plaque now hangs on the walls of the Gary Sinise Foundation. More than twenty years later, I still get recognized as Lt. Dan everywhere I go. By embracing that, by making it a part of my life, I’ve been able to help the real Lt. Dans in the world. When I walk into a military hospital and shake hands with a guy who’s lost his legs, many times they identify me with the character and the film. Because I played that character, they think I have the slightest idea what they’re going through. Of course, I don't really as it was simply a movie, but many times it will open the door to conversation and lighten things up. At its center, Lt. Dan’s story is about resilience. It resonates with everyone, but especially with our wounded service members and their families as they begin the long road to recovery. To be a part of that, and to help bring some hope and positivity to their lives has been an incredible gift each and every day. Making the film with the amazing Tom Hanks and the great cast, the genius Bob Zemeckis, our director, shooting from an incredible script by Eric Roth, well, it not only changed my life but my acting career as well. Doors definitely started opening in the movie business after the movie came out.
“I hadn’t read the book so I didn’t know much about it, but Stephen [King] and the director Mick Garris offered me the part, I think, because they’d seen Of Mice and Men. The book itself is 1,300 pages so the shoot was a massive production. Unlike anything I’d ever done before. There were four 2-hour scripts and we spent a hundred days shooting in Utah and Las Vegas with this huge cast to produce an 8-hour miniseries. The part was fantastic. Stephen, Mick, and the cast and crew were all terrific. Stephen was on set from time to time and even had a role in the movie. As Stu Redman, I got to do all sorts of things. The Stand was really just a great, fun project to be a part of and it wound up being the biggest miniseries of 1994.
“In 1990, during our Broadway run of The Grapes of Wrath, composer and friend of mine, the late John Barry, invited me to watch a rough cut of a film he had just scored. It turned out to be Dances with Wolves. I’m sitting there watching this sweeping, epic film that Kevin Costner had produced, directed and acted in and I left thinking, well, I’ve got to do this. Kevin had done it all, found a project that he loved and went for it and I was inspired to find a project and put it together. Shortly thereafter, I’m on the Broadway stage shooting The Grapes of Wrath for PBS American Playhouse and I turn to Elaine Steinbeck, who I had become close to during the run of Grapes, and asked her for the rights to Of Mice and Men to turn it into a film. I loved this story and with my history of working with the material, having performed as George Milton in the play on stage, I knew I could do a good job. She gave me the rights for a year, free of charge. In that time, I teamed up with friend Russ Smith to co-produce with me and my pal John Malkovich to co-star as Lenny. We got it set up at MGM, secured Horton Foote to write the script, cast it and were underway filming one year after Elaine gave me the rights. It was kind of unheard of to get a project going so quickly, but we did it.\n\nOf Mice & Men is among my most cherished projects, not only for my deep appreciation for John Steinbeck, but because it became a personal mission to see it made. I am deeply proud of it.