Interview with Gary Sinise [classic article]

As first seen in Military Money magazine

Gary Sinise is the multi-talented actor and musician best known for his current role on CBS’s CSI:NY, as well as film roles in many films, including Apollo 13, Reindeer Games, The Green Mile, and Forrest Gump. A native of one of Chicago’s suburbs, Highland Park, IL, Sinise was a co-founder of the world-famous Steppenwolf Theater. In fact, his roots are in live theater, both as an actor and director. Sinise has worked both the acting side as well as the directorial and production side in television. Viewers have seen him in such tv shows and specials as Truman, George Wallace, General Hospital, and Knots Landing. Sinise has directed episodes of China Beach and Thirtysomething.

Sinise’s work has earned him acclaim at the highest levels of his profession: he’s won the Golden Globe, the Cable Ace, the Screen Actors Guild award, an Emmy, as well as several Tony and Academy Award nominations.

Sinise has a long history of donating his time and attention to our troops. His band, the Lt. Dan Band – named after his character in Forrest Gump – has performed at Great Lakes Naval Base, Camp Shelby, Camp LeJeume, Luke AFB, Ft. Polk, Goodfellow AFB, Kirtland AFB, Port Hueneme, Guantanamo Bay, McChord AFB, Tinker AFB, Ft. Leonard Wood, Whiteman AFB, the Pentagon, 29 Palms Marine Base, D.A.V. convention, U.S.O. convention at Navy Pier, 69th Regiment Armory, Walter Reed Hospital, Kaneohe Bay, Hickman AFB, as well as several of our bases in Europe. Gary has been playing bass with the band, which got started through a series of jams with a pal from Steppenwolf Theater.

Sinise is also the co-founder of “Operation Iraqi Children – Helping Soldiers Help Children”. The organization helps children in Iraq and other areas where American troops serve and has shipped nearly 1,400 pallets overseas for their benefit. They collect specific school supplies and sports equipment, assembling donations into kits.

MM: What are your latest projects?

Gary Sinise: I’m doing CSI: NY and I’m in New York, promoting Brothers of War, which I am the Executive Producer for. It’s about two brothers who served in the Iraq war.

MM: How did you first get asked to go visit troops through the USO?

Gary Sinise: I volunteered myself to go in 2002.

MM: How did you research the role of “Lt. Dan”?

Gary Sinise: I had been involved with a Vietnam veterans’ group for a number of years. I didn’t know, though, what it was like to be a double amputee. I wanted to be authentic.

MM: How did you decide to take your band on USO tours?

Gary Sinise: I played music at home for fun. I started going on USO tours, just myself, talking to the troops. Then I thought it would be better to put on a show for them, to be entertaining. I had a band and we started getting serious then, started rehearing. Now we’ve put on about 75 shows. We’re putting on a show today at the New York Armory at Lexington and 25th. We’re playing for a unit that has a 100 year history and has had 25 casualties in this war.

MM: Do you have any special logistics when you play for the troops overseas?

Gary Sinise: In Germany and Belgium, we hire the same companies for sound and lighting. In Korea and Okinawa, we hire a different company. The USO handles our accommodations and flights.

MM: Do you have any family members who served in the military?

Gary Sinise: I have lots of friends who were in Vietnam. My dad was in the Navy. One uncle flew B-17’s in WWII, navigating 30 missions to Europe. My uncle Jerry was in the South Pacific. My grandfather was in the Navy during WWI. My wife has had (several) veterans in her family.

MM: What did you do with your first big paycheck?

Gary Sinise: I think I paid bills!

MM: Do you manage your own money?

Gary Sinise: We have a very good accountant. My advice to people is save your money. Don’t live beyond your means. Don’t spend money you don’t have.

MM: Do you have investments?

Gary Sinise: No, I’m not a landlord or anything. I do have stocks.

MM: What is a splurge to you?

Gary Sinise: Family vacations, going to Hawaii or Florida. I don’t get a lot of time off. Any time I can take my family away from L.A. – where we live – is special.

MM: What do you consider a waste of money?

Gary Sinise: I am not a very wasteful person. I have simple needs. I like to spend my money on my family or on charities. I don’t like anything that’s excessive. I don’t own a bunch of cars: what do I need a bunch of cars for?




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