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He lost 28 pounds in two weeks at the Platoon boot camp

Before filming commenced on Platoon, the cast had two weeks of intensive training organized by Oliver Stone and led by Vietnam vet Dale Dye. Living on meagre army rations, they worked 16-18 hour days, weren’t allowed to shower or shave, and slept in two-hour shifts. This limited diet plus the physical exertion involved saw Berenger lose a staggering 28 pounds in just two weeks.

He nearly missed out on his Platoon role to Mickey Rourke

Berenger bagged his (to date) only Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Sergeant Barnes in Platoon. However, he almost didn’t get the role, as Mickey Rourke was writer-director Oliver Stone’s first choice for Barnes. However, Rourke turned down the role: that year he made Angel Heart instead, which though acclaimed was nowhere near as big a hit as Platoon.

Berenger doesn’t consider Platoon’s Barnes to be a psychopath

Platoon’s Barnes is often considered a villain, but Berenger takes a sympathetic view of the troubled character. He remarked in 2018 documentary Brothers in Arms. “I don’t think Barnes is psychotic, but I think four tours of duty and all that stuff is making him… He’s just a warrior going mad, I think. He’s trying to keep his guys alive and destroy the enemy.”

He hated making Sliver, and accused the director of ‘manipulating’ the cast

In 1993, Berenger appeared alongside Sharon Stone in erotic thriller Sliver. Troubles behind the scenes saw the filmmakers forced to do multiple reshoots, which ultimately changed the film’s plot and even the killer’s identity. Berenger (who got a Worst Supporting Actor Razzie nomination for the film) wasn’t happy about all this, and accused the film’s director Philip Noyce of “sneaking around and manipulating” the cast.

He turned down the role of Sonny Crockett on Miami Vice

Who else but Don Johnson could play the suave Sonny Crockett on Miami Vice? Tom Berenger, apparently. He was one among the many actors considered for the role, others including Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges – but, like them, Berenger declined, preferring to concentrate on film. Miami Vice became a big TV hit which made Don Johnson a star.

He’s appeared in four films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar

Every actor wants an Oscar nomination – but failing that, it’s great to be in a movie that’s nominated for Best Picture. While Berenger has only been Oscar nominated himself once, he’s been in four movies that were up for Best Picture: 1983’s The Big Chill, 1986’s Platoon, 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July and 2010’s Inception. Of these, Platoon was the only winner.

He says he’s “glad” his Hollywood career is over

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In 2010, Berenger said that he was “kind of glad” his career was winding down. “You have actors doing auditions, they mail in their auditions, they Skype it. That’s weird to me… I’m glad my kids aren’t in the business because I go where’s the theatre? Where’s all that? I just don’t see it anymore. How does anybody get more than a five-year career anymore?”

He had a “hard time understanding” Inception

If you had a hard time understanding Inception, you weren’t alone – so did Tom Berenger, who stars in Christopher Nolan’s film as Peter Browning. The actor admitted in 2010, “I had a hard time understanding it actually. It was kind of difficult but then if you think about it, your dreams are weird.”

He was given just 24 hours to decide if he wanted to star in Nightmares & Dreamscapes

Berenger stars in the eight-episode 2006 anthology series Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King. He almost didn’t take the part, however, as when he was offered the role, he only had 24 hours to decide if he wanted it or not, without seeing a script. Berenger ultimately agreed, and only read the script when he was flying to the shoot in Australia.

He’d like to swap places with Jack Nicholson for a day

Speaking to Larry King in 2018, Berenger was asked who he’d most like to trade places with for 24 hours. He replied Jack Nicholson, “Just to see what a day in his life was like… It might be scary, but yeah.” While Berenger may admire the now-retired film legend Nicholson, but unfortunately they never worked together.

He got his first stage role in a Spanish-language play while he was still learning Spanish

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Tom Berenger’s first experience of acting was when he performed a school play in Spanish – which he was still learning at the time. Berenger was at the time shy and reserved, and was encouraged to take part in the play by his Spanish teacher. Thankfully Berenger enjoyed both acting, and learning Spanish; he speaks the language fluently today.

He won the role of Butch Cassidy because he looked a bit like Paul Newman

1969 western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was so popular that it inspired a 1979 prequel, the less well-received Butch and Sundance: The Early Days. The prequel starred Tom Berenger as Butch Cassidy and William Katt as the Sundance Kid, and Berenger apparently won the role partly because of his resemblance to the original Butch Cassidy, Paul Newman.

He was considered for the role of the Master in 1996’s Doctor Who TV movie

In 1996, a US-produced revival of British sci-fi series Doctor Who was attempted, starring Paul McGann in the title role and Eric Roberts starred as villain the Master – a role which nearly went to Tom Berenger. Although this pilot episode TV movie was not picked up for a series, it is considered canon, and eight years later Doctor Who was successfully brought back in Britain.

He turned down Richard Gere’s role in Pretty Woman

Richard Gere was a perfect fit for the role of rich businessman Edward Lewis, opposite Julia Roberts’ Vivian Ward in 1990 film Pretty Woman. Unfortunately for Tom Berenger, Gere’s success could have been his, as he was briefly in contention for the role of Edward. Berenger was one among many big-name actors to reject the movie, others including Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone and Burt Reynolds.

Oliver Stone ordered Berenger to make the little girl cry in Platoon

One of the most harrowing scenes in Platoon is when Berenger’s character, Sgt. Barnes, holds a gun to a young girl’s head. 12-year-old Li Thi Van (now known as Edith Thomas) was not an actress, but director Oliver Stone demanded that Berenger make the child cry real tears. Berenger succeeded, but making Thomas cry with fear has never been something he felt particularly proud of.

He refused to shoot a scene in S&M gear for Sliver

The last-minute reshoots on Sliver saw Berenger’s character rewritten as the killer. Berenger wasn’t happy about this, but had to play along. However, one part of the rewritten ending he had a big problem with: a scene in which he and co-star Polly Walker wore S&M gear. Both actors refused to do perform this new scene, so the producers shot the scene using body doubles.

He believes actors are going to be replaced by holograms

Fears about digital technology being used to replace actors are common in the entertainment industry today, and Berenger has long shared these concerns. Speaking to Larry King in 2020, Berenger pondered, “I think that could happen… could they just steal Humphrey Bogart’s image or John Wayne’s and then create them again?… But you could invent actors too, and then you don’t need them anymore.”

He gave the Gettysburg cast engraved swords addressed to their characters from ‘General Longstreet’

As a history buff, filming 1993’s Gettysburg and portraying General Longstreet was a memorable experience for Tom Berenger, who decided to give all the principal cast members a present before filming commenced. At the start of production, Berenger gifted each of his fellow Confederate cast members with a real sword. Each was engraved with their respective characters’ names and said they were ‘from General Longstreet.’

He got into acting by chance after hearing an ad on the radio

Berenger got his first taste of acting in high school, but he only really pursued the craft while studying at the University of Missouri. Berenger told Larry King in 2020, “I heard an ad on the radio for tryouts for a play at the university theatre…I told my roommate, I said, ‘I’m gonna go do that.'” He got the part, and the rest is history.

He’s been married four times and has six children

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Berenger married first wife Barbara Wilson in 1976. They had two children – Allison and Patrick – before divorcing in 1984. With second wife Lisa Williams, he had three children – Chelsea, Chloe, and Shiloh – and the marriage lasted from 1986 to 1997. Berenger had his last child, Scout, with Patricia Alvaran; they wed 1998 and split in 2011. Since 2012, Berenger has been married to Laura Moretti.

He loved The Big Chill’s location so much he got married and bought a house there

1983 American comedy-drama film The Big Chill was one of Tom Berenger’s first successful movies, and shooting in South Carolina had a big impact on the young actor. Berenger loved the location so much that he went on to buy a house in Beaufort, South Carolina, and even got married on the garden lawn of the film’s principal location, Tidalholm Mansion.

His Platoon makeup took three hours to apply every day

Berenger’s iconic Platoon character Sgt Barnes, is made all the more distinctive by his facial scarring. This of course required Berenger to be fitted with prosthetic makeup every day of the shoot. The process initially took three hours every morning, but as the shoot went on the makeup team were able to make the process quicker.

Rough Riders’ Teddy Roosevelt was the “most exhausting part” Berenger ever played

Berenger says that playing Teddy Roosevelt in 1997 TV miniseries Rough Riders was “the most exhausting part I ever played because he just wore me out… But it went splendidly for me. I had a field day with it. I could improvise. And he’s one of the funniest presidents we’ve ever had, so that was nice.”

He’s a history buff

It’s not by chance that Tom Berenger wound up appearing in fact-based historical dramas like Rough Riders and Gettysburg, as the actor has a great passion for American history. He revealed in his 2020 Larry King interview, “I read a lot of history books and stuff. I’m fascinated by history.”

There’s now an acting scholarship in Berenger’s name

Many actors have done charity work or set up scholarships to help disadvantaged young people get into acting, and Tom Berenger is one such actor. In 1988 he set up the Tom Berenger Acting Scholarship Fund, an award for undergraduate theatre majors at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Berenger’s alma mater.

His great-great-great-great-grandfather was a famous Irish poet and songwriter

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Berenger says his Irish great-great-great-great grandfather was a hugely successful poet and songwriter. The actor revealed in 2018, “He wrote Garryowen which was the regimental song of the seventh cavalry – and they still play it when they salute… The band played that at Lincoln, Nebraska when Custer said goodbye to his wife and they all headed off to Montana.”