“I can’t say it’s not fun. I’m having a ball. We’re playing to thousands of people all over the world,” he says. “Some people come out because of CSI, which is very popular all over the world. Some people want to see the guy who played Lieutenant Dan. Some people want to see if an actor’s going to be terrible. They say every actor secretly wants to be a rock star. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m having a ball out there playing my music.”
Indeed, if Sinise were only an altruistic do-gooder, he might be insufferable -- or at least unbelievable. Truth is, as a kid growing up in Highland Park, Illinois, about 30 miles north of Chicago, he was a rock and roller who had played in bands since he was in the fourth grade. “I only started acting because of the band I was in as a kid. I was standing around, trying to look tough with my scruffy-looking bandmates, and we got dragged into auditions for West Side Story. The drama teacher thought we looked like gang members, I guess,” Sinise says, recounting how he was cast in his first role.
Sinise, a natural leader, soon formed the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which leaped into the national consciousness in the early 1980s when its production of Sam Shepard’s True West was heralded for its ferocity and tenderness as well as for its real-life fistfights, blood, sweat, and tears. Having launched the careers of John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Gary Cole, John Mahoney, and many others, Steppenwolf -- cofounded with Terry Kinney (now the veteran star and director of Oz) and actor Jeff Perry -- is considered one of the country’s finest theatrical companies. It’s renowned for its visceral, frequently feral, and often provocative productions.