Tom Skerritt is a film and television actor that commands a good deal of respect, both on the screen and off of it. Today, at the age of 88, Tom is still working. In fact, he recently appeared in a rare lead role in a film by the name of East of the Mountains, which was released in 2021. Tom’s role in the film came to him by way of his work with PTSD-stricken veterans. Tom is a veteran himself. Though he doesn’t have any traumatic memories from his time in service, he’s no stranger to PTSD thanks to some traumatic episodes in his personal life. Tom wouldn’t take back his trauma for the world, though, because he claims that it makes him a better artist and allows him to help others. Join Facts Verse as Tom Skerritt says his personal trauma is actually a gift.
Tom Skerritt Is More Sensitive Than He Lets On
Though Tom Skerritt doesn’t have many classic lead roles to his name, the actor has been a supporting player in numerous classic films and continues to hone his acting craft today at the age of 88. Some of the many classic films that Tom has appeared in over the years include Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, Ridley Scott’s Alien, and Tony Scott’s Top Gun. In the wake of Tony Scott’s suicide, Tom claimed that he was the more artistically sensitive of the two Scott brothers.
Tom Skerritt certainly knows a thing or two about artistic sensitivity, which is part of what led to the actor taking on his role in 2021’s East of the Mountains. The story of Tom taking on the recent lead role starts a handful of years ago, when the actor was teaching creative-writing classes in Seattle. During the time, Tom saw an article in a newspaper talking about suicide statistics amongst veterans. The article said that veterans typically have higher suicide rates as a result of PTSD. Tom himself is a veteran, having served in the military for four years earlier in his life. Not only that, but Tom also has some experience with PTSD. Though he didn’t receive any trauma from his time in service, he has had a few traumatic incidents in his personal life over the years.
Tom’s sensitivity towards veterans and people suffering from PTSD in general gave him the idea to start teaching a creative-writing class designed specifically for veterans suffering from PTSD. Tom believed that giving veterans an outlet to hone their traumatic memories into art would help them overcome the trauma of their time in service. Tom’s reasons for believing this were personal, as the actor himself has used his artistic outlets over the years to deal with his own personal trauma. The classes aimed towards veterans became a big success. Tom’s previous classes had already attracted a few notable authors as guest teachers, and the veteran classes attracted some even more notable guests. One guest was David Guterson, who is the writer of the novel that East of the Mountains is based upon.
How Tom Got His Role in East of the Mountains
David Guterson used his position as a guest teacher to proposition Tom Skerritt to be the lead in a film adaptation of East of the Mountains. Tom ended up agreeing, as the actor isn’t offered the lead role in films every day! Tom’s role in the film adaptation allowed him to get more in touch with his emotions than ever before, and it proved a healing experience for the aging actor. In the film, Tom played a retired doctor contemplating suicide as a result of ennui. He then goes on a hunting trip with his dog to alleviate his existential woes, and ends up having some interesting experiences with the people that he runs into.
According to Tom Skerritt, he can relate to the feeling of someone wanting to take his or her own life. The majority of the actor’s own personal trauma seems to stem from his first marriage. In 1957, Tom married a woman by the name of Charlotte Shanks. The two had three children together. Many years later, Charlotte developed schizophrenia. Tom was closely involved with his wife’s treatment, and did his best to stay in the marriage for the sake of his kids. However, he and Charlotte ended up divorcing in 1972. The entire episode deeply affected Tom, and gave him PTSD. The actor went into a brief period of isolation, though he knew that he was going to have to continue pushing himself and putting himself out there if he wanted to achieve the star status that he had been working toward for years.
As a result of dealing with his first wife’s schizophrenia, Tom Skerritt went into a period of isolation that many feared he was never going to come out of. In the end, it was director Robert Altman who helped the actor overcome his trauma. In the ensuing years, Tom would become a bigger star than ever before, and he would also go on to help others suffering from the same problems. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Tom Wasn’t Always a Sensitive Artist
According to Tom Skerritt, channeling his artistic talents helped him overcome the trauma that he was afflicted with during his first marriage. Robert Altman, who directed Tom in the 1970s masterpiece M*A*S*H, is credited with inspiring the star a great deal. As a young child, Tom didn’t have much of an affinity for the arts. The actor has recalled looking at the classic sculpture The Thinker during a school trip and wondering why the naked man was sitting on a toilet without a newspaper to keep him entertained. However, the young man opened up to the power of art as time went on.
Other early memories that proved influential for Tom Skerritt include the times his older brother would play then-modern jazz and blues albums for him. Tom’s brother enjoyed albums by such artists as Billie Holiday and John Coltrane. Though Tom was too young to register the names of these artists, he grew to greatly enjoy the style of music. The lyrics of the blues music affected Tom particularly strongly, planting the seeds of the actor’s future emotional maturity.
The Night That Tom Met Orson Welles
As a young man attending UCLA, Tom Skerritt first viewed Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. The film really stood out to the actor, who claims that it was one of the first experiences that showed him the power of film. Citizen Kane featured Orson Welles in the lead roles both on the screen and behind the scenes, as the auteur director played the film’s lead. Tom, too, has flirted with the notion of expanding his talents behind the scenes, with the actor having directed some episodes of his hit 1990s television series Picket Fences.
Orson Welles’ work proved a big influence on Tom Skerritt early in his career, and the actor ended up getting to meet the auteur upon his entrance into the Hollywood sphere. However, it seems that meeting Orson was a bit of a disappointment, as the legendary filmmaker was deep in the bottle at the time that the two crossed paths. It happened one night when Tom was out dining with his agent. Tom’s agent always took him to fine establishments, as it gave the actor the opportunity to brush shoulders with some of the most popular stars of the day. According to Tom, he was just turning down the advances of a notable Golden Age starlet when he noticed Orson Welles patronizing the establishment’s bar. In an effort to get away from the woman, Tom decided to introduce himself to Orson.
Tom claims that seeing Orson Welles in the dire straits that he was in is a big part of what has kept the actor from having issues with substance abuse himself over the course of his career in the entertainment industry. Tom could’ve turned to the bottle during his aforementioned period of isolation after dealing with his first wife’s schizophrenia. However, he decided to overcome his trauma in a healthy way, and he became a better man for it. As we’ve already briefly mentioned, director Robert Altman played a big part in inspiring Tom to overcome his trauma the right way.
Tom’s Relationship with the Late Robert Altman
One of Tom’s most famous films is M*A*S*H, which features the actor amongst an ensemble cast under the direction of Robert Altman. Tom and Robert Altman already had a close relationship before the filming of the movie, as Robert Altman was actually Tom’s mentor in the entertainment industry for a period of time. Robert’s strong will and positive attitude rubbed off on Tom, and gave him plenty of ammo in his fight against depression. Another thing that Tom learned from the late Robert Altman was how to be true to himself.
According to Tom Skerritt, there was a period before M*A*S*H’s release where studio executives didn’t have much confidence in the film. These executives almost insisted on Robert Altman butchering his final product, though Robert ended up insisting that the film stay the way that he had intended. Robert’s insistence paid off, as the film became an unprecedented success! Not only was it successful, but it was also influential. Robert was a true visionary that knew his stuff, and Tom could see it.
Tom Skerritt met Robert Altman during the 1960s, when the two were neighbors. This would be an important connection for Tom, as his role in M*A*S*H would pave the way for a long and successful career in the entertainment industry. Today, Tom is perhaps best remembered for his role in Top Gun. Top Gun recently got a long-awaited sequel, and Tom sadly wasn’t asked back to reprise his role from the original film. However, with lead roles in films like East of the Mountains, it seems that Tom is doing okay for himself.
Tom Skerritt has had his share of traumatic experiences over the years, but he has used his trauma to become a better person and help others. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Tom Skerritt has PTSD as a result of his traumatic first marriage, and that he was a close and personal friend of the late director Robert Altman? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!