Woody Harrelson on Choosing Projects and What He’s Still Trying to Learn as an Actor

Actor Woody Harrelson

“There’s so much to nonverbal communication that I have yet to really understand as an actor” – Woody Harrelson

Few actors have made the successful transition from television actor to film actor as Woody Harrelson has. The one-time Cheers supporting actor has continued to earn rave reviews in his various film performances, including his most recent movie Wilson. In Wilson, Harrelson stars as a middle-aged man who claims to love people but is seemingly unable to have a conversation without annoying or insulting the other person. Speaking with Vulture, Harrelson reveals why he decided to star in Wilson and what he is still trying to learn as an actor.

Harrelson recently starred in big-budget films like The Hunger Games and will also appear in the upcoming Star Wars Han Solo spinoff movie. When asked why he decided to star in a smaller, more modestly-budgeted movie like Wilson, Harrelson answered that he makes decisions based on who is yelling “Action!” He responds, “Well, I’m really more or less in the habit of … Having had some experiences where I was just like, That was stupid that I did that movie, I learned one thing — the most important thing is the director. The second most important thing? The director. [Laughs.] The third most important thing? The director.” He claims that he signed up for Wilson because he enjoyed the previous film directed by Craig Johnson, The Skeleton Twins.

Even though Harrelson has been actor for several decades, he claims there are still several skills he is trying to master. For example — effective dramatic pauses. He explains, “I remember hearing this thing that … I think it was Brando who said [does Marlon Brando impression], ‘Just because I say action doesn’t mean I have to do anything.’ That statement really hit me. Brando’s ability to just say, This is me in action. Not rushing. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my strengths, but I do think it’s something I’d like to be able to just … working with Hailee Steinfeld [in The Edge of Seventeen] — she’s a very young actress but I think she’s super fucking talented and I love how she can just take a long time before she [long pause] does anything. It’s something I want to learn. By the way, you still want to try and make your performance compelling. You don’t want it to be full of the most boring pauses… There’s so much to nonverbal communication that I have yet to really understand as an actor, and maybe as a person. Just like the beats between the lines of a poem having so much import. The times where you’re saying nothing, but there’s that something going on that makes it compelling. That, to me, is pretty interesting.”

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