Woody Harrelson: “I don’t think you can play someone and not think he is a good guy in some way”

Woody Harrelson has gone from 1980s sitcom star in Cheers to 1990s Hollywood bad boy in films like Natural Born Killers and The People vs. Larry Flynt, to… well, what could you define Harrelson’s career as now?  In 2009 alone he acted in a major blockbuster (Zombieland) and in a film that didn’t do much business but was a critical favorite, earning him an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor (The Messenger). 

In fact, Harrelson’s current career seems to be one of contradictions, with him re-teaming with The Messenger director Oren Moverman for Rampart, a film about corrupt Los Angeles police officer Dave Brown during the 1990s Rampart scandal.   And while Harrelson’s career might not be following a typical trajectory, according to an interview with the The New York Times, that’s fine by him.

The irony, of course, is that Harrelson is not exactly the biggest fan of law enforcement: he’s had run-ins with the law over his advocacy for marijuana law reform (in fact he conducted this interview while in Amsterdam and sampling the local, well, stuff) and environmental causes, and his father was convicted for a contract killing of a federal judge.  Though one would imagine Harrelson would relish playing the part of a crooked cop, he admits he came out of it with a new respect for law enforcement, explaining, “It was hard for me to believe I could even play a cop.  I remember the first day on the set and getting a picture taken in the uniform and looking at that picture and not believing it, whereas Oren looked at it and said, ‘Yes!’  It helped that I spent time riding with two really good L.A. cops and was able to see the humanity in what they do.”   But as with most actors, even when playing a character who is less than perfect Harrelson believes that it is important that his character always feels justified in his wrongdoing.  He says, “I don’t think you can play someone and not think he is a good guy in some way. He is trying to keep this Shangri-La of living with these two families alive, and he reacts when that is threatened.”

Despite finding his character, Harrelson admits that he was not happy with the finished film and had no intention to promote it.  However, after a subsequent viewing, Harrelson realized he was wrong about the film.  He explains, “When I first saw the film, I hated it.  It was very different from the script, and that was a problem for me. As much as I love Oren, we couldn’t see eye to eye over it.  And then I got a call that it had been accepted to Toronto, and they asked me to come, and I said, ‘Why would I come to promote a movie I didn’t like?’ Then [co-star] Ben Foster called me and said: ‘Woody, you’ve got to man up, this is family. You need to see the movie again.’  And so I am watching it, and the first 5 minutes are great, then the first 20, and I kept waiting for the problems, so I could tell Oren where I think it heads south — and it never came. I love the movie. I saw Oren and said: ‘Well, it takes a man to admit he was wrong. I was really wrong on this one.’”

After all of Harrelson’s success in film acting one would also expect that he’s found his niche.  Except that he hasn’t — Harrelson, who has written and directed plays before — confesses that he feels more validated by his writing for the stage than for his acting.  He explains, “I have had a lot of luck in films, but there isn’t much that compares to being in a live theater and hearing people laugh at something that you wrote because they think it’s funny.” 

Finally, after all his contradictions in his current career it’s fascinating to discover that Harrelson feels that he is at the happiest point that he’s ever been.  “I love my life right now.  I don’t need to be more famous or more successful, I just want it to keep going the way it is,” he explains, and, based on his recent success, it’s easy to understand why he feels that way.

2 Comments

  1. Bryan Edward Avis via Facebook

    November 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Would this work for an actor playing Charles Manson?

  2. Daily Actor via Facebook

    November 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I think it’ll work for Woody 🙂 Me? Not so much…

Leave a Reply

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Linnea-Berthelsen-Stranger-Things.jpg
Linnea Berthelse on Her ‘Stranger Things’ Audition and Keeping Her Role a Secret for a Year
“Sometimes when actors don’t get the part, it’s not always about an actor being a bad actor; it’s about connecting to the material.” – Linnea Berthelsen Stranger Things is back on our screens with its second season, something fans have been waiting for ever since season one arrived on Netflix in 2016. Returning to the […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/jonathan-groff-hamilton.jpg
Jonathan Groff on Playing King George III in ‘Hamilton’: “I rehearsed for about a day, and then went into the show”
Can you even imagine stepping into a role in one of the biggest Broadway hits of all time with barely any time to prepare?
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/lina-esco-swat.jpg
Lina Esco on Playing the Only Female Officer on ‘S.W.AT.’: “I have to portray her as someone equal to all of the guys on her team”
"The important thing for me when I read scripts is how much respect I have for the character and how far I can take her" - Lina Esco
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/sam-rockwell-three-billboards.jpg
Sam Rockwell on Typecasting and One of His Worst Auditions
"I’m kind of a workhorse. It takes a toll" - Sam Rockwell
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/rachel-bloom-crazy-ex-girlfriend.jpg
Rachel Bloom: “The way that I learned comedy was not rigid, but this very specific technique taught by the Upright Citizens Brigade”
"I went from being a person who was doing moderately successful videos online and working as a moderately successful TV writer and aspiring to do this to having a Golden Globe." - Rachel Bloom