Woody Harrelson: Back to (Off-)Broadway
Friday, August 03, 2012
Who would have thought that the fresh-faced, dopey bartender on the TV show Cheers would turn into one of the most versatile, prolific actors of his time? Woody Harrelson has played a stone-faced Marine, a porn king, and a sociopathic criminal. He’s just arrived Off-Broadway in two new roles: playwright and director.
Bullet for Adolf is loosely based on Harrelson’s life: it’s set during a summer of partying hard and working construction in Houston, where he met his friend Frankie Hyman (with whom he wrote the play). The show is a throwback to the early 1980s, with big, broad laughs. “The humor is often a challenging humor,” he explains, “like we challenge you to laugh at this.”
Writing has come slowly to Harrelson. “I have to fight my laziness. It's a real battle,” he tells Kurt Andersen. “One of the best attributes a writer can have is to be hungry. I haven't really been hungry, I've had a cushy life.” Not really that cushy, though; Harrelson paid his dues, pounding the pavement in search of an agent, understudying on Broadway, and enduring bad advice: “When I had just moved to New York, I met with a casting person or an agent, and the guy said, ‘You will never work if you don't get that space filled between your teeth.’”
More than 40 films later, Harrelson has also become famous for his support of marijuana and veganism. “I do believe in healthy eating,” he says, “but I find that it’s very hard to preach to people. You stand between someone and their meat, it can get very uncomfortable!” But he’s enjoyed playing characters unlike himself, including the Republican political strategist Steve Schmidt in the HBO movie Game Change. “We are kind of diametrically opposed, there's certain issues we can't really discuss. But we did become friends,” he says. “And I'm really proud to have gotten to play him. I think he's a cut above the average political person I've met. You know, the average political person I've met is a cut below most paparazzi.”
Bonus Track: The Hunger Games
Harrelson admits he initially passed on the role of Haymitch, the boozy coach in the Hunger Games saga. But once on-set, he pushed director Gary Ross to let him play it even boozier.
You Know My NameArtist: The BeatlesAlbum: Anthology 2