I spent a wonderful couple of hours yesterday afternoon in the presence of one of my favourite actors, Mr Woody Harrelson. Interviewed about his career as part of the London Film Festival, Woody spoke candidly and with humour about his experiences.
He joined series four of ‘Cheers’ a mere two years after leaving college and remained a permanent fixture for the eight years that it had left to run. He explained how concerned he’d been when the show ended that he would forever be seen as ‘Woody from Cheers’. While he was very proud of that role, he felt that he still had more to offer in his career. Fast forward a few years, Harrelson couldn’t believe it when Oliver Stone cast him in Natural Born Killers. By that time, he had filmed ‘Indecent Proposal’ but it hadn’t been released, so Stone would only have had ‘Cheers’ and ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ to judge him on. Stone later explained that he’s seen something in Harrelson’s eyes that made him cast him as the serial killer, Mickey Knox. Yesterday, Harrelson joked that nowadays he always knows when some sort of horrible incident has occurred, as he’ll be walking through an airport and see clips of ‘Natural Born Killers’ being played. He gets frustrated when people say the film glorifies violence. He thinks it does quite the opposite. And with a cheeky grin he went on to describe Natural Born Killers as a romantic comedy.
I was pleased to find out that not only is ‘The People Vs Larry Flynt’ one of Harrelson’s favourite films – which he talks about with immense love and pride – but that he is actually good friends with Larry Flynt in real life.
Harrelson had grown up with a negative picture of Flynt, painted by a biased American media, so before agreeing to play the part, Harrelson had gone to meet him. They hit it off immediately and have remained firm friends ever since. Harrelson even credited Flynt with helping him and his wife when they were having marriage problems, by calling her with support and advice when Harrelson had gone away
‘The Messenger’ is also picked out by Harrelson as having had a profound, long-term effect on him. The film, about the soldiers whose sole job is delivering news of other solider’s death to the next-of-kin, made him look at the armed forces in a completely new way. As he said: “The Messenger made me separate the Warrior from the War”. It has also given the armed forces a prominent supporter. Of the US government he said: “When they say ‘support the troops’ they’re really saying ‘support the war’… They don’t even support the troops themselves – especially when they come back and really need it.”