It is not easy to escape from labels, but escaping from them, many interpreters manage to endure in Hollywood. AND Woody Harrelson is a good example of that. The actor who premieres the film Venom 2: Carnage released, He knew how to build a career of atypical characters, which he combined with his marked commitment to different social causes. And that mix made him one of the truest names in an industry in which many times, no one wants to take too many risks either on or off the screen.
A difficult childhood
Diane Lou Oswald’s life took a major turn when she met Charles Harrelson. She was a dedicated secretary and he was a hustler, whose past work included selling encyclopedias, as well as doing a few small roles in film and television. The couple received in 1961 to Woodrow Tracy Harrelson, one of his three children and future actor popularly known as Woody Harrelson.
Family life promised normality until in 1968, Charles fled home. Shortly thereafter, he was charged with murdering a carpet seller, though he was soon freed for lack of evidence (however, a subsequent investigation held that he had received $ 1,500 for that job, commissioned by another competing seller). Alone and without help of any kind, Diane began to work piecemeal and with her salary she supported Woody and her other two children.
Time passed and Harrelson was found guilty of a second murder, which earned him five years in prison. In the early 1970s, a twelve-year-old Woody heard his father’s name on the radio, while some of his neighbors referred to him as a known murderer. Inside doors, Diane did not speak ill of her ex-husband and never criticized him in front of any of her children. In 1979, Charles Harrelson was sent to prison again, for another murder, but this time he did not regain his freedom. In those years, Woody was a teenager who was burdened with knowing himself the son of one of the most infamous serial killers in his country, but thanks to acting he found his own path.
In the early eighties, Woody was combining a few odd jobs with his attempt to build a career in the theater. However, his misconduct preceded him and led him to different conflicts with the law. In 1982 he was arrested for misconduct on public roads and when they tried to arrest him, he hit an officer in the face. Very soon after, this young rebel was on his way to becoming one of the most popular faces on television.
Cheers, the first milestone of his career
After a small role in Wildcats, a movie with Goldie Hawn premiered in 1986, Harrelson was introduced to a casting to play Woody Boyd, the new bartender at the bar where he was spending Cheers. The actor Nicholas Colasanto, who acted in that sitcom, he had passed away and it was urgent to replace him with another character. Thus, in the first episode of the fourth season (titled “Birth, Death, Love and Rice”), Woody Harrelson formally joined one of the most popular television comedies of the decade.
Thanks to your work in Cheers, his career took an unexpected clean and jerk. For six years, Harrelson was a part of this hit comedy, which reached millions of homes not only in the United States, but around the world. But the interpreter was concerned about the possibility of being pigeonholed in that role and in an interview he confessed: “During all the years that I was in Cheers, I couldn’t find another job. So I had no choice but to resign myself to thinking that my career had reached this far. But fortunately, in 1991, I was able to participate in Doc Hollywood, and the following year in Whites can’t jump. So thankfully I was able to transition, although for a long time I thought it was all going to end. I really wanted to express myself much more and not spend my life saying “what a good character I did in Cheers!”.
Harrelson showed his talents in whatever role he played. Comedy, drama, even action, any project seemed potentially much more interesting, to the extent that it added the actor. Whites can’t jump was a notable box office success and in 1993, the arrival of Indecent Proposal, showed another face of the interpreter, involved in a film that had little to do with the cheerful spirit of Cheers. That title propelled the fame of Harrelson, who at that point was revealed as another member of the very select club of which they were also members. Robin Williams and Bruce Willis, television faces that had been able to make a successful transition to the long-awaited big screen.
Cheers ended in 1993, and in 1994, Woody encountered a huge challenge thanks to Oliver Stone. Murderers by nature it was a project that everyone paid a lot of attention to in Hollywood. The film portrayed the violent raid of a criminal couple, played by Harrelson and Juliette Lewis.
In a note, Stone recalled why he chose the actor as his main star: “I really liked him in Whites can’t jump. He was amazing and his performance was very underrated. In that character, he had the ability to play a guy not very crafty, but with a bright gaze and demonic eyes. The public liked that. He came from a very difficult childhood, which had little to do with the type we saw in Cheers. Although he may be someone very violent, and that is why he likes yoga so much ”. As expected, Murderers by nature had an extraordinary performance at the box office, and Harrelson put on a wild performance, which perhaps for many, represented something of his essence.
Hollywood yes, but in its own way
In the mid-1990s, Harrelson was recognized not only for being one of the great artists of his generation, but also for being a man of fiery opinions and some friction with justice. In 1996, he was arrested in a confusing episode in which he pretended to plant marijuana. The actor personally called the authorities and told them what he planned to do, which led to his being taken to prison. After posting a bond of two hundred dollars, Woody was released that same day, and on leaving the police station he signed autographs and posed for as many photos as they asked for.
That event marked the beginning of a very active militancy in relation to the legalization of marijuana, a cause that today has it as one of its main references. On this issue, Harrelson said in an interview: “This has to do with personal freedoms. In this country, we should have the right to do what we want, as long as that does not mean harming a third party. Seventy-two million people smoked marijuana in our country, and none of them should be treated as a criminal. “
The essentially rebellious attitude of Woody, who on several occasions recognized himself as an anarchist, led him to model a unique career, often composing characters who flirted with the extremes of what was allowed. Fiction and reality seemed intimately linked and Harrelson forged a path at the height of his own concerns. And in that search, another film appeared that consecrated him, Larry Flint, the name of the scandal.
Directed by Milos Forman, this title told the life of Larry Flint, creator of the erotic magazine Hustler. As the feature film portrays, Flint was a defender of individual liberties, who did not hesitate to turn the entire judicial system of the United States against him. He was someone crossed by the grays, but also a pioneer when it came to the sexual revolution. For this work, Harrelson was unanimously praised by the press, won numerous accolades, and was even nominated for an Oscar. Without a doubt, that of Larry Flint, the name of the scandal it was his consecrating work.
A unique path
The 21st century found Harrelson a benchmark for various causes that other industry stars barely cared for. Veganism, the fight for the legalization of marijuana, his commitment to the environment and his position against the war in Iraq or the presence of US troops in Afghanistan (he even compared Barack Obama with Richard Nixon) were some of his flags. Meanwhile, the movies were piling up and his work was widely praised in titles like In the Land of Men, The Last Show, A Scanner Darkly, No Place for the Weak O The messenger. These highly prestigious projects did not prevent him from also working on stories that he enjoyed immensely with as 2012 O Zombie land, where he played extravagant characters of those that he is so passionate about.
Simultaneously, the actor never stopped starring in different scandals, new frictions with the police, clashes with the press, or spreading absurd conspiracy theories. But the hardest personal blow he received was in 2007 when his father died. Although they did not speak to each other for a long time, over time both returned to the bond, it was in the last years that Charles spent in prison, which he could never leave. As he acknowledged on several occasions, the actor spent several million dollars on lawyers and appeals of all kinds, but never managed to get him out of jail. And his death left Woody devastated.
Throughout the last ten years, Woody Harrelson continued his path true to himself, which he combined with great feature films, which fit his need to play atypical or at least dissimilar characters. In 2014, True Detective allowed him to find another iconic role, in a title considered key in this new golden age of television. And, now, his participation in the sequel to Venom, where he composes the dangerous Cletus Kasady, is the most concrete example of how, even in the superhero genre, Harrelson is always the ideal name to embody extravagant creatures.
Among several of his upcoming projects is the miniseries titled The Most Dangerous Man in America, where he will play Timothy Leary, a key figure in the North American counterculture and guru when it comes to LSD use. And Harrelson, who once said that “the path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”, is without a doubt the best option to compose this figure. Yes, even in his sixties, Woody is still one of the greats terrible children born in Hollywood.
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a difficult childhood, a murderous father and a successful career in Hollywood