Woodrow Tracy Harrelson is an American actor and playwright. He first became known for his role as bartender Woody Boyd on the NBC sitcom Cheers, for which he won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series from a total of five nominations. He has received three Academy Award nominations: Best Actor for The People vs. Larry Flynt and Best Supporting Actor for The Messenger and for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Marty Hart in the first season of the HBO crime anthology series True Detective.
Early lifeWoodrow Tracy Harrelson was born in Midland, Texas, on July 23, 1961, to secretary Diane and convicted hitman Charles Voyde Harrelson. He and his two brothers, Jordan and Brett, were raised in a Presbyterian household. Their father received a life sentence for the 1979 killing of Federal Judge John H. Wood Jr. Harrelson has stated that his father was rarely around during his childhood. Charles died in the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility on March 15, 2007. Harrelson's family was poor and relied on his mother's wage. In 1973, he moved to his mother's native city of Lebanon, Ohio, where he attended Lebanon High School, from which he graduated in 1979. He spent the summer of 1979 working at Kings Island amusement park. He attended Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana, where he joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. Harrelson received a BFA in Theatre and English in 1983.
While attending Hanover, he crossed paths with future Vice President Mike Pence, later commenting in 2018: "I knew him, yeah. We were both very religious. It was a Presbyterian college at the time, and I was there on a Presbyterian scholarship, and he was involved with the church activities. I was actually considering being a minister and then I just kind of went a different way...I actually quite liked him. I thought he was a pretty good guy. He's, you know, very religious. Very committed. Seeing as how I'm not quite in that ballpark now, I don't know how we'd get along, 'cause I think he's still quite religious and just a whole different brand of religious. That kind of fervor that you really don't want."
TelevisionHarrelson is widely known for his work on the NBC sitcom Cheers. He played bartender Woody Boyd, who replaced Coach. He joined the cast in 1985 in season four, spending the final eight seasons on the show. For this role, Harrelson was nominated for five Emmy Awards, winning once in 1989. His character, Woody Boyd, was from Hanover, Indiana, where Harrelson attended college. In 1999, Harrelson guest-starred in the Cheers spin-off success Frasier, in which he reprised the role of "Woody Boyd." He was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for this performance. He appeared in several 2001 episodes of Will & Grace as Grace's new boyfriend Nathan.
On the November 12, 2009 episode of the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, Harrelson was interviewed by Stephen Colbert, to promote his movie The Messenger. In response to Colbert's questioning of his support for the troops, Harrelson agreed to let Colbert shave his head on camera. Harrelson returned to television in 2014, starring along with Matthew McConaughey in the first season of the HBO crime series True Detective, where he played Marty Hart, a Louisiana cop investigating murders that took place over a timespan of 17 years.
On June 6, 2010, Harrelson took part playing in for UNICEF UK at Old Trafford in Manchester. The match was broadcast live on UK's ITV television. After being brought on as a substitute for Gordon Ramsay, Harrelson took the final penalty in the penalty shootout, following a 2–2 draw after 91.2 minutes. Despite being initially unaware of exactly from where his kick had to be taken, Harrelson scored to win the game for "The Rest of the World" team, beating England for the first time since the tournament began. When later interviewed, he claimed that he "didn't even remember the moment of scoring."
Harrelson also took part in on May 27, 2012. The match ended 3–1 in favor of England.
FilmWhile still working on Cheers, Harrelson restarted his film career. His first movie had been Wildcats, a 1986 football comedy with Goldie Hawn. He reunited with Wesley Snipes in the box-office hit White Men Can't Jump and the box office bomb Money Train.
In 1993, Harrelson starred opposite Robert Redford and Demi Moore in the drama Indecent Proposal, which was a box office success, earning a worldwide total of over $265,000,000. He then played Mickey Knox in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers and Dr. Michael Raynolds in the Michael Cimino film The Sunchaser. In 1996, he starred in the comedy Kingpin for the Farrelly brothers.
Harrelson's career gained momentum when he starred in the Miloš Forman film The People vs. Larry Flynt, in which he played Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine. The film was a success and Harrelson's performance was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Actor. After that, Harrelson was cast in more serious film roles. He starred in the 1997 war film Welcome to Sarajevo and in 1997 had a featured role as Sergeant Schumann in Wag the Dog. In 1998, Harrelson starred in the thriller Palmetto and played Sergeant Keck in The Thin Red Line, a war film nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1999.
Harrelson made other films such as The Hi-Lo Country and portrayed Ray Pekurny in the comedy EDtv. Also in 1999, he appeared as boxer Vince Boudreau in the Ron Shelton film Play It to the Bone. Harrelson did not appear in films again until 2003, when he co-starred as Galaxia in the comedy film Anger Management.
He appeared in the action film After the Sunset and the Spike Lee film She Hate Me. In 2005, Harrelson was in The Big White and North Country. Also in 2005 he appeared as Kelly Ryan, husband of a contest-obsessed woman in the film The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Harrelson made two films in 2006, the animated film version of Free Jimmy and also A Scanner Darkly.
In 2007 he played Carter Page III, gay escort of privileged Washington D.C. women, in the film The Walker. In the Oscar-winning 2007 crime thriller No Country for Old Men, Harrelson had a key role as Carson Wells, a bounty hunter. The film won Best Picture and Best Director for Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. Harrelson also won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Cast, along with Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Kelly Macdonald. In 2007's Battle in Seattle, Harrelson played another key role of a Seattle police officer whose pregnant wife loses her baby during the 1999 World Trade Organization protests.
In 2008, Harrelson appeared in several films, among them the Will Ferrell basketball comedy Semi-Pro and the stark Will Smith drama Seven Pounds as a blind vegan meat salesman named Ezra Turner.
In 2009, Harrelson received significant praise for his performance as Captain Tony Stone in The Messenger. In what many critics considered to be his best role, Harrelson was nominated for a Satellite Award, an Independent Spirit Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Harrelson has also won the Best Supporting Actor award in the 2009 National Board of Review award ceremonies and received accolades from various critics' societies. Also that same year, Harrelson co-starred in the horror comedy Zombieland, followed by Roland Emmerich's 2012, where he played Charlie Frost, a man who warns of the end of the world.
In 2010, he starred as a bartender and mentor in the futuristic western martial arts film Bunraku. In 2011, he starred as Tommy in the movie Friends with Benefits. Harrelson directed the 2011 film ETHOS, which explores the idea of a self-destructing modern society, governed by unequal power and failed democratic ideals. He played Haymitch Abernathy in 2012's The Hunger Games, and reprised the role in all three subsequent films in the series.
In 2012, he had a leading role in Game Change as republican strategist Steve Schmidt.
In 2015, Woody Harrelson and daughter Zoe starred in a 7-minute short film for U2's 'Song for Someone.'
In 2016, Harrelson announced that he would direct, write, produce, and star in a film, Lost in London, which was shot as a single take and premiered live on January 19, 2017. Harrelson played police chief Bill Willoughby in the black comedy crime film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, released in 2017, for which he received nominations for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.
In 2017, he played the antagonist The Colonel in the science fiction film War for the Planet of the Apes. Also that year, he starred in The Glass Castle, an adaptation of Jeannette Walls's memoir about how she was raised by dysfunctional and nonconformist parents and then had her world turned upside down when they moved to New York to be near her. Brie Larson played Walls and Harrelson played her father. The comedic drama was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.
In 2018, Harrelson starred opposite Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, and Emilia Clarke in Lucasfilm's , playing Han Solo's mentor and a criminal.
In 2018, Harrelson appears in a cameo at the end of the film Venom, portraying Cletus Kasady.
In November 2019, he starred in Roland Emmerich's blockbuster movie Midway, playing Admiral Chester Nimitz. The film also starred Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Dennis Quaid and Mandy Moore.
TheatreIn 1999, Harrelson directed his own play, Furthest from the Sun, at the Theatre de la Jeune Lune in Minneapolis. He followed next in Roundabout's Broadway revival of the N. Richard Nash play The Rainmaker in 2000, Sam Shepard's The Late Henry Moss in 2001, John Kolvenbach's On an Average Day opposite Kyle MacLachlan in London's West End in the fall of 2002, and in the summer of 2003, Harrelson directed the Toronto premiere of Kenneth Lonergan's This is Our Youth at the Berkley Street Theater.
In the winter of 2005-06 Harrelson returned to London's West End, starring in Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana at the Lyric Theater. Harrelson directed Bullet for Adolf at the esteemed Hart House Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, which ran from April 21 to May 7, 2011. Bullet for Adolf opened Off-Broadway with previews beginning July 19, 2012 and closed on September 30, 2012, canceling its announced extension through October 21. The play was panned by New York critics.
Personal lifeIn 1985, Harrelson married Nancy Simon in Tijuana. The union was not intended to be serious, and the two had planned to divorce the following day, but the storefront marriage/divorce parlor was closed when they returned to it and they remained married for another ten months.
In 2008, Harrelson married Laura Louie, a co-founder of the organic food delivery service Yoganics. They met in 1987 when she worked as his personal assistant. They reside in Maui, Hawaii, and have three daughters: Deni, Zoe, and Makani.
Harrelson was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Hanover College in 2014.
Harrelson is a fan of chess. In November 2018, he attended the first game of the World Chess Championship in London, played between Norwegian champion Magnus Carlsen and American contender Fabiano Caruana. Harrelson made the ceremonial first move for the game. He had also played the ceremonial first move for the previous World Chess Championship that was held in New York in 2016.
Criticism over 5GIn April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic Harrelson received criticism in the press regarding his public sharing a report "about the negative effects of 5G" and its supposed role in the coronavirus pandemic to his more than 2 million Instagram followers. "I haven't fully vetted it I find it very interesting," he wrote of the report claiming "5G radiation" is "exacerbating" the contagion's spread and making it more lethal.
Legal issuesIn 1982, Harrelson was arrested for disorderly conduct in Columbus, Ohio, after he was found dancing in the middle of the street. He was also charged with resisting arrest after he ran from the police. Harrelson avoided jail time by paying a fine.
On June 1, 1996, Harrelson was arrested in Lee County, Kentucky, after he symbolically planted four hemp seeds to challenge the state law which did not distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana. Harrelson had arrived in the county with his attorney, former Kentucky Governor Louie B. Nunn, an agent and a camera crew from CNN. While at a local hotel, Harrelson phoned the county sheriff, Junior Kilburn, to advise him of his intentions. Kilburn and deputy sheriff Danny Towsend arrived at the location where Harrelson informed them he would be. With the cameras rolling, Harrelson planted the hemp seeds into the ground. Once planted, Kilburn placed Harrelson under arrest for cultivating marijuana and booked him into the county jail. He was released on $200 bail the same day. He later signed autographs and posed for photos with deputies. He was acquitted of those charges with the help of Nunn after just 25 minutes.
In 2002, Harrelson was arrested in London after an incident in a taxi that ended in a police chase. Harrelson was taken to a London police station and later released on bail. The case was later dismissed after Harrelson paid the taxi driver involved in the incident £550. This became the inspiration for his 2017 live film, Lost in London.
In 2008, TMZ photographer Josh Levine filed a lawsuit against Harrelson for an alleged attack outside a Hollywood nightclub in 2006. A video of the incident appeared to show Harrelson grabbing a camera and clashing with the photographer. Los Angeles prosecutors declined to press charges against the actor, but Levine filed a suit that summer asking for $2.5 million in damages. The case was dismissed in April 2010.
Drug reformHarrelson is an enthusiast and supporter of the legalization of marijuana and hemp. He was a guest on Ziggy Marley's track "Wild and Free", a song advocating the growing of cannabis. Since 2003, Harrelson has served as a member on NORML's advisory board.
EnvironmentalHarrelson has attended environmental events such as the PICNIC'07 festival that was held in Amsterdam in September 2007. PICNIC describes its annual festival as "three intensive days we mix creativity, science, technology, media, and business to explore new solutions in the spirit of co-creation". He once scaled the Golden Gate Bridge with members of North Coast Earth First! group to unfurl a banner that read, "Hurwitz, aren't ancient redwoods more precious than gold?" in protest of Maxxam Inc. CEO Charles Hurwitz, who once stated, "He who has the gold, makes the rules."
Harrelson once traveled to the west coast in the U.S. on a bike and a domino caravan with a hemp oil-fueled biodiesel bus with the Spitfire Agency and narrated the 1999 documentary Grass. He briefly owned an oxygen bar in West Hollywood called "O2".
Harrelson has spoken publicly against the 2003 invasion of Iraq as well as previously protesting against the First Gulf War, both at UCLA as well as during a college concert tour in Iowa and Nebraska in 1991 under the auspices of "Woody Harrelson Educational Tours". In October 2009, he was given an honorary degree by York University for his contributions in the fields of environmental education, sustainability, and activism.
VeganismHarrelson follows a raw vegan diet. Along with not eating meat or dairy, Harrelson also does not eat sugar or flour. In Zombieland, in which he plays a character with an affinity for Twinkies, the Twinkies were replaced with vegan faux-Twinkies made from cornmeal. He appeared on a postage stamp in 2011 as one of PETA's 20 famous vegetarians, and he was named PETA's Sexiest Vegetarian in 2012.Soccer Aid at Old Trafford in Manchester to raise money for UNICEF. He played for the Rest of the World team alongside former professionals Zinedine Zidane and Luís Figo as well as chef Gordon Ramsay and fellow Hollywood actors Mike Myers and Michael Sheen. Harrelson played the last 15 minutes and scored the winning goal in the penalty shootout following a 2–2 draw during normal time. He played in the UNICEF game 2012, playing the last 10 minutes of the game for the Rest of the World team, losing 3–1 to England.
Political viewsHarrelson identifies as an anarchist. In a conversation with Howard Zinn, Harrelson admitted that he considers Zinn to be a personal hero of his. In 2002, Harrelson wrote an article in the British newspaper The Guardian condemning President George W. Bush's preparation for a US invasion of Iraq as a "racist and imperialist war". He also stated that he was against the U.S.'s previous war in Iraq and President Bill Clinton's sanctions against Iraq. In 2013, Harrelson condemned President Barack Obama for failing to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, negatively comparing him to Richard Nixon.
Religious viewsHarrelson told Playboy in October 2009, "I was getting into theology and studying the roots of the Bible, but then I started to discover the man-made nature of it. I started seeing things that made me ask, 'Is God really speaking through this instrument?' My eyes opened to the reality of the Bible being just a document to control people. At the time I was a real mama's boy and deeply mesmerized by the church."
In a May 2018 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Harrelson mentioned his study of theology and that he had considered becoming a minister. He explained that he became disillusioned with the church during his studies at college: "I started to see how man-made the Bible was and then I started saying, 'I could put this whole thing on hold for a while...let's just put this whole idea on hold so I can have my twenties and thirties of extreme hedonism.'" He stated that he has a belief in God, which he attributed to reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, whom he described as a "man of integrity".