Tuesday, 28 May 2024


Daily habits of Woody Harrelson

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Among Woody Harrelson’s many accolades is his selection as one of 20 famous vegetarians, immortalised on a series of special-edition postage stamps. Quite the honour. Really though, it was back in 1985 that the Texas-born actor and activist first leapt into global view, pulling pints as the loveable bartender Woody Boyd in the hugely successful sitcom ‘Cheers’. A hundred or so acting credits on, Woody enjoys a level of stardom where he can happily alternate major screen roles with his own art-house dabblings. For this year’s directorial debut ‘Lost in London’, he set himself the wacky challenge of broadcasting the movie live to cinemas as it was shot. Woody puts his success in art and life down to the healthy regimen that he strictly follows at home in Maui, Hawaii, including his refusal to use a mobile telephone. Hello?

From Fantastic n° 25 — 2017
Photography by PAUL WETHERELL

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PENNY — Are you a morning person, Woody?

WOODY — I’ve been getting into a nice pattern recently. For a while I was doing meditation as soon as I’d wake up. I don’t have an alarm clock, so this morning it was about 7.15. And I have a dream journal that I’ve been using to write down my dreams. I stopped smoking pot recently and started dreaming a lot. My dreams really became magnificent. Last night I dreamt that I was buying Kleenex from this guy who arrived down a chute, like you might find at an airport baggage reclaim. I was talking to him about investing in his company and was asking all these questions, like, what was the percentage of non-wood paper in the Kleenex. He said it was between 18 and 19 per cent.

Do you eat breakfast?
I usually have a smoothie or what we call ‘painted fruit’, which is fruit with this green sauce on it. It’s loaded with spirulina, almond butter and super foods, hemp seeds… and you spread that on the mango, berries – whatever you’re having.

Is this from your organic food delivery service?

We had that many years ago. That was one of our failures. It was a little before its time, I guess.

But you’re still specific about your diet.

Yes, it’s been 15 or 20 years that I’ve been off the sugar and I’ve been vegan since 1990. Sugar was one of the last things I gave up and the hardest. I try to eat well but, at times, I do over-eat because I may be a vegan but I was raised a carnivore.

Okay, we’re finished in the kitchen – take me to the bathroom. Do you shave every day?

I don’t particularly like shaving; I never do in Maui, where I live. But when I’m working, and if my character is clean-shaven, I do it in the shower so that I don’t have to use shaving cream or anything.

Is this to minimise detergents? Are you anti shower gels and bar soaps too?

I use Dr. Bronner’s, you know? I like the app called Think Dirty. You can get it on your iPhone and use it to scan over the barcodes of things like cleansers and so forth and it tells you how clean or dirty the thing is. Dr. Bronner’s is a zero rating, which is as clean as you can get. The app is relatively new so they don’t have every product yet, and it doesn’t work for food products. I think that would be a good avenue to take it in.

Do you get a newspaper delivered?

I’ve been really… I don’t want to say remiss because it’s intentional, but I’ve been trying to avoid the news because it just depresses the hell out of me. It’s one tragedy after the next and it really affects me in an adverse way.

Are you talking to me from a mobile?

No, I only talk from landlines. I don’t use mobiles because I don’t want to send the EMFs into my brain. One day, when mobiles first came out, I talked on a cell phone for an hour and I got the most crazy earache for three days. So I haven’t used them in many years except if there’s an emergency. Even then, I won’t hold it in my hand; I’ll set it down and put it on speaker.

That sounds very considered. Do you set aside a specific time in your day for correspondence?

No. I do it whenever I have to but I do like the idea of having a big desk and taking care of your letters and all that. I wish I was more responsible like that.

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Woody was born in Midland, Texas, on 23 July 1961, which was a Sunday.

Do you have someone answer all your fan letters?

No, I do it myself. I’ve got to be better about that.

Have you nice handwriting? Most men I know have terrible handwriting.

I’m definitely an exception. I write in beautiful cursive.

What’s your salutation for autograph hunters? We had Angela Lansbury on the cover of the magazine I edit and she writes, ‘With pleasure!’ with a big exclamation mark.

I vary it, I guess. I might say, ‘Peace’ or ‘Cheers!’ Something like that says a lot.

That’s so sweet! I suppose if you sign your own name, Woody, it’s the same as your character’s in ‘Cheers’ in any case. Your full name’s Woodrow, though?

You mean my real name? Yes, I was named after my uncle Woody and he was named after Woodrow Wilson.

The same Woodrow Wilson that got the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in setting up the League of Nations?

Did he? I never saw him in that way. He was a big union buster and I looked at him as a bit of a hawk as opposed to peaceful.

So where does all this admin take place? Do you have an office?

I do at home but at the moment I’m in New Orleans, working on this movie with Rob Reiner called ‘Shock and Awe’. When I’m on location for a film, my office is usually on the set.


How do you get there?
My assistant drives me. If we’re shooting that can be pretty early, at about 6.30 or even 6 o’clock in the morning.

Can you drive?
Yes, I’ve driven a Volkswagen for years. It uses biodiesel. But now, we’re getting Teslas. If I’m in LA, I’ll drive a motorcycle, but that’s just straight gas. I’m a great driver, actually.

Of course you are; you’re American. I know this is going to horrify you but I’ve never had a single lesson. I can’t drive.

Really? Then what you need in London is a bike. I’m big on the parks, so Primrose Hill, but I love Regent’s Park probably the most. I like Hampstead Heath. I like Hyde Park too. In fact, I plan to be in London quite soon since we’re prepping this Han Solo movie, and I was also there for a couple of weeks at the start of the year, shooting a film. It was a wild journey because we shot it all in real-time, in a single take. Usually, a movie is shot over a couple of months so it was a real tightrope event. It’s called ‘Lost in London’ and it’s based on a crazy night that I had there in 2005.

FANTASTIC MAN - WOODY was born in Midland, Texas, on 23 July 1961, which was a Sunday. Here, he is wearing a striped patchwork cotton oversized shirt and matching trousers, with white faux-leather lace-up sneakers with rubber soles.

What on earth exactly happened to you that night?

Well, I probably shouldn’t spoil it. Though we screened the film live on 19 January, I’d like to give the film a series of screenings in independent cinemas and we have a week’s exclusive with iTunes planned so I don’t want to give the plot away. In any case, I had tried to suppress the memory of that night because it was hellish. I think I would have given a large fortune just to have the experience erased, but then later, I started thinking: ‘This could be funny. This could actually be funny.’

I gather you play yourself in the film.

I do. I wanted to relive the night and make it a little happier in the end.

Where do you do your writing?
The last time I was working on that script, I just sat down at the kitchen table.

Is it also something you can do whilst you’re filming, in your trailer?

I haven’t proven very effective at that. But I know Jesse Eisenberg and I’ve seen three plays that he’s written, all phenomenal, and he’s writing them in his trailer like he was just born to it.

I don’t know that many writers that actually enjoy writing.

I wouldn’t say I’m a happy writer. William Faulkner said that the only things a writer needs to write are a pen – or maybe he said a pencil – a piece of paper and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Do you have a writing partner?

I did. I wrote a play called ‘Bullet for Adolf’ in 2012 with a friend of mine, Frankie Hyman. In the end, it wasn’t the best experience, but I still have high hopes.

You’ve quite a number of films coming up in 2017. I’m interested to see Martin McDonagh’s ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’.

That turned out phenomenal. It’s with Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, who were both incredible. My part in it is okay but those guys are off the fricking scale. This may be the best thing I’ve ever seen Sam do.

You like doing a bit of theatre now and then too, don’t you?

Yes. I’m just reading a Neil Simon play that I’m pondering doing called ‘Last of the Red Hot Lovers’. It’s interesting but I’m just not sure it’s right. The last time I did theatre was ‘The Night of the Iguana’ in the West End in 2005 and that was a bit disappointing. I like Tennessee Williams and all, but with that particular piece, if everything goes right the audience walks out feeling like they’ve been punched in the gut. I’d rather just stick with comedy for sure.

If actors are as likely to be on set at nine in the morning as they are to be on stage at nine in the evening, it must be hard for them to draw a distinction between work and leisure in their day.

It’s full on when I’m away, but once I’m back in Maui it’s pretty much all leisure time. If I have something I’m working on I try to get it done, but I always find the best time to do those things is tomorrow.


Does your family sit down together to eat in the evening or are you all in front of the television?

No, we’re not big on watching TV while we eat. We usually eat together at some time between 7pm and 9pm but we’re pretty lax as parents. My wife, Laura, is more the disciplinarian and I’m more relaxed. Good cop, bad cop.

Do you have many friends on the island?

I have a lot of good friends that I love a lot, but being so busy I haven’t had much time with them, which is a little disappointing. We mostly stay in touch via e-mail but I’m pretty much an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of guy. Owen Wilson is one of my best buddies. He has a place in Maui. So does Willie Nelson.

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He was the one that introduced you to Hawaii, I believe.

I’d been there before but the time that Willie got me back there was the moment that I really realised, ‘This is my home.’ That was helpful.

Are you a big reader?
Yes, I like to read historical novels. For the film ‘LBJ’ last year, I read the novel ‘Infamy’, about how Roosevelt and that gang had all known that Pearl Harbour would be bombed. I’m interested in a lot of the World War II stuff. I read ‘Leningrad’, for instance. The thing I’m reading right now is not historical; it’s more, I guess, physics. It’s called ‘The Source Field Investigations’. And you’ve got a great guy in London, Philip Kerr – he writes the best novels about a fictional detective called Bernie Gunther in 1930s Berlin.

Do you watch much TV?
I binge. We’ve just finished ‘Narcos’. That was fantastic. I like ‘Game of Thrones’. I like ‘House of Cards’. It’s amazing how you can have these characters who are doing such terrible things and yet you care about them. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

Is watching yourself on screen enjoyable?

Sometimes, if I think I did a good job. I can be critical, like: ‘I wish I’d have done this, I wish I’d have done that.’

Do you feel you can see a progression in your own performances if you compare something early, like ‘Natural Born Killers’, with something recent, like ‘True Detective’?

Well, yes. I definitely feel I’ve become a little better. You definitely want to be better, more real. Any time I feel like I see myself acting – god, that’s intolerable.

What else do you do to relax at the end of the day? You’re known to be a big advocate for the legalisation of marijuana.

I’m an advocate for… I just think that consensual crimes are just not crimes. If you’re gambling or you’re going off to see prostitutes or you’re taking a drug, what does that have to do with the government in a free country? It’s absurd. But personally, I haven’t been smoking. I’ve been really clear, which is good.


What time is bedtime?
I tend to go to bed early, by ten o’clock. I try to peel off around midnight at the latest.

Do you wear pyjamas?
No! No, no, I don’t.

Is there anything that keeps you awake?

Well, if you’re working nights and go to bed in the morning, earplugs are kind of mandatory. But ordinarily, the only thing that keeps me awake is worrying about things like ‘Lost in London’. There were so many details to attend to. I’m never going to take directors for granted again.

FANTASTIC MAN - WOODY wears an ink-blue cotton shirt with embroidered swallow detail, again by STELLA McCARTNEY.

Are you eager to take on another directing project?

No chance! It’s a relief that it came off. There were definitely some things that didn’t go how I wanted, but overall, I’m pleased with it. That said, I’ll never do it again.

In calmer times, what are the things that you feel most proud of?

My three daughters: my trifecta. With work, that would be harder to say. I thought ‘Larry Flynt’ was great. I thought ‘Rampart’ was great. I thought ‘The Messenger’ was fantastic. I thought ‘Natural Born Killers’ was really terrific. I like ‘Kingpin’. At the end of it all, you look back and really hope to have more things in the ‘proud’ column than the ‘not proud’, and I feel lucky that even though lots of movies didn’t do well at all, at least I’m still proud of them.


Photographic assistance by Chris Miller and Sam Wilson. Styling assistance by Stuart Williamson. Grooming by Matt Mulhall at Streeters.