Woody Harrelson – You won’t find him getting Munsoned any time soon!
At first glance you would think that Woodrow Tracy Harrelson was an ordinary guy if you saw him walking down your street. After all, he is a 5 foot 10 inch tall, 50-year-old, white, American male of average build. However, Woody is far from ordinary. In fact, he is quite extraordinary and has led a life that would confirm this.
Harrelson was born in Midland, Texas in ’61 but grew up in an Ohio suburb. This sounds like a normal childhood, but you just think that because you haven’t heard about Woody’s father yet! Woody’s father, Charles Harrelson, was sentenced to 2 life sentences for the murder of Federal Judge John Howland Wood. He reportedly did this on the orders of a drug dealer named Jimmy Chagra, who paid Charles $250,000. While in prison for this murder, Charles also claimed to be one of the ‘hobos’ taken from the grassy knoll right after the shooting of president JFK. With this type of raucous activity going on in Woody’s childhood, his life was destined to be anything but normal.
Woody began attending Hanover College in Indiana where he would study theater arts and english. He then began his acting career in New York as an understudy in the Broadway show Biloxy Blues. Within months, he was cast as ‘Woody’ in the huge TV series Cheers. However, he soon found it difficult to get movie roles with his TV schedule.
His first big movie break was a minor role in Doc Hollywood starring Michael J. Fox, whom Harrelson is still very good friends with. This ultimately led to his first starring role in a movie. Woody killed as Billy Hoyle, the white basketball playing hustler, along side Wesley Snipes in the movie White Men Can’t Jump. Woody also got to showcase some of his natural athletic ability in the movie. Even though Billy had a gambling problem, lost most of his basketball winnings, and his lady friend (Rosie Perez), he still ended up beating King and Duck at the end of the movie. Also, contrary to the title of the movie, Billy Hoyle also ends up dunking at the end of the movie, thus proving that some white men can jump!
Woody would go on to star in many more successful motion pictures. He would play Mickey Knox, the deranged serial killer, in Natural Born Killers. Directed by Oliver Stone and written by Quentin Tarantino. He got back with Snipes in Money Train. In 1996 he played the title role in The People vs. Larry Flint and was nominated for the Oscar of best actor in a leading role. He played Ray Pekurny (brother of Matthew McConaughey’s title character Ed) in EdTV. He is still good friends with Matthew to this day. He was also the bounty hunter in the critically acclaimed No Country for Old Men, directed by the Coen Brothers.
Along with those previously mentioned movies ,Woody has played some less acclaimed roles that show off his comedic side. He goes back to his basketball roots in Semi-Pro along side Will Ferrell. He has a minor role of a transsexual hooker along side Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson in Anger Management. He plays ‘Tallahassee’, a twinkie loving, zombie killing machine, in Zombieland and gets back on-screen with his good buddy McConaughey in Surfer, Dude.
His greatest comedy role, however, was most likely as Roy Munson in Kingpin. This movie is from the great comedic minds of the Farrelly brothers who also directed such gems as Dumb & Dumber, Me, Myself, and Irene, and There’s Something About Mary. Kingpin was not the box office hit that some of the other Farrelly bros. movies were, but it should not be overlooked. It is comedic genius and much of that is due to Harrelson’s terrific portrayal of a one-armed, out of shape, bowler with a lack of morals. He wins a state bowling title at a young age only to be brought into the grueling underground world of hustler bowling by ‘Big’ Ern McCracken (played brilliantly by Bill Murray). Munson has his hopes, dreams, and bowling hand taken from him after a hustle goes wrong and McCracken leaves him to take the heat. Munson goes on to lead a sad life of trickery and tom-foolery to get by from day to day, such as staging a fake mugging on his landlord to get leniency on his monthly rent. People begin to use the term ‘Munsoned’ when referring to others who are stuck in a rut and ‘up shit’s creek without a paddle’. Harrelson is very believable in his transformation throughout the film where he goes from thinking about only himself to becoming a more generous and giving person.
Woody’s personal life is perhaps even more entertaining than the roles he acts out on the big screen, believe it or not. Harrelson is a raw-foodist vegan, which means he only eats raw and dried foods. He is also an activist for the legalization of marijuana. This should come as no surprise when you think about who some of his friends are; McConaughey, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Owen Wilson, Willie Nelson, and Hootie and the Blowfish. Hootie actually wrote a song called ‘Woody’ which is based on Harrelson himself. He also has a house in Costa Rica. Woody will sometimes moonlight as a lead singer in the band Manly Moondog and the Three Kool Hats. Woody also claims to have been a sex addict in his past, he briefly owned an oxygen bar in Hollywood, and also had 17 jobs in one year.
In June of ’83 Harrelson was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. He was dancing in the street, halting traffic. He then jumped out of the moving police vehicle laughing like a maniac before he finally punched one of his two arresting officers to the ground.
Don’t let that information lead you to believe that Woody is not a great guy though. He is a human rights activist and an environmentalist. 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/PALCO CEO Charles Hurwitz, who once stated, “He who has the gold, makes the rules”. He is a peace activist, and has often spoken publicly against the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Woody is a great human being and an extremely talented actor. He can take on the form of a bounty hunter, athlete, gambling degenerate, one-armed bowler, maniacal serial killer, pompous pornography magazine creator, transsexual, or a zombie slayer. He is a man who wears many different hats on and off the screen. Hopefully you understand and appreciate him a little more now too!