“Hunger Games” showcases Woody Harrelson’s independence

Hunger Games showcases Woody Harrelson’s independence

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The blockbuster movie The Hunger Games is playing at super-size multiplexes and even the great Laemmle Theatre chain that embraces intelligent independent cinema. That kind of universal appeal of the film is what drew Woody Harrelson to do The Hunger Games.

Harrelson reports he took on a supporting role in what he envisioned as a small independent film, because he wanted to work with director Gary Ross. But after reading the “Hunger Games” book, he knew there was something special there. He liked the message of the story, about questioning authority, and hopes there will be more.

Harrelson was also seen recently in a supporting politically-infused role for the HBO movie Game Change. It’s about Sarah Palin bursting onto the scene when she became John McCain’s running mate.

And at the beginning of the year, Harrelson was the star of the gritty and acclaimed movie Rampart, playing a dirty cop who abused his authority.

The three very diverse projects show that Harrelson has come a long way from playing the naïve bartender on the long-running sitcom Cheers, which earned him an Emmy.

Because his Cheers role overshadowed other performances, audiences forget that he received Oscar nominations for The Messenger and The People vs. Larry Flynt, both of which also brought him Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award nominations, in addition to an Independent Spirit Award win for Best Supporting Actor in The Messenger.

And Woody gave a great performance in No Country for Old Men, which got a SAG Award for the cast. His performance in Rampart, which premiered to critical acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival, also go him an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead.

For Rampart he had to get buff and lost 30 pounds to play his cop role. Harrelson says he did it by becoming “a gym rat.”

Regarding Game Change, in which he plays a pivotal role in the McCain campaign, handling vice presidential wannabe Sarah Palin, Harrelson says he enjoyed doing the political film because he got the chance to hang out with Steve Schmidt, the Republican campaign manager he portrayed.

“I guess we probably think a little bit differently politically, but I thought Schmidt was a really charming, interesting, passionate guy. He does care and I came away really liking him.”

Woody admits, “I’m not really a Republican or a Democrat, probably more an anarchist.” He insists he’s very non-political. In fact he describes himself as “a happy hippie from Hawaii,” where he lives with his family, wife Laurie and three daughters.

Although he comes to the mainland for acting jobs, Woody says he prefers living a leisurely Hawaiian style life in Maui. Soccer seems to be his favorite sport, because Woody loves to recall the story about playing in Soccer Aid 2010 for UNICEF in Manchester, where he scored the winning goal, beating England. “It was the greatest thrill,” he says.

On the personal side, Woody also shows his independence. He is a vegetarian and an environmental activist who likes to support those issues. He admits to being a supporter for the legalization of marijuana.


Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.

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