Harrelson Steps Out of The Mainstream, Into Grass

Harrelson Steps Out of The Mainstream, Into Grass
Posted by FoM on June 30, 2000 at 20:02:50 PT
By David Barton, Bee Staff Writer
Source: Sacramento Bee
Woody Harrelson knows that he's probably not doing himself any favors with his latest endeavor. "I think that for most actors, myself included, it doesn't make much sense to stir controversy," he says. "The less you know about an actor, the better for the actor when he's doing his job."But in this case," he adds, "I didn't feel I had a choice. Some friends of mine became incarcerated. 
I didn't necessarily want to be a part of this struggle, but there are a lot of otherwise perfectly fine people going to jail for nothing."Harrelson, 38, is doing occasional interviews to promote a new documentary by Ron Mann, "Grass," which opens today in Sacramento. He has no financial stake in the film, and doesn't appear in it. He narrates the film, but that was just a day's work.He became involved, he says, because he supports the film's message: that marijuana is illegal because of prejudice, political manipulation and hypocrisy, and that people's lives are being hurt as a result of an expensive and fruitless drug war. "If we're living in a free country," he says, "we should be free to do what we want to do if we're not hurting anyone else or their property. Why should I be incarcerated if I'm doing something that doesn't hurt anyone else?"He is speaking from Boulder, Colo., where he's spending some time with his wife and two kids.Harrelson is best-known as an actor, first in the television sitcom "Cheers" and then in more than a dozen movies, including "White Men Can't Jump," "The Thin Red Line," "Kingpin" and "The People vs. Larry Flint," which earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor.But he has not shied away from controversy when inspired by a cause. In addition to protesting anti-marijuana laws, he has put most of his energy into supporting his favorite cause, the protection of the redwoods and old-growth forests of the West Coast. His biggest headlines came in 1996, when he and several others climbed up on the Golden Gate Bridge to protest unrestrained logging, a stunt that backed up traffic for miles and left commuters steaming mad."One California legislator said to me, in a very pointed way, 'Listen, don't you ever climb that bridge again,'" he says. "What I should have said in response was, 'You do your job so I don't have to do it for you.' The state is not standing up for the citizen's rights. "It makes me mad, I gotta tell ya." He apologizes at several points in the conversation, when he feels he's starting to lecture. "I'm sorry," he says in a sheepish tone reminiscent of his charmingly unpretentious "Cheers" character, also named Woody. "Sometimes I get on these diatribes."Diatribes aside, Harrelson says he doesn't want anyone to get the idea that, just because of the injustices the documentary records, the movie isn't a good time."It's a very funny movie," he says. "It gets to the facts in a refreshing way that's not a lecture."Despite his activist work, Harrelson has continued to work at his craft. Instead of making movies, though -- his most recent was last year's "Play It To the Bone" -- he has become interested in live theater. He did N. Richard Nash's "The Rainmaker" on Broadway last fall, and says the experience was invigorating."That's a whole different set of muscles," he says. "The theater is really exciting to me, much more so than film, because you can lie and cheat in front of the camera and get away with it, but theater's a much more challenging situation for an actor. In maybe one of 10 shows I got free and really got it." In October, after this long hiatus with his family, he will once again take to the stage, this time at San Francisco's Magic Theatre, to star with Sean Penn in a new Sam Shepard play, "The Late Harry Moss."Activism, live theater -- wouldn't his management like him to make nice, lucrative movie? Something a bit less controversial? "They say that about a lot of things I do," he says. "But my career has gone on a lot longer than I had anticipated, or hoped for, so whatever happens now, I'm resigned to it. I'm not going to stop doing what I do. I'll just speak up when I can." Published June 30, 2000  2000 The Sacramento Bee Related Articles & Web Site:Grass The Movie - A Ron Mann Film Drug War's a Trip Ebert Says Legalize It - Salon Magazine Mindus On Grass - National Review
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: