Woody Harrelson is 56 now, delivering mature, nuanced performances in lauded movies together with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “LBJ,” the sorts of roles one may affiliate with Tommy Lee Jones or the late Sam Shepard. And, after all, he stopped smoking pot.
That was the information final yr, anyway, when Mr. Harrelson, a hashish evangelist on the extent of Snoop Dogg, instructed reporters that he had damaged off a long-term marriage along with his intoxicant of selection. “It was keeping me from being emotionally available,” he instructed New York magazine.
So it was a somber new Woody I anticipated once I dropped in on his Maui residence final month to debate his function in “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” Ron Howard’s splashy new movie, which opened on Friday.
That was not the Woody I acquired.
It was an overcast Thursday morning, and I used to be seated on the kitchen desk of one in every of Mr. Harrelson’s two homes on Maui. The glassy dwelling is perched a number of thousand toes up the slopes of the Haleakala volcano, with sweeping views of Maui’s northeast shoreline within the distance.
The plan was to hike the densely wooded property. As I waited for Mr. Harrelson to descend from upstairs, his spouse, Laura Louie, carrying a blue fleece vest, was within the kitchen making ready a late-morning snack of recent fruit smeared with spirulina and almond butter. Ten minutes later, the sound of footsteps.
“Dude!” Mr. Harrelson mentioned, in that acquainted bad-boy drawl. He was carrying white seashore pants, his yoga-toned torso draped in a well-worn “Free Willie” T-shirt with an outdated mug shot of Willie Nelson.
It was not simply his apparel that made him appear to be a 1990s slacker. He strikes with the lackadaisical ease of a person half his age. He ambles greater than he strides, free limbed and carefree, like a stressed teenager in search of mischief.
As he slumped right into a picket chair and planted his elbows on the desk, we traded conflict tales from the afternoon earlier than, when Mr. Harrelson lured me right into a pickup soccer sport. It was a critical sport. I lasted 20 minutes and mangled my knee within the course of. He went the gap.
“You almost got a goal, though,” he mentioned within the paternal tones of a Little League coach consoling a strikeout sufferer. Yeah, I mentioned with a shrug. I hit the crossbar and missed by an inch. “A millimeter!” he mentioned.
After a quick change of pleasantries, he reached into his pocket, pulled out two hashish cartridge pens and slapped them onto the kitchen desk.
“I was 20 months off of this, 20 months!” he mentioned, glancing down on the pens as in the event that they have been long-lost mates. “And then, Willie happened.”
Willie Nelson, Ultimate Enabler
Taking a deep draw on a vape pen, Mr. Harrelson launched into the story about his breakup and reunion with marijuana.
It began in 2016, just a few weeks earlier than he was to shoot “Billboards” close to Asheville, N.C. Wanting to get the partying out of his system, he launched into a “friendship tour” in Los Angeles, Houston and New York. “That’s the nice way of putting it,” he mentioned. “It’s better than calling it a ‘you’re-going-to-host-me-at-your-house-while-I-have-a-bender tour.”
The plan was to dry out in Asheville, however it seems that the picturesque metropolis “has, like, one microbrewery per person,” he mentioned, so he stored partying, “drinking a ton of beer, smoking one reefer after another.”
It took a toll. One night time, a “really weird” sensation took over his physique, he mentioned, “a crazy restlessness, unable to sleep, my lungs burning.”
He seemed up the signs and self-diagnosed it as adrenal exhaustion. He took the subsequent time without work, then one other, then one other. “By Thursday, it’s four days” he mentioned. “This is like a record!”
It went on for a yr and a half.
Some have been joyful for him; Willie Nelson was not. The two are poker buddies on Maui with Owen Wilson and Don Nelson, the Hall of Fame basketball coach, and Willie didn’t take kindly to a weed-free Woody.
It was “a slap in the face,” Mr. Harrelson mentioned. “It just unnerved him. He’d keep offering it to me, and I’d say, ‘Willie, you know I don’t smoke anymore.’ He’d always act like it was the first time he’d heard it.”
Then, over one sport, Mr. Nelson broke out a particular mix he referred to as Willie’s Reserve. “That’s not fair because the only way I’m going to taste the Willie’s Reserve is if I smoke it,” Mr. Harrelson mentioned. So after successful an enormous hand, he caved.
“I take a big draw on it, and Willie says, ‘Welcome home, son,’” he mentioned.
Spying the pens on the desk, Mr. Harrelson grabbed a small blue one and provided it to me for my swollen knee. “This is just a CBD pen,” he mentioned, referring to cannabidiol oil, a non-psychoactive extract that’s mentioned to alleviate ache. “There’s no THC in this. It’s good for calming and stuff.”
‘Teeing Up a Lollygag’
Mr. Nelson was not the one one that thought that order had been restored to the universe.
For three a long time working, Mr. Harrelson’s extra has been a part of his attraction. He is Hollywood’s cosmic cowboy: a uncooked meals gastronaut, hashish connoisseur and eco-warrior who appears intent to look at life via kaleidoscope goggles.
As a Hollywood actor, he’s a extremely bankable male lead. But as an thought, he stays a reminder to the remainder of us mortgage holders and 401(ok) planners: Maybe you should not have to go light into that good night time; perhaps you possibly can occasion, occasion towards the dying of the sunshine.
We are the image. He is Dorian Gray.
After our snack, Woody slipped on an indica inexperienced fleece and led me out on a hike round his lush property.
His repute as Hollywood’s haute hippie is effectively deserved. He wore a white Armani tuxedo made of hemp to the 1997 Golden Globes, weaves references to Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” into informal dialog and says he spent solely $500 on his 2008 wedding to Ms. Louie. (They have been collectively because the “Cheers” days within the 1980s and have three kids: Deni, 25; Zoe, 21; and Makani, 12.)
So how did an astral voyager handle to claw his approach to the highest of a cutthroat enterprise? Mr. Harrelson appears not sure himself. “I’m a good little worker, a hard worker,” he mentioned. “But I’m also a world-class lollygagger. I really would prefer nutso to do.”
We headed down a steep highway from his home. At that altitude, you are feeling little of Maui’s hang-loose beachiness. With a low fog hanging simply above the loquat bushes, Norfolk pine and luxurious ferns, the property appeared vaguely mystical, like a scene from Tolkien.
The mild mist was turning the highway slick, so Mr. Harrelson padded rigorously in a pair of grey Allbirds sneakers, the identical variety he acquired for his fellow Lone Star psychonaut Matthew McConaughey. “He was like, ‘ya put these on, ya ain’t gonna wanna take ’em off,’” Mr. Harrelson mentioned, imitating Mr. McConaughey’s lazy drawl.
Being lazy is sufficient of an artwork for the 2 of them, Mr. Harrelson mentioned, that they warped the English language to swimsuit their shared style for dawdling. Instead of “planning a vacation,” for instance, they got here up with “teeing up a lollygag.”
But if Mr. Harrelson’s final objective is to do “nutso” (Woody-ese for doing nothing), his lifetime of late is a dismal failure. Mr. Harrelson has been reeling off 5 – 6 motion pictures a yr, whereas fellow marquee stars like Brad Pitt and Robert Downey Jr., no slouches, are good for perhaps a pair.
This yr, he lollygagged his approach to a finest supporting actor Oscar nod for “Billboards,” qualifying as soon as once more as a scene stealer, even in a movie for which his fellow stars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell took residence statues. (Mr. Harrelson was nominated in the identical class in 2010, for the army drama “The Messenger,” and for finest actor in 1997, for “The People vs. Larry Flynt.”)
It will not be laborious to see the enchantment. Whether he’s taking part in a lovelorn misanthrope in final yr’s quirky indie “Wilson” or an intergalactic desperado in “Solo,” an innate likability, a folksy decency, shines via. Basically, he has grow to be a stoner Jimmy Stewart.
That is to not say he craves the highlight. Mr. Harrelson mentioned he was initially drawn to Maui partly for its distance from Hollywood. “It’s where Lindbergh moved to, because it was so remote, and he was like the world’s first mega-superstar,” Mr. Harrelson mentioned. “He just wanted privacy.”
As we walked, his energetic black-and-white blended breed, Monkee, bolted into the comb of a neighbor’s property, inflicting a violent rustle. “Monkee!” Mr. Harrelson shouted. “I hope it’s not someone’s chickens.”
Bird homicide apparently averted, we continued alongside the highway, speaking about his upbringing. His father, Charles Voyde Harrelson, went to jail for the homicide of a grain seller, so Woody was raised as a scripture-quoting Christian by his mom, Diane Lou Oswald. The first time he considered performing was in highschool, when a bunch of soccer gamers goaded him into doing an Elvis Presley impersonation within the college library.
As we strolled down the trail, Mr. Harrelson, arms swinging merrily, all of a sudden broke right into a throaty rendition of “All Shook Up.” “A well’a bless my soul/What’sa wrong with me. …”
“I just got louder and louder,” he mentioned, “and then the people started gathering around and clapping along. My inner performer came out.” A lady named Robin Rogers invited him to hitch the drama membership. “I was like, ‘Well, if Robin Rogers wants me to do a play, I’m going to do a play.’”
And now, 4 a long time later, he was about to embark on a marathon publicity tour for “Solo,” with red-carpet premieres in Los Angeles and New York, and appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
“It’s part of the job, but after that,” he mentioned with an audible exhale, “I’m going to tee up a monster lollygag.”
No to ‘Star Wars’
After the hike, we settled again on the kitchen desk for lunch: a beneficiant bowl of quinoa, sprouts, hijiki seaweed and avocado. Despite rising up within the barbecue belt (Texas and, later, Ohio), Mr. Harrelson says he’s “philosophically, a raw foodist.”
His quest for gastronomic purity is infectious. As I munched on uncooked crackers smeared with macadamia nut butter, the considered devouring, say, a cheeseburger appeared as fallacious as munching on thumbtacks. Having just lately dropped 35 kilos on an prolonged cleanse, Mr. Harrelson prompt a three-day mini-cleanse for me.
“You might go through a healing crisis that might be a little bit tough,” he mentioned. “I luckily never go through those anymore, because I eat really clean.”
Realizing he was proselytizing, he caught himself.
“Laura looked up my name in a name book once,” Mr. Harrelson mentioned. “It means ‘sentimental sermonizer.’ I thought, ‘Oh, that’s ridiculous.’” But then he heard his household laughing, “which can only mean that they thought it’s totally accurate,” he added.
That quest for better which means extends to his movie profession. Despite regular work in blockbuster franchises together with “The Hunger Games,” he loves artwork home fare. “With any indie, there’s a 99 percentile chance that people won’t be seeing it,” he mentioned. “But you’re like, ‘Damn, it’s good.’”
Even he appeared to be stunned to be provided a significant function in “Solo.” Mr. Harrelson performs Tobias Beckett, a grizzled interstellar bandit who adopts the younger Han Solo into his outlaw crew.
Once once more, Mr. Harrelson proves the scene stealer, doling out folksy wisecracks and sly threats in a gunfighter drawl that by some means shrinks the light-years between Tatooine and El Paso.
In a world brimming with “Star Wars” obsessives, Mr. Harrelson wouldn’t appear to be one. When he was provided the function, he mentioned, “I used to be sort of psyched, like, ‘Oh, geez, that is actually cool, be in a “Star Wars” film.’ Unexpected.” But he turned it down.
He may not have accepted if it weren’t for the movie’s producer Allison Shearmur, who additionally produced the “Hunger Games” movies he starred in. “It’s sad Alli Shearmur died,” he mentioned, referring to the producer’s death from lung cancer in January at age 54. “That really broke my heart.”
“She was the one,” he mentioned. “I turned down ‘Hunger Games’ twice, she wouldn’t take ‘no.’ I turned this one down, believe it or not. She wouldn’t take ‘no.’”
Once he was on set at Pinewood Studios in London, brandishing his blaster, Mr. Harrelson had no drawback connecting to his character. “He’s a criminal,” Mr. Harrelson mentioned. “And honestly, if I hadn’t run into Robin Rogers that day in the library, I probably would’ve become a criminal, too.”
Filming a Bender
A movie that appears to lie lots nearer to his coronary heart is “Lost in London,” which can be being launched this weekend, on Hulu and iTunes.
A cinematic equal of primal scream remedy, the movie is Woody at his most Woody, a brutally sincere mea culpa wrapped up in an experimental black comedy that he wrote, directed and stars in, recreating a horrible night time in 2002 when he ended up in jail.
At the time, his profession was in a lull and he was starring in a West End play, when one night time, two ladies approached him, providing a “walk on the wild side.” They have been joined by a 3rd. News of his ménage à quatre was splashed throughout a British tabloid.
Mr. Harrelson responded with an epic bender. After tossing again drinks at a Soho nightclub with Leonardo DiCaprio, he ended up drunk in a taxi. An ashtray was smashed. A door deal with damaged. Mr. Harrelson led police on a foot chase, acquired arrested and spent the night time in jail.
“I’ve been pretty lucky in life, but that was the time where just everything seemed to be going bad,” he mentioned. His movie profession was tanking, he was a tabloid laughingstock, and his long-term relationship was in peril. “All the obstacles seemed so insurmountable,” he mentioned.
The guilt from that night time lingered. “I would have wanted the story just to completely die,” he mentioned, however “it wouldn’t leave my consciousness.”
Years later, he determined to work out his unhealthy reminiscences along with his most private and bold movie but. Changing just a few particulars (like swapping out Mr. DiCaprio with Owen Wilson), he tried to recreate that night time in actual time, taking pictures the whole movie in a single take throughout 14 areas in London, and streaming it reside to 500 theaters all over the world.
It might have been a catastrophe (The Guardian referred to as it a “miraculous oddity”), however, hey, that might have been a part of the journey, too.
In the tip, Mr. Harrelson mentioned that he was fascinated by the honesty of portraying himself as an antihero in search of redemption (in addition to just a few laughs). Would the viewers forgive his excesses, like his spouse had?
“I mean, she’s the most understanding woman I’ve ever met,” he mentioned. “She’d have to be. Just imagine living with me for almost 30 years.”
The movie could also be a warts-and-all self-portrait, however it additionally appears to seize a deeper fact about its creator: People anticipate Woody to be on the market, testing boundaries. They wouldn’t need it another means.
That level was pushed residence to me the day earlier than, after our soccer match. With the daylight fading, Mr. Harrelson and some of the blokes hung round, gathering in a circle alongside the sidelines. One of them toted over a chess set, putting it within the grass between himself and Mr. Harrelson, a talented participant.
As they began a tense spherical of pace chess, pipes have been handed and the odor of hashish wafted into the humid air. Mr. Harrelson took a deep hit whereas staring intently on the board, unaware that his spouse and youngest daughter, Makani, had pulled into the car parking zone to ferry him residence.
“Daddy, you’re not supposed to be doing that!” his daughter mentioned. A glance of guilt flashed throughout his face. Then she threw her arms round his shoulders, embracing him in a protracted hug.