Woody, born Woodrow Tracy Harrelson on July 23, 1961 in Midland, TX., had a childhood most people have never had to face. His father, Charles Voyde Harrelson, went to prison, convicted of murder when Woody was only seven. His mother Diane, a legal secretary, raised Woody and his two brothers in Lebanon, Ohio. Growing up strongly influenced by religion, Woody went to college on a presbyterian scholarship. After obtaining a degree in 1983 in English and theatrical arts from Hanover College, Indiana, Woody went to New York City to pursue a career in acting.
His career began in New York theatre as an understudy in Neil Simon's 'Biloxi Blues'. Within months, he was cast as the good-hearted but dim-witted bartender Woody Boyd on the hit TV series, "Cheers". Woody won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1988. During his time on Cheers he also played some dramatic parts on television and in the theater. In 1993 Woody appeared on the Los Angeles stage in "Furthest From the Sun," a drama he both wrote and directed. He co-starred with Glenn Close and Laura Dern in 1991's "Brooklyn Laundry," directed by James L. Brooks, and has also appeared on stage in Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story," the off-Broadway production of "The Boys Next Door," the San Francisco production of "Biloxi Blues,"and a basketball-themed play, "2 on 2," which he also wrote.
It was not until the end of "Cheers" that Woody's movie career really took off. After some supporting and cameo roles, Woody landed his first lead in a major motion picture in the 1992 sleeper White Men Can't Jump. He went on to star in two more uninspired buddy movies Cowboy Way and Money Train, carried only by the charm of the leads. However Woody drew more serious attention when in 1994, he starred in Oliver Stone's controversial movie Natural Born Killers. In 1996, he starred in The Sunchaser directed by The Deerhunter's Michael Cimino. Following this, Woody starred in the Farrelly Brothers' irreverent Kingpin, a hilarious, crude comedy with a heart of gold, 'though admittedly not for all tastes. Next, Woody won the title role in Milos Forman's The People vs. Larry Flynt . For his funny, unexpectedly poignant, wide-ranging performance, Woody was nominated Best Actor in the 1996 Academy Awards. Following critical praise, the film received unprecedented attack from feminist groups for its unconventional, sympathetic portrayal of the real-life pornographer. Despite the controversy, film critics would no longer dismiss Woody as a light-weight actor. In his next project, Woody took on a supporting role in the low budget film Welcome to Sarajevo by rising director Michael Winterbottom. The film had a great reception at Cannes, and opened in the U.S. in November '97 to critical acclaim. At around the same time, Woody also appeared in a wonderful cameo in the political satire Wag the Dog. This was followed by the film-noir Palmetto. Woody will next be seen in Hi Lo Country, a "modern western" set in post-WW2 New Mexico.
Woody was briefly married to Nancy Simon in 1985-6. On January 11, 1998, he and longtime love Laura Louie got married in a private ceremony in Costa Rica. Laura, formerly Woody's assistant, had worked with Woody for more than two years before they became romantically involved in 1990. Laura is currently a partner in their production company, Children at Play, and in their healthfood restaurant/oxygen bar in L.A. Together they have two young children, Deni Montana (b.1993) and Zoe Giordano (b.1996). Deni served as flowergirl at the wedding while 18-month-old Zoe slept through the ceremony on a nearby hammock.
In addition to acting, Woody has channelled his energies into various environmental causes, including the saving of the California redwoods and other endangered forests. His activism evolved from his time on Cheers. Co-star Ted Danson has long been deeply involved in the American Oceans' Campaign. On several occasions when Danson was unable to attend, Woody would take his place in the campaigns. As an environmentalist, he came to see the legalisation of industrial hemp as a solution to the worldwide fibre shortage crisis. He became a vocal champion of this much-maligned cause, even risking imprisonment. In June '96, he planted four certified industrial hemp seeds to challenge the constitutionality of the Kentucky State law which does not distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana. Industrial hemp has less than 0.3% THC, and is non-hallucinogenic. Proponents say it is a versatile plant that can be used instead of many wood-based products, as well as for high-protein food, machine oils and clothing. It currently produced in Canada, Australia, China and most of Europe. Thus far, Woody has won the first two rounds in court, when a trial court ruled that the states' definition of hemp was too broad, and again when a circuit court upheld that decision. The case is expected to go to the Kentucky State Appelate Court, at which level the ruling will have state-wide implications.… Expand
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