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Woody Harrelson Addresses Climate Change, Larry Flynt and Weed
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Tuesday, April 5, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Three things we learned about Woody Harrelson at the Sun Valley Film Festival:

  • He can easily knock a coffee cup off a post with a frisbee while holding a cup of coffee in the other hand.
  • He’s got no compunction when it comes to making himself comfortable—even in front of 350 people.
  • He is keenly aware of individual audience members around him, whether they’re sitting in the balcony or making weird noises in the audience.

Woody Harrelson came to Sun Valley this past weekend to accept the Sun Valley Film Festival’s 2022 Vision Award, which pays tribute to industry icons whose contributions have changed the film industry for the better. And on Sunday morning he took part in a Coffee Talk Q&A with a full house at the 350-seat Argyros Center for the Performing Arts.

Harrelson walked onto the stage of The Argyros wearing a Sun Valley Film Festival ball cap and an off-white jacket over off-white colored corduroy slacks. And he immediately kicked off his slippers before climbing into the director’s chair.

Harrelson, who starred in the TV series “Cheers” and a host of movies, such as “Indecent Proposal” and “White Men Can’t Jump,” kept the audience in stitches for the next hour as he carried on conversations with members of the audience

He described having attended Indiana’s Hanover College, two years behind former Vice President Mike Pence.

“We were both pretty religious. He was a pretty good guy back then. I was surprised by his latest….” Harrelson said.

Despite considering the ministry as a young man, Harrelson went on to play Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine in “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” And he received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for his role.

“I was a good Christian boy and, to say they did not like Larry Flynt in Ohio where I grew up was putting it mildly,” said Harrelson. “So, I had a lot of trepidation playing the role, having grown up with that attitude toward Larry Flynt.”

Harrelson said he visited the penthouse where Flynt had his office and found so much bling there that, he said, it would cost you $3 million if you fell over.

“One guy said he liked Larry Flynt because he was so himself,” he said. “I liked how honest he was. The stuff he’d admit to you within five minutes you’d be shocked—like, ‘I had an orgy with chickens.’ ”

Harrelson admitted it was difficult not winning the Golden Globe for the role.

“The greatest acting you’ll ever see is among those pretending to applaud those who beat them out,” he said. “When I was sitting there, I realized I might win and so I started writing my acceptance speech at the table. When they said someone else’s name, my night was finished.

“When I went to the Academy Awards, I just assumed I’d lose and I had the best night possible,” he added.

Harrelson, who had publicly given up pot smoking until Willie Nelson convinced him to try it again,  acknowledged his decision to open a marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles next month—six years after he was denied a license for a dispensary in Hawaii.

He then hemmed and hawed as he offered that he might open another in Malibu, or Tahoe.

“I’ve gotta take my time tiptoeing into the drug business,” he quipped. Then he addressed the fact that Idaho will be the last state ever to legalize marijuana.

“If you’re drugging yourself to death, that’s your issue, not the government’s,” he said. “The war on drugs is an extremely lucrative war, and it continues.”

Harrelson described going to Ireland to meet Ireland’s great playwright Martin McDonagh, for whom he made the dark comedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” The film, which involves a woman trying to identify her daughter’s killer, earned Harrelson another Academy Award nomination.

“McDonagh asked me to do a play and I turned it down—and I’ve been unbelievably burning with regret. But it was pretty dark—they burned a child on stage,” he said, noting McDonagh’s penchant for writing about such characters as a man who exhume skeletons or an insane Liberation Army leader who discovers that his best friend—a cat--has been killed.

Harrelson said he considered Matthew McConaughey one of his best friends, but hated playing oppositive him in the HBO crime series “True Detective.”

“He’s a consummate professional, but that experience was tough because he’s always in character, and I didn’t like that guy,” Harrelson said of McConaughey’s portrayal of a homicide detective.                                                                                                                   

Recently, Harrelson narrated the documentary “Kiss the Ground,” which has become required viewing in some American classrooms and sent Harrelson through the halls of congress to meet with Rep. Nancy Pelosi. The film argues that soil is the missing piece of the climate puzzle—that by regenerating the world’s soils we can stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies.

“We’ve got a lot of corporate industrial agriculture and the way they do it now is extremely destructive given pesticide use and the destruction of soil,” he said. “Regenerating soil can be a great way to mitigate the effects of global warming.”

Harrelson plays E. Howard Hunt, one of the Watergate masterminds, opposite Justin Theroux’s G. Gordon Libby on the upcoming HBO mini-series “The White House Plumbers.” The show will likely premiere this summer, he said.

“He’s not the greatest human being,” said Harrelson.

And he plays a hot-headed minor league coach who’s ordered to coach a Special Olympics team youth in  Bobby Farrelly’s “Champions,” which wrapped up in January.

Harrelson acknowledged that he himself is dyslexic in response to a question from the audience. But, he said, it has never interfered with his ability to read a script.

“I think eventually my mind jut compensated,” he said. “Where it shows up is if I’m trying to find my way. I walk out of the house and turn right and I’m lost.”

SUN VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL LOOKS TO FALL 2022:

The Sun Valley Film Festival plans to offer periodic Coffee Talks and films at The Argyros in Fall 2022, according to Film Festival Director Candice Pate. These talks and films will culminate with the 12 annual Sun Valley Film Festival in the Spring of 2023.

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