Whether you’re old enough to remember his television debut on a well known show set in a bar, in which case we hope you haven’t kept your mullet, or young enough not to realise what an earth we’re going on about, the length and breadth of Woody Harrelson’s career is such that you’re bound to say “Ohhhh it’s that guy!” The actor has graced our screens so many times that he once claimed that he felt like a ‘hamster on a wheel’, in constant motion but perhaps not getting anywhere fast. Of course that has all changed now and Harrelson has firmly, and deservedly, established himself as a household name. In recognition of the DVD release of The Messenger, which saw Harrelson nominated for an Academy Award, we have gone through his impressive CV and handpicked some of his best moments. Although maybe, as his character Mickey once infamously stated, ‘we ain’t seen nothing yet’.
Cheers (1985 – 1993)
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would visit the same bar everyday – unless they were borderline alcoholic. Not so in ‘Cheers’ where everybody knows your name, not just your drink order. Harrelson played loveable farm-boy Woody Boyd. Who would’ve thought that behind that swish 80s hairdo their lay someone striving for more than sitcom.
White Men can’t Jump (1992)
Doubling up with famous vampire killer Wesley Snipes, Harrelson became a box office sensation after playing Billy Hoyle in this comic drama. The film plays upon race relations in a satirical manner, particularly notable is the black/white ‘solidarity’ basketball game set up by a leading politician. Harrelson’s character cons black players at basketball games, playing upon his position that, unsurprisingly, as a white male he can’t jump. However, he also gets involved with some shady-gangster types, as the tagline suggests ‘it ain’t easy being this good’.
Indecent Proposal (1993)
Harrelson plays a husband in a crisis in this high tension drama. He and his high-school sweetheart, played by Demi Moore, are attempting to build their dream house, but are severely lacking in the funds to do so. In steps a lonely billionaire willing to pay $1 million to spend a night with Moore’s character although, in our mind, that seems a little steep.
Natural Born Killers (1994)
This complete mind-f**k of a film saw Harrelson as childhood trauma victim turned psycho killer. Alongside co-star Juliette Lewis ‘Natural Born Killers’ is a complete gore-fest coupled with a satirical edge. Its presentation of the media is depressing, the image of journalists as completely ratings obsessed and happy to glorify the couple’s killings certainly sits uneasily and it is perhaps not surprising that this film split the critics. With the current Amanda Knox trial as a case in point, the film seems scarily relevant in its presentation of a world obsessed with crime and scandal.
The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
Harrelson plays controversial ‘Hustler’ publisher Larry Flynt in this fantastic albeit glossed biopic. Through the exploration of the magazines pornographic nature the film raises questions about the importance of free speech, in all its uncensored and outrageous glory. Harrelson embodies the role and manages to pull off the idealised scumbag. Also, look out for the real deal as Woody Flynt himself landed a cameo role in the picture.
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
This weird and wonderful film, based on a novel by Philip K Dick, presents a fairly minor role for Harrelson but not one that should be overlooked. Harrelson plays troubled addict Ernie Luckman, a drop-out living with a group of friends whose relationships slowly disintegrate into paranoia and nonsensical conversation. Hilarious but disturbing, this one is a must-see.
Everyone loves a good living dead survival flick and Zombieland is an awesome take on the genre. Harrelson stars as Tallahassee whose love of Twinkies is seconded only by his love for Zombie decapitation. This role is Harrelson at his most charismatic, but possibly not at his most deranged. A very cool comedy horror, with plenty of tips for the inevitable Zombie apocalypse.
The Messenger (2009)
Critics have entertained the notion that this could be Harrelson’s finest hour, and we may have to agree. Harrelson plays Captain Tony Stone, a worker for the Casualty Notification Team. Stone guides injured soldier Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) in the rules surrounding the position, rules that Will breaks completely when he gets involved with a dead soldier’s wife. It is not just the dynamic between Foster and Harrelson that makes this film an engaging viewing experience; it is also a touching reflection and perhaps somewhat unexpected take on the ‘Iraqi war film’ genre. There’s certainly a reason why Stephen Holden (New York Times) deemed this one of the decade’s most beautifully acted pictures.
The Messenger is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from 17th October.
Written by Scott Dunn.