Woody Harrelson’s Life Of Acting, Family, Veganism, And Anarchy

Academy Award-nominated actor Woody Harrelson went from being a rage-filled Texas boy to a beloved character on Cheers. His talent allows him to act goofy, dramatic, and frightening all in the span of a few-minutes long scene. But acting isn’t the only interesting thing about “Hollywood’s wildest wild child.”

Harrelson is also an animal rights activist, vegan, and anti-war anarchist who just so happened to attend a religious college with Mike Pence. Yeah, the life of Woody Harrelson is anything but ordinary.

He Grew Up An Angry Texas Boy

In this handout, American actor and playwright Woody Harrelson in a mug shot following his arrest for disturbing the peace, Columbus, Ohio, October 1982.
Kypros/Getty Images
Kypros/Getty Images

Woody Harrelson grew up in Midland, Texas, and, according to him, he wasn’t exactly an easy child. During an interview with Esquire, the actor confessed to being a young boy with a lot of anger issues, first being kicked out of nursery school, and then first grade!

Once, he “went around the school breaking windows with [his] bare fists” because a teacher accused him of stealing a purse. Thankfully, he’s learned how to control his rage.

There’s A Certain Night In London He’d Like To Forget

party
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

While Woody Harrelson was filming in London, England, there was a night that involved more than one woman, the paparazzi, and a photo that got back to his future wife.

During an interview with Rolling Stone, the actor said he was approached by two women who asked him if he wanted to take a walk on the wild side. Then before he knew it, they were joined by two more ladies. A photo was snapped of the group, and he had a lot of groveling to do when it got back to his girlfriend.

Harrelson’s Father Left When He Was Seven

Harrelson's Father Left When He Was Seven
CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP via Getty Images
CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP via Getty Images

Growing up was hard on Woody Harrelson, as his father left the family when he was only seven years old. When he left, it affected the actor’s mindset, thinking he had to toughen up and build walls around himself.

Unfortunately, Harrelson’s need to prove himself translated pretty negatively in his life. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Harrelson said, “I used to go to bars and fight the guys I thought were bullies. I’ve got scars everywhere.”

His Father Was A Contract Hitman

father
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Although he left when Harrelson was very young, the actor does remember a bit about his father, Charles. Well, we guess it’s kind of hard to forget since his father is the contract hitman who assassinated U.S. District Judge, John H. Wood Jr.

Even though Charles Harrelson’s job landed him in prison on a double life-sentence in 1979, Woody remembers his father as being a very charming man and an extremely good gambler. He also shared one bit of advice his father gave him: “always keep an open mind.”

He Had A Special Relationship With His Great Grandmother

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

With his father in prison, Woody Harrelson was raised by some pretty amazing ladies, including his mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. Growing up, it was his great-grandmother, Polly, with whom he shared a special bond.

According to the actor, nothing was better than listening to Polly’s stories, since she seemed to know everything about her mother and her grandmother. During an interview with GQ, Harrelson said, “I wish I’d written down her stories because there were some great stories.”

Leaving A Stage Play Is One Of His Biggest Regrets

Woody Harrelson Acknowledges The Ovation Of The Audienc
Dave Benett/Getty Images
Dave Benett/Getty Images

One of Woody Harrelson’s biggest regrets is walking away from actor/director John Cassavetes. See, he was set to perform in a stage play, but when another opportunity came knocking in Rome, he went for it, leaving Cassavetes behind.

Ironically, he wound up losing out on the part. He was fairly certain Cassavetes would have welcomed him back to the show, but he decided to forego the opportunity. During an interview with GQ, he recalled the experience being “One of the worst decisions of my life.”

Jaywalking Was His First Brush With The Law

Woody at an event
Marco Garcia/Getty Images for Lionsgate Entertainment
Marco Garcia/Getty Images for Lionsgate Entertainment

Actor Woody Harrelson is no stranger to the boys in blue or being on the wrong side of the law. For him, his first brush with anything illegal was jaywalking. Of course, it isn’t a huge offense, unless you run from the cops not once, but twice!

According to Harrelson, “that was my first experience with the long arm of the law, and it had a big impact on me ’cause I really had rose-colored glasses on [in terms of] what I thought the world was.”

The Harrelsons Live In Paradise

The Harrelson's Live In Paradise
Venturelli/WireImage
Venturelli/WireImage

Aside from his California residence, Woody Harrelson, his wife, Laura Louie, and his three daughters, Deni, Zoe, and Makani, live in paradise in Huelo on Maui’s north shore. With his yogi and vegan lifestyle, what better place for the actor to put some roots down?

During an interview, Harrelson explained his love for the island and his hippie lifestyle. But those weren’t the only perks. The actor also said, “It’s got the beauty of Costa Rica, but with better produce!”

His First Marriage Wasn’t Serious

motorcycle
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In 1985, Woody Harrelson and Nancy Simon, the daughter of screenwriter Neil Simon, said their vows at a storefront parlor in Tijuana, Mexico. Weirdly, their marriage wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, and the two decided to divorce the very next day.

Only, the building where they had to go to dissolve their marriage was closed. So, the two wound up staying married for ten months before finalizing their separation in 1986.

Harrelson Married His Personal Assistant

Laura Louie, Woody Harrelson
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

After his first “marriage,” Woody Harrelson waited a few years before he thought about tying the knot again. Then, in 2008, the actor married his former personal assistant, who he met back in 1987, Laura Louie.

Louie works as one of the co-founders of the organic food delivery service Yoganics, residing in Maui, Hawaii, with her and Harrelson’s three daughters, Deni, Zoe, and Makani. As of 2020, the two are still happily married.

He Has A Busy Schedule That Keeps Him Away From Home

Actor Woody Harrelson arrives at the Excelsior Hotel on a taxi-boat during the 74th Venice Film Festival
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images

As it goes with the life of a movie star, Woody Harrelson’s schedule is grueling, keeping him away from home most of the year. While the actor is always excited about making a new film, he feels as though he should be home with his wife and three daughters more often.

During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Harrelson said, “By the time I leave here, I will have been home one week in a year, in the past year. … So, yeah, it’s just not fair to my family.” Here, he attends the 2017 Venice Film Festival.

He Was “All Testosterone” Off Camera

Woody Harrelson at the Comic Relief 3, Universal Amphitheatre, Universal City.
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Although Woody Harrelson was a total professional once the camera started to roll, off-camera was a different story. According to his Cheers cast mates, the actor was all testosterone once they had some free time.

According to actor Ted Danson, Harrelson was awesome on stage, but once the camera stopped, he was a total stud. Apparently, the cast would try to beat Harrelson at basketball, chess, and even arm wrestling, but no one was ever able to get the upper hand.

From Outgoing To A Homebody

Woody Harrelson on the 'Cheers' television set
Bob Riha Jr/WireImage
Bob Riha Jr/WireImage

During the early days of his career, Woody Harrelson became known as a wild child and a partier. But when he went from Broadway to fame in the blink of an eye, landing the role of Woody Boyd on Cheers, he went from a very outgoing person to more of a homebody.

During an interview with The Guardian, Harrelson said, “the pressure of people that I didn’t know constantly wanting to talk to me made me recoil and become less outgoing.”

He Follows A Raw Vegan Diet

He Was
James Devaney/WireImage
James Devaney/WireImage

According to co-star Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson has been practicing a vegan diet for over 30 years! It’s no secret that the actor is a huge advocate for animal rights, becoming one of PETA’s “famous vegetarians” back in 2011 and helping them end events such as the “pig rodeo” in Texas.

Along with not eating meat or dairy, though, the actor also doesn’t consume flour or sugar. So, in Zombieland, his Twinkie-obsessed character actually ate cornmeal-based snacks.

For Lent, He Asked The Pope To Eat Vegan

For Lent, He Asked The Pope To Eat Vegan
George Pimentel/WireImage
George Pimentel/WireImage

In 2019, Woody Harrelson joined Million Dollar Vegan, an organization that works to engage some of the world’s most influential people in issues such as animal rights, climate change, and world hunger. Their goal is to create real, positive change in the world.

Then, along with other celebrities, including Evanna Lynch and Joaquin Phoenix, Harrelson decided to go to one of the most influential people in the world, the Pope. The actor asked him to go vegan for Lent! It’s unclear whether or not the holy man accepted the challenge.

Broke New Yorker

NYC
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Before everyone knew him as Woody Boyd, that guy from Cheers, Woody Harrelson was your typical broke New Yorker trying to make it in show business. He had followed his buddy to the city on a whim, hoping to make his way onto the stage.

Well, that didn’t go as planned, and Harrelson was just another anonymous person in a city of millions. His first gig was 14 months after moving to The Big Apple, as an understudy in a Neil Simon stage production.

He Won The Cheers Audition By Blowing His Nose

portrait
Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images
Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

Being 23, a nobody actor, and broke, Woody Harrelson didn’t really think much of it when he went in to audition for Cheers. It sounded like the casting directors had already found their guy, after all.

So, Harrelson went into the call carefree, expecting to go back to New York after another failed audition. As it turned out, he got the part by walking through the door to meet the writers while blowing his nose. Director Jimmy Burrows said, “[he] had the part right then.”

One Night Almost Ended In Tragedy

racing
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

After landing his first big acting gig on Cheers, Woody Harrelson decided to splurge on a few things. The biggest purchase made by the new actor was a brand new Porsche. But his excitement over the new car was short-lived, as he was approached by a robber and mugged one night.

According to Harrelson, the robber took all of his money and asked for the car keys. The only thing that’s saved the actor was someone walking into the garage and spooking the other guy.

There Was A “Do Not See” Campaign Against One Of His Films

There Was A
Warner Brothers/Getty Images
Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Two things that are emotionally hard for Woody Harrelson are bad reviews, and people shaming his movies. One such time was when activist Gloria Steinem campaigned for people not to see the film Natural Born Killers.

During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Harrelson said, “for Gloria Steinem to go around the country and tell women to make sure they don’t see it and to make sure their husbands don’t see it … that hurt. I wanted to take some time off after that.”

Mike Pence Was A Classmate

college
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

While going to school at Hanover College in Indiana, Woody Harrelson crossed paths with the future vice president of the United States, Mike Pence. According to Harrelson, Pence was very religious, working for all of the college’s church activities.

During a 2018 interview, the actor said, “I knew him, yeah. We were both very religious. I was actually considering being a minister, and then I just kind of went a different way; I actually quite liked him. I thought he was a pretty good guy.”

He Believes The Bible Controls People

He Believes The Bible Is Controls People
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Goring up in a Presbyterian household, Woody Harrelson spent most of his life studying the Bible, even thinking of becoming a minister at one point. After studying theology at a religious college, he began to have other thoughts.

During an interview with Playboy, Harrelson said, “I was getting into theology and studying the roots of the Bible, but then I started to discover the man-made nature of it. My eyes opened to the reality of the Bible, being just a document to control people.”

Political View: Anarchist

Actor Woody Harrelson flashes the peace sign to the crowd during an anti-war demonstration
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

When it comes to politics, Woody Harrelson doesn’t choose sides. Rather, he’s an anarchist. According to Merriam-Webster, “an anarchist is a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power.”

The actor is very vocal about his dislike of war and how past presidents have responded to them, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. When asked about his political views, Harrelson’s said, “I don’t believe in politics. I’m an anarchist; I guess you could say. I think people could be just fine looking after themselves.” Here, he’s pictured at a peace rally.

He Wanted To Be A Cop

out in London
J.Tregidgo/WireImage
J.Tregidgo/WireImage

Before he made it big in Hollywood, Woody Harrelson had dreams of becoming a police officer. It was while he was in his early 20s, when most people are trying to figure out their career path. But it took one night for him to realize that wasn’t the right path.

He went “completely bonkers” in a taxi one night while in London. After a weird car chase, the actor landed in jail. It took that event to make him think, “hmm, maybe law enforcement isn’t for me.”

Declined His Hunger Games Role Twice

Declined Hunger Games Role Twice
Lionsgate
Lionsgate

For fans of The Hunger Games franchise, it’s probably hard to imagine the dystopian world without the always-buzzed Haymitch Abernathy, especially when portrayed on-screen. Well, originally, Woody Harrelson turned the part down, twice, for not liking the character.

During an interview with THR, he said, “I didn’t have any idea it would be that big, but I didn’t think it was a good part. I was wrong. It was a terrific part, and it was a terrific thing, but thank God [director] Gary Ross called me.”

An Oscar Is Always Just Out Of Reach

Laura Louie (L) and Woody Harrelson attend the 90th Annual Academy Awards
Dan MacMedan/WireImage
Dan MacMedan/WireImage

It’s no secret that Woody Harrelson is a talented and versatile actor. He is able to play a zombie hunter in one film and a dramatic cop in another. So, it’s no wonder that he has earned a few prestigious awards during his career.

But there is one award that always seems just out of reach for the actor, an Oscar. Of course, he’s been nominated a few times, but he’s never been able to win one of his three nominations.

He Posted A Sign On The Golden Gate Bridge

Woody Harelson gets arrested on San Francisco Bridge
Mark Downey Lucid Images/Corbis via Getty Images
Mark Downey Lucid Images/Corbis via Getty Images

Woody Harrelson is a big environmentalist. So, when Pacific Lumber CEO Charles Hurwitz made the statement, “He who has the gold, makes the rules,” the actor wasn’t going to stand by idly.

Instead, he climbed to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge and hung a sign, stating, “Hurwitz. Aren’t ancient redwoods more precious than gold?” Obviously, Harrelson wasn’t going to let someone cut the trees down without some sort of fight. Here, he’s seen after his arrest.

In 1991, He Lived In A Tent For Weeks

In 1991, He Lived In A Tent For Weeks
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Woody Harrelson is so much more than just an actor. In fact, he is also a lover of traveling and going off-grid to work on his mental health. And, honestly, that’s something we should all strive for.

In 1991, he “needed to get away from it all,” moving to Kenya and living a little outside of Nairobi for a few weeks. And unlike other celebrities, Harrelson opted to live in a tent instead of a hotel.

He’s A Prankster

He's A Prankster
Jim Ross/Getty Images
Jim Ross/Getty Images

In addition to being a world-class actor, Woody Harrelson is also quite the prankster! One prank he speaks fondly of is something that happened while shooting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, and Liam Hemsworth was the victim.

During an interview with The Independent, Harrelson said, “I got our makeup artist to come over to my house and make my face look like I’d been in a bad bike wreck and skidded, blood everywhere… I called Liam and told him to come to the hospital to pick me up.” Yikes!

He Made The Winning Goal During Soccer Aid 2010 For UNICEF

He Made The Winning Goal During Soccer Aid 2010 For UNICEF
Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images
Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images

While Woody Harrelson is known for acting, he is actually not too shabby at sports. He’s been in a few movies where he has to show off his athleticism, including Kingpin, White Men Can’t Jump, and Play it to the Bone. But his crowning moment probably came in 2010 during the Soccer Aid 2010 for UNICEF.

The actor subbed in for Gordon Ramsay during the penalty shootout. He then went on to score the winning goal against England!

15 Minutes Of Embarrassment

15 Minutes Of Embarrassment
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Woody Harrelson wasn’t exactly out of shape when he went in to film the movie White Men Can’t Jump. He even bragged to one of the coaches that he was the only cast member with basketball experience.

Unfortunately for Harrelson, that coach just so happened to be retired Detroit Pistons center player Bob Lanier. Of course, the player challenged the actor to a little one on one. According to Harrelson, it was “the most embarrassing 15 minutes of my life.”