When CHEERS ended its run in 1993, if you had asked me which cast member was going to become a big movie star I would not have said Woody Harrelson. Not that he wasn’t extremely talented, charming, and a pleasure to work with – it’s just that I thought of him as more of a character actor.
When you see his performances you know his success is not because he’s a member of the “Fucking Lucky Club.” The Oscar nods were well deserved. What was surprising to me was the enormous range he has. Everyone knows he can play the sweet-natured goofball. But watch him in SEVEN POUNDS. He is one scary motherfucker. Check him out in GAME CHANGE. He’s as savvy and wily as any Kevin Spacey you could find.
And now in TRUE DETECTIVES on HBO I think he’s doing his best work ever. He brings such depth to what could so easily be just a cliché role. And it’s a tough role. Matthew McConaughey has the much showier part. (He too is off-the-charts spectacular in this.) And yet Woody never tries to compete with him. As such, he brings a strength to the role and a balance to the dynamic that, for my money, makes the whole series work. By underplaying and not taking a sharp right turn into Al Pacino Land, Woody shows the confidence and skill of a truly accomplished actor. And I’m not just writing this because I feel guilty we made him eat an entire Hostess Snowball. I don’t. I do feel a little bad he had to do several takes, but hey, that’s why they get paid the big money.
If you’re going to be a fan of one Woody this year, pick the one who doesn’t play the same character in every film, has been married to the same woman for 27 years, and whose kids will speak to him.