Woody Harrelson: Rampart
Woody Harrelson’s turn as a dirty LA cop marked the start of an incredible year for the actor.
It is proving a good year for Woody Harrelson. Not only has the 50-year-old one-time bad boy found a new audience thanks to his supporting role in the smash hit The Hunger Games, but he’s also elected to head back to the small screen, teaming up with Hollywood buddy Matthew McConaughey for True Detective, an eight-episode crime series.
Apart from cameo appearances in Will & Grace, Harrelson has shied away from TV since his days playing bartender Woody Boyd in Cheers.
“Things have been going great for me,” says Harrelson, “and it was a great start to the year, with Rampart coming out.” A stark and bruising drama unfolding against the backdrop of a real-life scandal that haunted the Los Angeles Police Department during the late 1990s, Rampart earned Harrelson a string of strong notices.
“And yet again I owe a lot to Oren Moverman,” he says. Moverman, Rampart’s director, coaxed Harrelson into the role despite an initial reluctance on the actor’s part, promising him that their work together could rival what they achieved on 2008′s The Messenger, a film that earned Harrelson his second Oscar nomination.
“As a cop your power is absolute. You could pull over a
“I didn’t want to play a cop, but it was a very intense, cool script,” adds Harrelson, whose on-screen characters and off-screen actions tend to lead him away from representing authority figures in film. His most famous films, after all, include the much-criticised Natural Born Killers, and his Academy Award-nominated turn playing the Penthouse porn baron in The People vs Larry Flynt. He recently signed up for the black comedy Seven Psychopaths, written and directed by In Bruges helmer Martin McDonagh. Even his character in teen-focused action drama The Hunger Games is a drunkard.
Perhaps not surprisingly, then, Rampart casts Harrelson as a
cop who veers into morally suspect areas; his mishaps precipitate the entire Rampart saga. “As a cop your power is absolute. You could pull over a f—king senator,” he says.
Harrelson spent time with the LAPD before shooting the film. “And I do think naturally that level of power does f—k up some cops,” he says. “There is no question that power corrupts. Usually, they are actually really good guys and most of the cops I met I thought were good people.”
After Rampart came The Hunger Games, the $600 million hit and the first film in a trilogy adapted from the best-selling books by Suzanne Collins, in which Harrelson plays bottle-jockey and trainer of teenage gladiatorial contestants, Haymitch Abernathy.
“I agreed to play that part because of the director, Gary Ross,” says Harrelson. “It was only after I signed on I realised there was more than one movie!” The move, though, has opened up a new fanbase for the often R-rated star.
“I have never had a movie where so many people came up to me even before the thing had come out,” he says. “Even before we’d finished making it I’d be like in Martha’s Vineyard or someplace a bunch of 12-year-olds would be coming up to me, ‘Are you playing Haymitch, are you playing Haymitch?’ I’d be like, ‘Yes. How do you even know that?’”
He laughs. “But it’s okay — I’m up for that.” Of course he is, and why not? After all, it’s proving a good year for Woody Harrelson.
Rampart is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 9 July 2012
Words: Lauren Williams