Happy 60th Birthday To Woody Harrelson
Happy 60th birthday to Woody Harrelson, the 1979 Lebanon High School grad who has enjoyed a long and versatile career since walking into Cheers as Woody Boyd in 1985.
He's been nominated for an Academy Award three times (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; The Messenger; The People vs. Larry Flynt) and nine Emmy Awards (for Cheers, Frasier, True Detective and Game Change). Soon he'll be seen as Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt and psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary.
Born July 23, 1961, in Midland, Texas, he moved to Lebanon with his mother and brother as a child. He was inspired to become an actor when Phil Borack brought Barbara Eden, Nanette Fabray, Ronny Cox and Pat Paulsen to the Warren County seat to film Harper Valley P.T.A. in 1977. Harrelson has told me that he can be seen in the background, wearing his varsity jacket.
Eight years later – after graduating from Hanover College in Hanover, Ind., and appearing on Broadway in Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues – he made his TV debut as naïve bartender Woody Boyd on Cheers in 1985. (He told me that he had never seen NBC's hit sitcom, and had to be convinced to audition for the role which opened after the death of Nick Colansanto.)
Since then, everybody has known his name.
He made his movie debut as a high school football player named "Krushinski" in Goldie Hawn's Wildcats in 1986. Since then, Harrelson has moved seamlessly back and forth from comedies to drama for nearly four decades in White Men Can't Jump, Doc Hollywood, Indecent Proposal, Natural Born Killers, Kingpin, Wag the Dog, Spin City, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Will & Grace, A Prairie Home Companion, No Country For Old Men, Semi-Pro, The Messenger, Zombieland, Friends With Benefits, True Detective, The Hunger Games films and as Archie Bunker in ABC's revival of All In The Family (pictured above).
His next projects include Kate with Mary Elizabeth Winstead; The Man From Toronto with Kaley Cuoco, Kevin Hart and Jasmine Mathew; playing Watergate burglar Hunt in a five-part HBO series called The White House Plumbers; and starring as counterculture guru Leary in The Most Dangerous Man In America.
After he was nominated for an Oscar in 2010 for the Messenger, Harrelson told me that he was contemplating giving up show business in 1984 and moving back to Lebanon when he couldn't find an acting job in New York City. "Miraculously" he got the role on Biloxi Blues, he said.
When his Broadway contract was ending in 1985, he flew to Los Angeles to shoot Wildcats, and be talked into auditioning for Cheers.
"I went from poor and anonymous to rich and famous," he said. "It was as big of a change as imaginable. I feel so lucky after all these years to still be working."
Cheers to Woody!