Digging Deep with Woody Harrelson

Interview: Maranda Pleasant

MP: What’s the thing that excites you most in your life? What’s that reason that you really want to wake up in the morning and live and bring beauty to this planet?

WH: Well, talking to my kids, more than anything. That gets me happy and excited, and just everything in my life is better because of them. I don’t know if that explains getting up in the morning…

MP: What is the thing that drives you?

WH: Well, it depends. If I’m working, you know, I just want it to be as good as it can be, so I guess that’s what drives me there.

You know, outside of that, I guess I’m just driven by my own… I love life. I feel like I have the most incredible life. So you know, this life, for some reason, it’s almost its own form of inspiration. However I came to be living this life, believe me, I feel a very natural but high level of gratitude for this life, and something about the way it’s set up gets me jazzed to participate in it every day.

MP: What is it that makes you the most vulnerable? When are you at your most vulnerable?

WH: I feel just at my most vulnerable if…I don’t know, that’s a good question. I was about to give the same answer, but I feel like it’s, you know…I’m most vulnerable with my own children, and with my wife particularly. But what makes me vulnerable?

MP: Yeah.

WH: I think I probably could be more vulnerable. A lot of times, I feel a little bit guarded in the sense of…I guess another person’s vulnerability makes me a little more prone to sharing things I wouldn’t share… And now I’m boring myself to death with these answers I’m sorry.

MP: {laughter} I’m sorry I’m not more exciting.

WH: {laughter} Nah, I just wanna slap myself. But anyway, give me another question. I’m gonna come up with a good answer.

MP: It gets worse, it’s like two more heavy ones. I’m just warning you now, it gets worse before it gets better. WH: Ok…

MP: How do you transform your pain? What do you do with it? WH: Um…

MP: {laughter}

WH: What a trip. Well wow, are you serious? Um, I generally just do my best to suppress it ‘cause I don’t really feel like dealing with that kind of stuff, so I suppress it.

MP: {laughter} That sounds really honest, and really unhealthy.

WH: I don’t know. You’re talking about emotional pain, I’m assuming. I guess, if I’m feeling that way, I tend to sit with it—I’m not agreeing with that, because a lot of times, that kind of connects to the vulnerability thing… I’ve got some friends who don’t hesitate to let you know what’s going on, and they talk it through. But I tend to not.

Somehow I’ve been raised some way, probably a common way in America, where you just kind of deal with it, and keep it to yourself, and express it that way. But now, if something’s really heavy, I just say talk to the wifey. She helps me.

MP: {laughter} You’re sounding like a Texan now.

WH: {laughter} Oh yeah, maybe it’s a Texas thing.

MP: It’s a southern thing for sure, or maybe it’s just a male thing. Ok, it gets even better. What is it that breaks your heart? {laughter}

WH: Well, I think primarily, our government’s foreign policy breaks my heart. All the giant subsidies to the giant industries that I call “The Beast,” all the industries that control our economy and control the body politic. That breaks my heart.

MP: I noticed that in one interview you did, they cut out all those juicy details—whether it was about how we’re growing food, Monsanto, or politics—and they just referenced it. So we will not be cutting any of that out. WH: Thank you.

MP: Last downer question. How do you let go? If there’s something that comes in that you have to let go of, do you have a process for that? WH: Yoga helps, more than anything. If you store something heavy emotionally in the mind, it stores as well as the body. So the reverse is true, if you’re able to release whatever it is from the body, you can release it from the mind.

MP: How long have you been practicing? WH: I don’t know, a good twenty years probably.

MP: Do you have a particular style? WH: Well you know fairly eclectic, but I guess probably Ashtanga-based.

MP: Probably 50% of our reader questions came in asking if you’re a raw foodist. Are you a vegetarian? WH: Well I’m certainly a raw foodist in my belief system, and I am mostly raw, but I do allow cooked food sometimes. I used to be pretty, you know, hardcore about that, but now I let myself eat cooked food sometimes. I don’t get too uptight. But yeah, mostly raw, probably 95% raw.

MP: Holy. WH: Yeah… Philosophically, I’m straight edge, but, yeah, It’s a hard road…

MP: {laughter} What are some of the causes that you’re most involved in right now—whether it’s eco or humanitarian causes, bio-diesel, scaling the Golden Gate bridge for charity—what are the things you’re most involved in or passionate about right now? WH: Well, you know, I try. I support an orphanage in Peru, which I’ve been doing now for almost twenty years.

I used to kind of run around doing a lot of stuff that I felt was the equivalent of just putting out fires as opposed to some kind of lasting solution. And those are like, you know, protesting that this company is cutting down these trees, or trying to be active towards stopping them from drilling here or there. I always feel like they’re going to end up cutting trees in another place and drilling in another place, so to me it’s like, things I’m doing now are more proactive.

To give you an example: I’m trying to get the first non-wood pulp and paper mill in North America, to try and make that happen. Over half of trees cut are for paper products. Another thing that I’ve been working on for a long time, and it’s kind of coming into fruition now, is a way to treat sewage. The way they treat sewage now is they chuck a bunch of really toxic chemicals into it, and then they dump it into a river or the ocean or whatever. So we have a process that is really eco-conscious and clean, and the water and the sewage come out really clean, and then that gets released, but it’s not-toxic. Those are some of the positive things that I’ve been trying to do.

Sorry, I feel like I don’t have a brain cell left after last night. I just went on a f*cking terror with all my buddies here.

MP: {laughter} WH: We’re in New Orleans.

MP: That’s what you do in New Orleans. WH:{laughter}

MP: Right now, besides the trees, what are the biggest eco concerns that you have on the planet? WH: Probably the biggest concern for me right now is mountaintop removal. They’ve leveled over 700 hundred mountains in West Virginia and Kentucky—you know, the Appalachian Mountains. And I think it’s really one of the most horrendous things you can imagine. If you’d seen the pictures—it’s just devastating these once-beautiful, pristine, natural environments and… words…words…

MP: What was the most emotional part of playing that role in Rampart? WH: Well, you know, the root of my connection to the part, to “David Brown,” had to do with family. I love my family, so the scenes where I’m having difficulty with my children, specifically Brie Larson, those were highly emotional, highly charged. I found myself doing a bit of crying at the shooting of that.

MP: How do you protect your energy? I just imagine at your job it’s like you can’t really have a bad day because you have so much energy going out at all times. How do you put some of that back in? WH: Well, I protect my energy by eating really well, and also I exercise and do Yoga. I think that those are the primary things that keep my energy going. On the other hand, every once in a while, I have a night like last night which just cuts me to the core.

MP: {laughter} And then I get my big interview with you. WH: Sorry, I should have done this yesterday when I had a brain cell left.

MP: I’m so sorry to ask you this, but my fourteen-year-old would not forgive me without asking you. WH: It’s gotta be about Hunger Games.

MP: When I told her I was going to interview you, she was like “Oh my goodness, that’s the guy in the Hunger Games!” So what I’m thinking is that all of a sudden, you’ve got teenagers and tweens who might not have seen your other work, and they all know who you are now. What’s that like, being a part of something that obviously has this huge wave behind it?

WH: Well, you know, it’s pretty cool. It was one of those things I kind of happened into, owing to the fact that Gary Ross wanted me to do it, and I know what’s its like to work with Gary Ross, and I didn’t really know about the level of excitement about the books. That was all an awesome bonus.

MP: What was one of the best experiences you had filming that? WH: I really loved hanging out with those guys, so I think we really made a lot of fun down there in Charlotte, NC. All those guys are really cool, man! All the actors that were involved in it, and the director, and all the heads of various departments are just, like, freaking geniuses. So it really was a fun time down there. I think it’s gonna be a great movie.

MP: Last thing I want to ask you. I know we talked about the biggest eco-concerns, but right now is there anything happening from a humanitarian stand-point that you’re involved in—something that needs a lot of attention? WH: Well, I’m of the mind that the most important thing we need to do is get out of these wars we’re involved in. Get the troops home and stop all that nonsense which—I mean, it’s pretty clear what those wars are about, like all wars are about resources or strategic positioning, and, in this case, both. So I think it would be amazing to get out of those places and of that range of both our human resources with the troops and also our economic resources and, you know, apply that money elsewhere, which, of course, isn’t going to happen. It’s not like the defense ministry is ever gonna give up much money. They talk about cutting down the defense budget to 450 billion {laughter} which is ridiculous. I don’t know how they’re getting by on such a shoe-string budget.

MP: {laughter} WH: Anyway I’d like to see those.

MP: Last thing, WH: This if the fourth last thing, I don’t think I believe you anymore.

MP: {laughter} I promise! Do you think your outspokenness has hurt you in Hollywood with your career? Do you think it’s affected your career at all? WH: Well, I mean, there’s no way of telling. Can’t tell you that it’s hurting too bad, ‘cause everything seems to be going just great.