WOODY HARRELSON Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Born in Midland, TX, on July 23, 1961, Harrelson grew up in Lebanon, OH. He began his acting career there, appearing in high-school plays. He also went professional around this time, making his small-screen debut in Harper Valley P.T.A. (1978). While studying acting in earnest, Harrelson attended Indiana’s Hanover College; following his graduation, he had his first speaking part (one line only) in the 1986 Goldie Hawn vehicle Wildcats. On the stage, Harrelson understudied in the Neil Simon Broadway comedy Biloxi Blues (he was briefly married to Simon’s daughter Nancy) and at one point wrote a play titled Furthest From the Sun. His big break came in 1985, when he was cast as the sweet-natured, ingenuous bartender Woody Boyd on the TV sitcom Cheers. To many, he is best remembered for this role, for which he won a 1988 Emmy and played until the series’ 1993 conclusion. During his time on Cheers, Harrelson also played more serious roles in made-for-TV movies such as Bay Coven (1987), and branched out to the big screen with roles in such films as Casualties of War (1989) and Doc Hollywood (1991).


Harrelson’s big break as a movie star came with the 1992 sleeper White Men Can’t Jump, a buddy picture in which he played a charming L.A. hustler. His next film was a more serious drama, Indecent Proposal (1993), wherein he was miscast as a husband whose wife sleeps with a millionaire in exchange for a fortune. In 1994, Harrelson appeared as an irresponsible rodeo rider in the moronic buddy comedy The Cowboy Way, which proved to be an all-out clinker. That film’s failings, however, were more than overshadowed by his other film that year, Oliver Stone’s inflammatory Natural Born Killers. Playing one of the film’s titular psychopaths, Harrelson earned both raves and a sizable helping of controversy for his complex performance.


Following work in a couple of low-rated films, Harrelson again proved his mettle, offering another multi-layered performance as real life pornography magnate Larry Flynt in the controversial People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996). The performance earned Harrelson an Oscar nomination. The next year, he earned further praise for his portrayal of a psychotic military prisoner in Wag the Dog. He then appeared as part of an all-star lineup in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998), and in 1999 gave a hilarious performance as Matthew McConaughey’s meathead brother in EdTV. That same year, he lent his voice to one of his more passionate causes, acting as the narrator for Grass, a documentary about marijuana. In 2000, Harrelson starred in the boxing drama Play It to the Bone as an aspiring boxer who travels to Las Vegas to find fame and fortune, but ends up competing against his best friend (Antonio Banderas).