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Woody Harrelson: “Actors can be needy – I try not to be a burden”

Barbi Csernai

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Woody Harrelson

The Hollywood heavyweight on lockdown, his new live-streamed movie and hanging out with Billie Eilish

 

Take a moment – think back to the worst night of your life. What happened? Did you cheat on your loving partner? Drunkenly tell your mum to ‘fuck off’? Spend your life’s savings in a a casino? Now imagine someone’s making a film about it – and you have to play yourself.

Introducing Woody Harrelson’s 2015 movie Lost In London, available now to stream free on Amazon Prime Video for the first time. The slow-talking Texan got into a bit of mischief during a 2002 night out in Soho, London. Splashed across the papers the next day were his exploits, which included a drunken police chase in a taxi and the resulting night in a cell. 13 years later, he decided to make a movie about it, shot live and beamed into cinemas across the world.

We caught up with Woody during lockdown to hear all about this long-gestating industry first – and how he convinced country icon Willie Nelson, Hollywood heavyweight Owen Wilson and actual Bono to join his madcap project.

Hey Woody, how’s lockdown treating you?

“Very good! I’ve been playing guitar a lot. I’m just a basic-chord-kinda guy, but I just got The Beatles songbook and I want to get better because I love playing those songs.”

Sweet! You got guitar legend Willie Nelson to cameo in ‘Lost In London’ – how’d you manage that one?!

“Well, I was actually calling Owen [Wilson] to talk to him because he’d agreed to be in it too. He was with Willie, who’s an old friend of mine, and he said, ‘Why don’t you put me in the film?’ I said, ‘Well, do you wanna be in it?’ and Willie said ‘Yeah!’ So I wrote him in. That scene was gonna be an animated dream sequence, but it was much better to have Willie Nelson!”

Woody Harrelson
Harrelson during the scene in which a cast member missed his cue and Woody had to improvise. Credit: Alamy

Did you party after shooting wrapped?

“No, he was not feeling well because he came over real late in the process. His touring schedule is relentless, so he only had a few days [to film in London] and he had trouble adjusting to the time difference because he just came from Texas. He needed to rest.”

Was filming the whole thing live and streaming into cinemas super difficult?

“Yeah, it was the lack of sleep that nearly killed me. There’s the stress too, of course, but lack of sleep is brutal.”

I hear there was a fuck-up in the prison sequence – what happened?

“Oh yeah, I remember it clearly. It’s actually pretty funny although very uncomfortable for us at the time. When my character gets arrested, there’s the interrogation scene and then the cop leaves. He’s supposed to come back in before he finally puts me in the cell. But he never came back in… he forgot. That sense of panic in a live situation, it’s about as antsy as I’ve ever felt as a performer! Anyway, it came off eventually, someone reminded him to come back in!”

Woody Harrelson
Harrelson and Owen Wilson get into an argument during the story. Credit: Alamy

Yikes, and how did you get Bono to put on a Jamaican accent and pretend to be high?

“Bono’s been a buddy of mine for a long time, he’s an unbelievably great guy. In that scene, [when Harrelson has been arrested], I thought it would be funny to have the guy trying to curry favour with this Irish cop in London by ringing Bono. Anyway, Bono was not only up for it, he took what I had written and rewrote three paragraphs, all completely different! I kept the part about him talking in a Jamaican accent, because I thought it was just wonderful.”

Owen Wilson’s in it too. There’s a scene where you’re both mocking each other – did you write the insults together?

“Yeah, Owen’s a great writer so he had a lot of great input. We actually had three pages of insults which kept building and building. But Owen was like, ‘Come on man, that’s more than you need’, but I wanted to keep going! He said, ‘You gotta stop!’ so we ended up with about a third of what I wrote.”

‘Lost In London’ is the only film you’ve directed – was once enough?

“No, I want to do more but I’ll tell you what, thank god I had the best actors to work with because all the shit directors have to do… I try not to be a burden on them now. Some of us in my profession can be pretty needy – I don’t want to be one of those. I’d like to direct something in the old style: multiple takes and enough time to let the evolution of the scene take place.”

Lost In London
Eleanor Matsuura plays Woody’s wife in the film. Credit: Alamy

How’s ‘Venom 2’ coming along?

“I can’t really say much about it but it was a great experience and I enjoyed working with such a phenomenal director [Andy Serkis]. I just love Tom [Hardy]. I have a really fun character.”

You recently recorded a climate emergency video with Billie Eilish – what did you speak about?

“We both love [fashion designer] Dapper Dan – and we both coincidentally wore Dapper Dan outfits to the set! I really liked Billie, it’s incredible how calm she is. To be that profoundly popular and to be as centred as she is… I really credit her family because she’s with her brother and her parents all the time. They’re a tight family and they’ve not let all this incredible success dictate who they are – which does happen a lot of the time.”

 

Anything else in the pipeline?

“I’ve got an idea [for a film] that takes place entirely in Ireland. It’s a comedy, a lot of slapstick. But I better keep it under wraps in case I never follow through.”

 

Source: NME.com

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