Woody Harrelson doesn’t trust me.
The prolific actor has come quite a long way from his bartending days on TV’s Cheers. He’s been in dozens upon dozens of popular films, including huge properties like The Hunger Games. But none have had quite the legacy and fan base as Star Wars.
Harrelson plays Tobias Beckett, a rouge. An outlaw. A thief. But if Han Solo’s taught us anything, it’s that being a scoundrel doesn’t make you a bad guy. In SOLO: A Star Wars Story, Beckett finds and basically mentors a young Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich), while pushing his biggest mantra of “trust no one.”
Yeah, back to trust. So there I was, seated at a large conference room table, along with 24 other female bloggers. We were in Los Angeles for a #HanSoloEvent, celebrating the new SOLO movie. I’ve been on a number of these trips before and have gotten pretty used to being the lone guy among a sea of female bloggers. This time, though, I was called out on it.
“Have you guys noticed that if you were to go around this table, there’s something that looks different?” asked Harrelson with a laugh. I countered by pointing out that I’m one guy sitting with two dozen women. “I want your job,” he added. “It must be so much fun.” [Laughs]
With that all-too-familiar ear-to-ear grin, Harrelson settled back in his chair to answer questions from our group. Slow and deliberate, he comes across in person exactly as you’d expect. A regular guy who loves what he’s doing. Clearly us bloggers weren’t the only ones having fun during this interview.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Woody Harrelson: Well, I hope just generally it’s a smiling type of legacy instead of a frowning type. I do prefer comedy and I’ve gotten into a little bit of a drama bubble. I would like to make people laugh and hopefully, they’ll think of me and laugh. Legacy…. it sounds like I’m dead. [Laughs]
What is it about your character Tobias Beckett that sets it apart from other characters you’ve portrayed?
I wouldn’t say he’s that far distant. I have played other scoundrels and thieves and criminals before… but none in space. [Laughs]
Do you remember the first time you saw Star Wars?
Yeah, I remember it because you probably won’t believe this but I was alive in 1977 ! You wouldn’t know, but it was a huge thing at the time, like everybody was all about Star Wars. It became a sensation. And so I just remember going to see it and it’s so original, so different from anything else.
We loved that you’re such a tough love mentor in your role. In real life, who’s been that tough love kind of mentor that you had?
I feel like to some degree, Jack Nicholson. He lives not far from where I have a place here in LA, even though I live in Maui but the kids didn’t want to ever want to give it up. So I still have it and it’s not far from Jack’s. I would go over quite a bit to his place and sit and talk. He’s given a lot of cool advice.
Is there a secret to your smile?
Well thank you for saying that. I do feel like a pretty genuinely happy person. And I think part of it, a big part of it, is just gratitude. I’m very grateful for the life I have. I feel like all of us who do movies and probably all of you write about movies, we’re breathing a bit of a rarefied air.
And I feel really lucky because there was a point in which I kind of gave up and it was early on. I hadn’t even gotten a job yet and I just was like, I think I can’t do it. And I don’t know how to crack it. So yeah, gratitude.
How would you describe Beckett?
I think in some ways, he’s complicated in the sense that he’s not always as chummy as he could be. I’d say he’s a survivor who really does have this image of life, where he’s wanting to be done with this life of criminality and ultimately, just be playing the valachord and living on a remote planet somewhere.
How did you like working with Alden, the new Han Solo?
I love Alden. Love him. Awesome, awesome guy. A really hard worker. I mean, he’s a very hard worker, because we’d have these humongous sets and then there would be these little spots that are kind of like a little cloth room. You might have something to lay down on or chair, do your makeup, whatever.
So we’d all have our little cubicles. He was next to me and he’d be in there taking piano lessons. He’d be in there reading novels. I’m over there playing Speed Chess online. [Laughs]. I really admire his work ethic and I think just the way he cultivates himself as a human, he’s an extraordinary guy. He’s not just a silly dopey party animal like some actors coming up or like I was coming up.
Are you anything at all like Beckett?
I don’t think I’m like that. He’s a bit of a hard ass, and he’s kind of tough on Han. I think it’s probably good if you’re going to want to try to make someone into a very street smart survivor in that universe; maybe that’s how he had to be. But I wouldn’t be like that. I mean, I can’t even discipline my own child. I don’t know how to do it because I always say to myself, “Well I would do that.” So how can I be telling her not to do it.
If you could be any character from the original Star Wars Trilogy, who would it have been?
I would want to be Solo, man. It was written really well, obviously. George Lucas created these great characters but I guess what Harrison [Ford] brought to it and now what Alden is bringing to it is making that character just so special, so fun, and funny.