Woody Harrelson is a changed man after Oscar role

Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:16pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Environmental activist, hemp promoter, peacenik, surfer dude. Woody Harrelson has been called a lot of things, but until recently it is unlikely he has been called a friend of the U.S. military.

The actor says he is a changed man, however, after working on his movie "The Messenger," in which he portrays an officer in the army's casualty notification service -- officers who tell families their loved ones have died serving their country.

Harrelson, 48, has been nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Captain Tony Stone, though winning seems unlikely. Yet he believes he may already have won just by being nominated for his supporting role and by being able to tell the tale of soldiers and their families.

"It's a big thing to say, but I really think it changed me on some fundamental level in my heart," Harrelson told Reuters. "I felt a powerful connection to these servicemen and women, and those experiences of notifications."

To prepare for the movie, Harrelson visited the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to talk to wounded soldiers and notification officers, and since that time, he has returned on his own just to say "hi" to the "friends" he made there.

It seems a far cry from the man who has spoken out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and whose liberal political positions are well-known. Yet, like others, Harrelson is quick to separate the wars from the men and women fighting them.

"It (the movie) helped me see them for who they are, people who don't make a lot of money and do this out of profound love for their country, profound patriotism I admire," he said.


<p>Actor Woody Harrelson arrives to accept the award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the film "The Messenger" at the National Board of Review Award ceremony in New York January 12, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>