LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-nominated actor Woody Harrelson has been called many things over the years including an out-of-control party animal, marijuana enthusiast, vegetarian and all-around nice guy.
Now, add accomplished poker player to the list thanks to his new film “The Grand,” which debuts in major U.S. cities on Friday. Set in the world of professional poker, it follows six players who reach the final table of a high stakes tournament.
While some things written and said about him have been exaggerated, he admits he is an “extremist.” But in recent years, Harrelson has been busy cleaning up his act and practicing what he now preaches -- a healthier lifestyle.
Looking tanned and fit, Woody drank herbal tea as he set the record straight about substance abuse, his views on marijuana, the price of fame, and his laid-back life in Hawaii with girlfriend Laura Louie and their daughters, Deni (15), Zoe (12) and Makani (2).
Q: Were you a big poker player before this film?
A: “Yeah, I like poker. I definitely did get into poker during the shoot. I read all the books and then I was just trying to find more poker games.”
Q: Is it true “The Grand” was totally improvised?
A: “Yes, and I was a bit scared when we began shooting. I didn’t think I had it all together, but then it kicked in.”
Q: How much of you is in your character, One Eyed Jack Faro?
A: “Way too much. Or maybe way too much of him in me. He’s a guy who’s dancing with his demons, so in that sense I feel a real connection.”
Q: Ever had a gambling problem like Jack‘s?
A: “It’s only a problem if you mind losing (grins). Yeah, probably. I just like gambling. It gives me a nice charge. Generally I gamble a lot. I like to bet on anything. Doesn’t matter what it is.”
Q: You’ve called yourself an extremist. Still true?
A: “Yeah. Whatever it is, I tend to get into things in an extreme fashion.”
Q: You also once said, ‘When I let up from the weed and drinking, I cried every day, and I liked that. I like crying.’
A: “That’s true. I‘m a sensitive soul. Now I feel pretty balanced. But it’s not like I don’t like to party. I will always like to party, and if that ever changes, slap me.”
Q: You’ve long said that marijuana and hemp should be legal. Do you still believe that?
A: ”Yes, both should be legal. It seems logical that in a free country you should be able to do whatever you want to do as long as it’s not hurting anyone else.
”It’s unfortunate that when I started talking about all this -- and partly through my own fault -- the focus became totally about marijuana, and hemp got marginalized.
“My whole focus was on a sustainable economy, which we still don’t have. But at least we’re talking more about the melting ice-caps and greenhouse gases. The problem is, nothing’s really changed yet and we live in a society where the economy is based on all these giant industries that are raping Mother Earth.”
Q: Where do you live now?
A: “Mainly in Hawaii, on Maui, in this community of mostly organic farmers. We run off solar and wind and generators if necessary. I’ve been there nine years and it’s Shangri La to me. I have lots of fruit and coconut trees, and every day I swim, I surf, climb coconut trees, play with my kids, eat mangoes. There’s no form to it, which I kind of like.”