Woody Harrelson is an American actor, playwright, and activist who has a net worth of $70 million as of 2021. He is best known for his Emmy-award winning role as Woody Boyd on NBC’s “Cheers,” but he has also appeared in dozens of movies. His roles in “The People vs. Larry Flynt”, “The Messenger,” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” earned him Academy Award nominations.
Woody Harrelson was born Woodrow Tracy Harrelson on July 23, 1961, in Midland, Texas. His mother, Diane, was a secretary, and his father, Charles, was a hitman. They divorced in 1964, and after serving 5 years in prison for the murder of a grain dealer, Charles was convicted in the 1979 assassination of federal judge John H. Wood Jr.; he was sentenced to 2 life terms and died in prison from a heart attack in 2007.
Woody grew up with 2 siblings, Jordan and Brett, and he has said that the family was poor but always had food on the table. They moved to Diane’s hometown, Lebanon, Ohio, in 1973, and Harrelson graduated from Lebanon High School in 1979. He worked at Kings Island amusement park the summer after graduation, then moved to Hanover, Indiana, to attend Hanover College (which was a Presbyterian college at the time). As a college student, Woody joined the Sigma Chi fraternity and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater and English in 1983.
Harrelson made his television debut when he joined the cast of “Cheers” in the show’s fourth season. He appeared in 200 episodes from 1985 to 1993 and was nominated for 5 Primetime Emmys, winning in 1989. His character, Woody Boyd, also appeared on “The Simpsons” in 1994 and “Frasier” in 1999. Harrelson played Grace’s boyfriend on 7 episodes of “Will & Grace” in 2001 and starred in HBO’s “True Detective” in 2014.
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Woody has also appeared on “Dear John” and “Spin City,” and he played Republican strategist Steve Schmidt in HBO film “Game Change” in 2012. Harrelson hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 1989, 1992, 2014, and 2019 and made special appearances as Joe Biden in 2019 episodes hosted by Will Ferrell and David Harbour.
Woody’s first movie role was in 1986’s “Wildcats,” and he went on to appear in “Doc Hollywood” (1991),” White Men Can’t Jump” (1992), “Indecent Proposal” (1993), “Natural Born Killers” (1994), and several other movies before taking on his Oscar-nominated role as Larry Flynt in 1996’s “The People vs. Larry Flynt.”
Harrelson has appeared in more than 70 films, and some of his memorable roles include one-handed bowler Roy Munson in 1996’s “Kingpin,” Tallahassee in 2009’s “Zombieland,” and Haymitch Abernathy in the “Hunger Games” franchise. He received critical acclaim for his roles in 2007’s “No Country for Old Men” and 2018’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri;” both movies won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Harrelson was an understudy in the Neil Simon Theatre’s “Biloxi Blues” from 1985 to 1986, and he starred as Jack in “The Boys Next Door” from 1987 to 1988 at Lamb’s Theatre. He also played Bill Starbuck in “The Rainmaker” from 1999 to 2000 at Brooks Atkinson Theatre and Shannon in “Night of the Iguana” from 2005 to 2006 at the Lyric Theatre. Woody wrote the play “Furthest from the Sun, which he directed at the Theatre de la Jeune Lune in Minneapolis in 1999. He also directed his play “Bullet for Adolf” at Toronto’s Hart House Theatre for 2 weeks in 2011 and at Off-Broadway theatre New World Stages from July to September 2012.
Woody married Nancy Simon (playwright Neil Simon’s daughter) in 1985 while visiting Tijuana. The couple was not serious about getting married and had planned on annulling the union the next day; however, the marriage/divorce parlor was closed, and they stayed married for 10 months. Harrelson married Laura Louie in 2008 at their home in Maui, and they have 3 daughters: Deni (born in February 1993), Zoe (born in September 1996), and Makani (born in June 2006). Woody met Laura in 1987 when she was his personal assistant on the set of “Cheers,” and in 2001, the couple started a website called “Voice Yourself,” which encourages people to protest pollution.
Woody is a vegan, and PETA named him 2012’s Sexiest Vegetarian. He supports the legalization of marijuana and is passionate about environmental causes. An avid chess fan, Harrelson has attended the World Chess Championship, where he had the honor of making the ceremonial first move in 2016 and 2018.
Harrelson has been arrested several times: for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in 1982, for symbolically planting hemp seeds (which the sheriff considered “cultivating marijuana”) in 1996, and for damaging a taxi and running from police in 2002. He served no jail time for any of these arrests. In 2008, a TMZ photographer filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against Woody, alleging that the actor had assaulted him and broken his camera; the case was dismissed after they reached a settlement in 2010.
Awards and Honors
Harrelson’s role on “Cheers” earned him a 1987 American Comedy Award for Funniest Newcomer and a 1989 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
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In 1993, Woody and “Indecent Proposal” co-star Demi Moore won an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss, and he won 4 awards for “The Messenger” in 2009, including an Independent Spirit Award and Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award. Harrelson also earned a San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Body of Work (for his work in “The Messenger,” “Zombieland,” and “2012”) in 2009 and an African American Film Critics Association Award for 2011’s “Rampart.” In 2014, Harrelson received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Hanover College.
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