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From sitcom stardom to big-screen blockbusters, Woody Harrelson can’t be pinned down. He’s played a naive bartender, a basketball hustler, an unconscionable killer, and a porn tycoon, and has made it all flow. Harrelson’s range was scarcely pre­dicted when he showed up to replace Coach on NBC’s “Cheers” back in 1985. His character, who by sheer coincidence was also named Woody, was childlike, senti­mental, a little slow on the uptake, and instantly embraced by audiences upon his arrival in season four. He assumed his place as an essential member of an ensemble cast on a show that endures as a landmark in television history. Harrelson had made his film debut in Wildcats (1986) with Goldie Hawn, but it wasn’t until the seventh of his eight seasons on “Cheers” that he stepped back into features. His transition was impressive, with White Men Can’t Jump (1992) and Indecent Proposal (1993) both opening number-one at the box office — but no one could have foreseen what happened next. Oliver Stone handpicked Harrel­son to star as serial killer, Mickey Knox, in 1994’s blood-steeped, pathological, romance-thriller dreamscape, Natural Born Killers. Side by side with Juliette Lewis’ Mallory Knox, the two slaugh­tered their way to pop stardom, and transformed both perform­ers into icons.

Once establishing himself as impervious to typecasting, Harrel­son continued to take on a diverse array of roles, including rub­ber-handed bowling champion, Roy Munson, in the Farrelly Brothers’ gorgeous gross-out comedy, Kingpin (1996); ex-con, Harry Barber, in the modern film noir, Palmetto (1998); and singing cowboy, Dusty, in Robert Altman’s final film, A Prairie Home Com­panion (2006). And it was his turn in the title role of Milos For­man’s The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) that cemented the Lebanon, Ohio-raised lead as a master of his craft. His com­manding performance as the adult-entertainment luminary and unlikely patron of the First Amendment earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Harrelson returned to the realm of box-office smashes last month, tearing it up as the hot-tempered, undead-shredding cowboy, Tallahassee, in the maximum-fun horror-comedy, Zom­bieland. And applying his work to an exploration of the intimate ravages of war, he can be seen as Captain Tony Stone in this month’s The Messenger, a story of two soldiers assigned to casualty notification — the unenviable task of informing the next of kin, face to face, of the loss of their loved one. The com­pelling drama co-stars Ben Foster as Staff Sergeant Will Mont­gomery, and sees the two hardened warriors turning their battles from the field to their own inner demons. Opening simultaneous­ly with The Messenger is the mega-budget, Roland Emmerich­helmed disaster-picture, 2012. The enormous, apocalyptic movie event features Harrelson as shaggy, rogue radio host and conspiracy theorist, Charlie Frost, who’s finally vindicated in his insistence that the end of the world is at hand.

Harrelson, an outspoken vegan, lives with his wife, Laura Louie, and their three daughters in a solar-powered community in Maui, Hawaii. As an advocate of sustainable energy, he was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by York University in Toronto, Canada, for his work on environmental issues. The steadfast activist once scaled San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to protest the deforestation of old-growth redwoods. He and Louie also co-founded Yoganics, an organic-food delivery service.

Up next for the multifaceted screen star is Bunraku. Mixing live action and animation, the fantasy-martial arts film features Har­relson as the wise Bartender, who guides two young warriors. Shot in Bucharest, Romania, he co-stars with Ron Perlman, Demi Moore, and Josh Hartnett. And recently released in Cana­da, is Defendor, a dark comedy starring Harrelson as a makeshift superhero, who seeks consult and comfort from the likes of Kat Dennings and Sandra Oh. Both promising projects await U.S. distribution.

We drive up to Malibu to meet with the celebrated Midwestern­er at the home of his good friend, Owen Wilson. With his welcom­ing smile and easygoing manner, we’re quickly at ease with Har­relson, as we sit in a little wood-plank cabin in the front yard to discuss an uncommon life, and the state of the world.

Venice: Had you done a lot of acting work before you land­ed the role of Woody on “Cheers”?

Woody Harrelson: Well, a little bit. I was living in New York, and I was having a tough go of it. It took a long time to get an agent. The hardest part for me was getting an agent. It took the better part of a year, during which time I was working all these jobs; I had 17 jobs over the course of that year. 

You had moved to New York from Ohio?

I wasn’t really living in Ohio, because I went to [Hanover Col­lege] in Indiana, and then I went down to Houston to work con­struction the last two summers. So I wasn’t really spending any time in Lebanon, Ohio, other than to come visit my mom. So I really had moved up to New York from Texas. That’s where we were working construction. When college was over, my intention was to go get summer stock work and then, barring that, I’d try to get work in a regional theater, eventually. And then in maybe five years or so, try to make my way to New York. I didn’t have the most ambitious plan, but I really thought I needed to get time on. I’d done a lot of plays in college and felt confident in front of an audience, but I hadn’t done any time in a real, established region­al theater. I was thinking Actors Theatre of Louisville; they had an apprentice program, and you could go in and be, like, a spear-carrier for a Shakespeare play. [laughs] But that wasn’t panning out either. I wasn’t really getting any offers from the auditions I went to. So my buddy — a guy I went to college with, named Clint Allen — asked me if I would move to New York with him if he got accepted to Juilliard. He had auditioned, and I said, “Sure!” — thinking that the odds are astronomical. And he got accepted, of course. So, next thing you know, we worked construction in Houston, and then we moved to New York, but things still were not going my way. I had a couple shots at auditions for agents, and blew ‘em. I just wasn’t getting lucky with agents. I had some manager, who was willing to sign me for like a 15-year contract, but I wasn’t really up for that. [laughs] I did finally find an agent, after my roommate, Rob, came into the room and started yelling at me to get up and go do something, because I had given up. It was this catch-22: You can’t get a job unless you get an agent, and you can’t get an agent unless they’ve seen you in something. It was a weird thing. So he made me get up, and I went around, on foot, and went from agency to agency and dropped off my picture, and they all went in that circular file under the desk. Until I did get a call — and it was from this amazing woman, two weeks after I’d dropped off all these pictures. She said, “I see something interesting in your face.” And I said, “Well, why didn’t you call before?” She says, “I called you several times, and some girl answered, who just said, ‘He’s not here,’ and hung up. Every time.” And it was my girlfriend, who I was living with, and she was really jealous. She had almost blown my change. But fortunately, the agent, whose name was Marsha, persisted. So she had started sending me on auditions, but I still wasn’t getting work. Then I ended up getting into this terrible fight — an actual, physical fight. I was a short-order cook at this place up on, like, 72nd and Columbus. And, by short-order cook, I mean that I threw a piece of bacon into this greasy freakin’ thing, and threw a burger on, you know, the easiest possible stuff. I was not a chef. So all of that was going on, and the manager fired me one night because I was reading in the kitchen. She was telling me I should be working, and I said, “Well, first of all, everybody who’s here is my friend — every person — and the food is all sorted.” And she says, “Well, then go clean something,” and she just starts yelling at me. She was angry. So I was like, “Well, okay, I quit.” And then she tells me that, no, I’m not quitting. And then she tries to stop me from walking out. So I kind of insisted on walking out. [laughs] Then her husband came up and jumped me. I was on the ground, on the sidewalk, outside with him. I was on top of him, pounding him, and then I felt this big arm come around my throat, and it’s his buddy, who looked a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger. [laughs] He was a big fuck­ing guy, and he started choking me. Serious­ly choking me, like I couldn’t breathe. So I reached back and got my finger inside his eye socket, and I had my finger inside, and around the back of his eye. It was a little bit of a standoff, because if he kept choking me, I was gonna pull his eye out. [laughs] So, during this little interlude, up come the cops, and naturally, they sided with management. And I’d lost my check, too, that had fallen out during the fight. It was only 130 bucks, but to me, it was huge. It was more than a week’s work, 130 dollars, and I never got it back. You know, it’s not like I could go down there and get them to cut me another check. [laughs] So I had no money. My roommates, Clint and Rob — Rob was an apprentice at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where Clint went during my senior year — we had all ended up living together in New York. And they were really being hospitable, because fre­quently... I mean, I was always on the bum, you know? “Please, you got five bucks now? I’ll pay you when I...” And eventually, after, I don’t know, 14 months of this, they weren’t going to lend me any more money, so it was looking pretty bleak — and I got together enough money to buy a super-cheap ticket on People Express.

I remember People Express. You paid for your ticket with your credit card when you were already on the plane.

Yeah, well, I didn’t have a credit card. I had cash. So, it was super cheap; it might have been 70 bucks or something, and that was it. I was set. I was going back to Ohio, and in my mind, I was going to write a play, and then come back and try to make the play happen. That way, I could have a part in the play; this is my image in my head. Of course, it would have meant moving back in with my mom, and probably living with her for the next eight years of my life, while trying to get a job as a truck driver. But fortunately, it didn’t come to that. 

Then your agent found you work?

At this point it had been almost a month and a half or so of sending me on auditions — and then, miraculously, she sent me on one last audition. It was for a Neil Simon play.

Which play was it?

It was “Biloxi Blues” with Matthew Broder­ick, and I was auditioning as an understudy. I wasn’t auditioning for the part, which was good, because there were a lot of people in that production who felt like they should have been playing the part, and I was just happy as could be. When I got that part, I was leaving in two or three days to get the plane to go home. When I auditioned, it so happened that Neil Simon was in the back of the theater, so it expedited things, because then I just had one more audition, in front of Neil Simon; this time I knew he was there. I was in a room with him and some other peo­ple, and I was absolutely fearless, because I didn’t care anymore, and I was going home. That’s when you’re at your best in an audi­tion. [laughs] So I got that job on “Biloxi Blues.” It was a great group of guys — I mean, imagine: It’s a bunch of 22, 23-year­old guys hanging out, just having such a ball. And then I had auditioned for a movie that Goldie Hawn was starring in, called Wildcats, and we had a blowout party when I left to go do that. We had a party at my house with the whole gang, and boy was it fun. So I was in L.A., finishing Wildcats, and the two guys I was understudying got fired because they were horsing around onstage. They wanted me back as soon as possible; they were call­ing me every day. “Are you done? Are you done?” Then right, literally, at this time, just before I was going back, I ran into this guy, Leo Jeter, whose brother was John Jeter, the phenomenal actor whom I saw in a play in college in Hanover, [whose performance] had made me say, “I definitely want to be an actor.” His little brother, Leo, had moved to L.A., and he said to me, “You ought to audi­tion for this part on this show, ‘Cheers.’ They’ve got a part called Woody, and he’s from Indiana,” which is where we had gone to college.

They had named the character Woody, and had him come from Indiana, before you were cast?

Yeah, already. [laughs] So that was it, and I said, “All right, I’ll go.” And again, it was a thing where I was so fearless, because I was now going to Broadway, which was my dream. My dream wasn’t anything but Broadway at that point. At the time, I was 23, and it was fantastic that I was going back to do it. So going into that audition, I didn’t really want to do television, although they were telling me, “This is a pretty good show.” [laughs]

Had you seen “Cheers” at that point?

I hadn’t seen it.

This was a big deal, the replacement of the late Nicholas Colasanto’s Coach, a beloved character.

Yeah, it was good that all that was not known to me.

Did they have any reaction to the fact that your name was Woody, and you came from Indiana?

No, but as Jimmy Burrows told me later, I really won the day because I had such intense mucous. I was lactose intolerant, which I didn’t know at the time. I did the audition for the lady, and it went quite well — and then she says, “Come with me.” She leads me back through these doors, through this little catacomb, and I’m blowing my nose, not realizing that she’s opening the door to where [show creators] Jimmy Bur­rows, the Charles brothers [Glen and Les], all these people are in this room — and I’m like [snooort]! And the whole place starts laughing. [laughs] That’s before I’ve done anything; I was already in the catbird seat! So that’s how that went down.

How long after that did you find out about winning the role?

Well, then it was between me and another guy, because they had already kind of settled on another fella. So I was going down to net­work auditions, and you have to sign a con­tract before you go. I had one day to decide, “Am I going to go this direction, or am I going to go back and do theater?” Two great possibilities. And, really, in my mind, I thought, “I should go back and do theater.” But everybody else said, “No, no. [laughs] Do that show!” And I was thinking, “I’ll be on Broadway next week!” In a few days I would be on Broadway, like my dream, but that wasn’t to be realized for quite some time. I ended up doing “Cheers,” and, of course, it turned out great! But it was good that I had all that theater experience in college, because on the day when I knew the stakes, and I knew by this time that I was replacing Coach, and I knew that this was a great show. So when I’m finally going on to shoot the first episode — I can remember, you’re outside and a light goes red, and that’s your entrance, and I can just remem­ber standing there [laughs], I mean, trem­bling, I was so nervous. I could hear the dialogue, and I knew it was coming, and, boom, the light came on. And then I walk in the front door of “Cheers,” and it was lucky I had done all that theater, because it was that experience that helped me keep it together with a live audience and every­thing else, and it went pretty good!

I remember when you first came on, and we all quickly decided that we liked you.

Yeah, they were smart [about the transi­tion between characters]. They had a cou­ple of good jokes, and you see right away that he’s going to be naive, like Coach, and fill the spot like him. They were smart in the way they did that. The whole thing was pretty clever.

You were on for eight seasons, until the end of its run. Was it a lot of fun?

Oh, my God. So fun! That whole gang. Everybody was fun. It was the best situation you could imagine. I’ve had situations that I felt might be equal to that, but never better than that situation, because you've got the best writing, you’ve got the most amazing, funny, funny actors you're working with. All day long, we’re making each other laugh. It was like going to work at a playground-slash-laugh festival or something. [laughs] It was really good fun.

Ted Danson's doing really well now, too.

It's just great how now he's got another great show, like, how is that possible?

He's fantastic on “Bored to Death” [with Jason Schwartzman and Zach Gali­fianakis]. Have you seen it?

I only saw the first episode, but I've got to get the other episodes sent. I've got to see it. With this schedule they've had for me, there's just no chance [that I'll catch it]. Plus, I don't have television at home in Hawaii. We only use it to watch movies. We put a screen down and watch it from a pro­jector, old-style.

What was it like when you were on “Cheers,” and people started getting to know who you are, and stopping you on the street for autographs?

Jeeze, you know, I just remember the first time a girl came up and said, “Can I have your autograph?” It was the first time anyone had asked me, and it was really shocking. It happened almost immediately after the first episode aired, and as they started airing more, it became more frequent. It was bizarre... Fame is a funny little ride. It’s like a buckin’ bronco that you try to stay on, and not lose your sensibilities.

I remember watching the “Cheers” episode where you played Mark Twain in a play. You were dressed like him, and saying your lines, and I thought, “Wow, this guy’s got range!” We had all seen you as this one character, but it was clear you were capable of a lot more.

Yes, it was a great job, but there were, like, six years where I couldn’t get another job. Dur­ing the time off from “Cheers,” I would have loved to do a movie, but I just couldn’t get a job. At the time, it was a bit more difficult to make that transition out of television, so understandably, it wasn’t a “gimme” thing, you know? But fortunately, then came along Doc Hollywood, because Michael Fox said some­thing to [director] Michael Caton-Jones, and I went in and auditioned, so I got that role. I was kind of Michael [J. Fox]’s nemesis in that.

What came next?

The next summer, I did White Men Can’t Jump, and then the summer after that, I did Indecent Proposal, which overlapped sub­stantially with “Cheers,” and that was very difficult. It was very, very hard to try to shoot that, and also do “Cheers.”

It seems like Indecent Proposal was the first time you broke out of the comic-type character that people were used to seeing you do. Was it satisfying for you to play a different kind of role?

Yeah, that was good. I really look at me back then as not knowing much. I don’t feel like I did a great job with that part, to be honest with you, and I also feel like I just didn’t have the confidence and sensi­bilities about acting in front of a single camera — because “Cheers” was much more like theater. Up-and-coming actors ask what you suggest for them, and I always say the same thing that Jimmy Stewart said me when I met him on a plane one time. He said, “Do theater. Do as much as you can.” I did think Indecent turned out pretty well, and it was just nice that people went and saw it.

Was it exciting for you to work with Robert Redford?

Oh yeah! You can’t not love Robert Redford. He’s one of the greats of all time. It was pretty thrilling to be working with him. And, of course, my mom came out from Ohio specifi­cally to hang out with Redford, and he was such a prince to her. He even wrote her a letter at one point, because she had written some­thing to him, and he nicely wrote back. He’s just a really great guy. I ran into him about a week ago, actually, in Savannah, Georgia. We were at the Savannah Film Festival; he’s there now, shooting a movie based on the assassi­nation of Lincoln and the conspiracy around it [The Conspirator]. He’s just a great guy, man. He was immediately like, “Hey! How ya doin’? Pull up a chair! Tell me what’s goin’ on!” I’ve seen him several times since we shot Inde­cent Proposal, and every time, he’s so friend­ly and cool. I really do like his vibe. He’s a legend, man. He’s a real legend.

When did Natural Born Killers come about, and how was that experience? From an audience perspective, we were watching someone we had seen on “Cheers” and other comedies, who was moving into drama, and then you came out with this powerhouse, insane journey into the darkest depths of the soul.

It’s just a misunderstood romantic come­dy, really. The sequence of things was that “Cheers” wrapped the very next day that Indecent Proposal opened nationwide, and within two or three weeks, I started shooting Natural Born Killers

Was this a role you were really gunning for?

No, [Oliver Stone] offered it to me. I never auditioned for it. It didn’t even make sense, because all he could have seen me in is “Cheers” and White Men Can’t Jump; Inde­cent Proposal hadn’t even come out. It didn’t make a lot of sense, and a lot of people were pissed at him for that choice. But I really tried to immerse myself. I felt pretty close to the part for a while. [laughs] It was a lot of shad­ow work. I became obsessed with the shad­ow, as talked about by Jung and Robert Bly. It’s all these things, these negative qualities, which could be anything. Your propensity toward rage, or lust, or all these qualities that we want to keep in a bag, and it trails behind us, growing bigger, because we want to ignore what you would consider the dark side of our personalities. So I was reading about the shadow, talking about the shadow, thinking about the shadow, and because of that, there’s mention of the shadow in the script. Because [Stone] was really cool about letting us put stuff in there, as long as it worked. [laughs] So it was an intense experi­ence, but I was off, psychologically.

Because of your experience while mak­ing the film?

Part of it because of the immersion into that character, Mickey Knox, but also I was spending all day, every day, reading Man­son’s autobiography, and watching docu­mentaries on these mass murderers. These horrible fuckin’ people, like... Ugh, all of ‘em. Almost all of them started out quite religious.

How did that affect your relationships with people as you immersed yourself in this?

In a weird way. I remember I was at a club in Chicago at one point, and these two beau­tiful girls came up, and they were just talking. Nice as can be, but I was in such a weird headspace. One of them said something, that maybe I twisted into something nega­tive, and I always wished I could go back and at least apologize to those girls for being such an asshole. I remember being at a restaurant, and a woman was smoking a cig­arette, and I went and asked her to put it out, and she wouldn’t. Then I picked up her ciga­rette and put it out for her.

It sounds like it was your character doing that.

What I’m saying is that was happening all the time. This dark force had just taken control of me, and I guess that’s a part of the program, if you’re going to get pro­grammed. [laughs] You try to do some brainwashing; that’s your job as an actor, to wash your own brain with whatever fluid this character is.

Mickey Knox was this awful person, but he had the ability to love someone pas­sionately.

To love Juliette [Lewis]’s character, Mallory. Well, you know, you’ll find that with some of the most evil people. Like Hitler loved Eva Braun, loved her, though he didn’t always treat her great. Loved his dog! You find that in the most vile characters you can imagine; it’s just bizarre. It’s that strange dichotomy in everybody. I think all of us have — some­times in equal parts — angel and devil. Even my daughter, Zoe, when she was around three years old, I said to her, “You are so sweet!” And she says, “Yeah, but I’m mean, too.” And I thought, “Wow!” That was just such an awareness at three years old, to be able to say that. Everybody has that.

How did you see your career change after Natural Born Killers came out? There was a whole different vibe around you after that movie.

You know, I went to see it in a movie the­ater, and I remember this older couple get­ting up after about the first two scenes, and saying, “I can’t stand this!” And walking out. They didn’t know I was sitting there. Then a little while later, someone else gets up. Yeah, I knew it was a mixed bag, that movie. It was just so much negative stuff. I remember it opening, and being the num­ber-one movie — and at that point, Doc Hollywood had opened at number-two, White Men number-one, Indecent number-one, and then this movie opened number one. And by the way, that was the last time a movie I was in opened number-one until just a month ago. [laughs]

I love Zombieland.

Yeah, I love it too. It’s so funny.

That movie is so much fun.

It’s maximum fun! [laughs] Ruben Fleisch­er, I tell you what — incredible director.

That scene with you and Bill Murray, where you have this little homage to Kingpin.

I was so pissed because [the scene where we meet each other] was an impro­vised thing, and I should have said, “And I even love your dramatic work, and oh, that movie Kingpin!” [laughs] That’s what I should have said, and it didn’t even come to me to say that. Oh, well!

There are similar character arcs in Zombieland and your upcoming film, The Messenger. Your two characters both start out as unlikable, and then they open up.

Yeah, that’s right.

And I don’t mean to bring any levity to our discussion of The Messenger.

No, there is levity in the movie. I don’t want people to think they’re gonna go into this dark abyss, and resurface an hour and 47 later. [laughs] But that similarity is inter­esting.

And both movies have a 21-gun salute.

Wow, that’s incredible! But you know, there is a connection between them, just because of the timing. With Zombieland coming out, and now The Messenger, in my life, they have a big connection. I just fin­ished doing the press tour for Zombieland, then took a week at home, and then started the press tour for The Messenger. Five weeks of press.

There are some similarities in the char­acter arcs, but The Messenger is serious, serious stuff. What kind of research did you do to prepare?

Oren Moverman, the director, had given me the book, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, which put me into the head-space of a soldier. And then I asked him, “Can you send me a whole back-story of the character?” So he did that, and that really helped. And lots of interesting things, like, “Married three times, twice to the same woman.” [laughs] He had a lot of clever things that you could really hang your hat on. [But because of the tight schedules of the Messenger and Bunraku shoots], none of it really meant much with less than a week to prepare. Flying into New York, get­ting on a train, and sitting with Ben Foster and meeting him for the first time, and also with Oren and with Lawrence Inglee, the producer. We all sat on that train and went from New York to D.C., and we were fast friends, and have been ever since, just great buddies. We got to D.C. and went right away to Walter Reed, and that was so intense, man. It was emotionally intense, and it was also very uplifting. You would think you’re going to see a lot of soldiers who have come back, and have lost legs, arms, eyes, burns all over their body, all kinds of different things. And you think it’s just going to make you so sad, and in a way, your compassion, and your heart is definitely brought to the boil, but it’s also extremely uplifting. I did think, as a hippie from Hawaii, it was going to be a real stretch for me.

Are you interested in discussing your thoughts on the war?

Of course I’ll talk about it. I guess all of us tend to settle into our philosophies. It’s like a good armchair. You’ve got four strong legs supporting you, you’ve got a real foun­dation, and to be anti-war — or call it pro-peace if you want to put it more positively — is appropriate, especially considering these oil wars that we’re involved in, because to think otherwise is just not to be looking at it very closely. It’s unlikely that it’s a coincidence that the second-largest oil reserve in the world is in Iraq, or a coin­cidence that they want to put a pipeline through Afghanistan to access the Caspian Sea. So it is appropriate to be anti-war. But that philosophy really didn’t embrace the people who are fighting the war. In my mind, I always embraced the victims of war, the innocents, the civilians, but I never really thought that much about the soldiers. And a big part of it was that I had hardly spent any time with soldiers, besides meet ing them from time to time, coincidentally. But this time, I really got a chance to hang out with these guys, and hear their stories. At Walter Reed, it was very powerful. Then going on to the Casualty Notification office, and meeting those people, and hearing their stories, and meeting one soldier after another. Filming at Fort Dix, where every­body in the background was a soldier who had just returned from Afghanistan or Iraq, or were just about to be deployed, and those are the so-called “extras.” The time I spent really made me feel a lot of admira­tion for these young men and women, who are serving our country for very little money, and just doing it out of love of country. It blew my mind. It blew open a hole in my mind, and accessed a piece of my heart that needed that. So that’s it. I still loathe the war, but I love the warriors. Like that incident the other day. I looked in the paper today, and it has these pictures of some of the people who were shot at Fort Hood, and it says a little bit about them. “He was the nicest guy you ever met. He was very thoughtful.” It’s a heartbreaker. And that’s just one little, crazy incident. And within the context of this war, there are so many crazy incidents, where people lose their lives, and people die. Good people die. And I don’t know. What was the point of the war? Oh, yeah. At first, we were told it’s because they had weapons of mass destruction that threatened us, and, of course, they never did. Then that has to change, so they said, “Well, we’re freeing these guys. We’re freeing their country.” Ironically, bombing their cities is a part of freeing them. I don’t know. If I’m living in a country and I’m being freed by people who are bombing the cities that I live in, and killing my grandmother, and sister, and whoever, I’m not going to think too kindly on that incoming force. And that’s why I think these are un-winnable wars — because the will of the people is not with the occupying force. But, as I said to Chris Matthews, I’m just an actor. It’s just an opinion.

Thank you for sharing it.

I probably should say one other thing about the war issue, which is a key thing that we have to take a look at. The number-two industry in the world — which you would think would be number-one — is oil. The number-one industry is war. American foreign policy has been seriously misguid­ed for a long time. There was a book writ­ten, called Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace [by Gore Vidal], and in it, there’s a section that has a list of the 250, they call them mini-conflicts, but [they’re] wars — all over the world that we’ve had since World War II. We have all these names like “Opera­tion Freedom”-something, and it’s [about] why we’re using our military in so many places in the world, that all seem to coincide with American corporate interests. For exam­ple, in Vietnam, the government line was that it was the Red Scare and the Domino Effect — but if you look in the Pentagon papers, they were talking about rubber, tin, and oil. All of our wars are for resources. In Vietnam, along with Laos and Cambodia, 2.5 million people died. 2.5 million, so that we could stop the spread of Communism? Was that what it was about? Korea? 4.5 million. Peo­ple don’t know the statistics. I applaud the soldiers. I love the soldiers. I know how heroic they are, and I don’t blame them, because they’re doing their job. But a big part of supporting the troops is not sending them off to die for the industrial interests, who control the body politic, to have the opportunity to control those resources. So that’s why I’m so adamant about that stuff. It’s a heartbreaker.

[long pause]

You’ve got 2012 coming up.

Yeah, 2012 is actually released the same day as The Messenger. One of those two movies really looks like a big hit.

[much tension-relieving laughter]

Was that a catharsis for you, when you got to do your thing at the end of the world in 2012?

That was a fun day, yeah. Shot entirely in a studio in green-screen. I had to use a little bit of imagination, but it was pretty fun. It’s amazing, there aren’t any other guys like Roland Emmerich. He is such a friggin’ genius, that he can have all that stuff in his head. I’d be like, “What’s going on here?” They made a little hill that we were standing on, and he shows me these little images, hand-written things, a storyboard. And then you realize, “Oh, my God. The stakes could-n’t be any bigger. This is the first time in my life that I can’t go over the top!” ▼ 



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