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Environmentalist. Cannabis spokesperson. Playwright. Vegan. Cannabis enjoyer. Woody Harrelson is a complex individual and a multifaceted presence on screen, his roles running the range of clean-cut cowboy to cold-blooded killer. But no matter who he's playing there always seems to be a lingering essence of the real Woody, and that's why he rules.
This week sees the former TV star getting "Cheers" for his role as a stage-magician-cum-bank-robber in "Now You See Me" and this November he'll reprise the part of Haymitch Abernathy in his first-ever sequel, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." We're stoking the fires of Woody worship as we pay tribute to our favorite High Times cover boy with nine of his quintessential roles.
9. 'A Scanner Darkly' (2006)
There's no denying the essential Woodiness of stoner dude Ernie Luckman in Richard Linklater's rotoscope animated take on one of Philip K. Dick's most grounded and personal novels. Taking place in the near future, "A Scanner Darkly" follows an attempted police crackdown on Substance D, a dangerous mind-altering substance that leaves people hallucinating and paranoid. Luckman is perhaps the most laid-back of the five main protagonists, which also include fellow heads Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr. Harrelson's rambling bit about the movie "Catch Me If You Can" is one of the many highlights.
8. 'Seven Psychopaths' (2012)
WH inherited the juicy part of Mob boss Charlie Costello from Mickey Rourke, who bailed after disagreements with director Martin McDonagh. Unlike the punch-drunk "Wrestler" star, Harrelson commands a certain level of understatement as well as unbeatable comedic timing that melds well with McDonagh's dark laugher about a screenwriter (Colin Farrell) who gets mixed up with a botched kidnapping of Costello's prized Shih Tzu, Bonny. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose.
7. 'A Prairie Home Companion' (2006)
Radio storyteller Garrison Keillor had spent decades mesmerizing NPR-heads with his old-fashioned broadcasts, but for Robert Altman's movie version they spiced things up with a little star power, including Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones and Lindsay Lohan for the kiddies. To play Dusty and Lefty, a pair of randy cowboys with a penchant for off-color jokes, Altman got Harrelson and John C. Reilly to banter playfully to the point where they wound up stealing the show from both their famous compatriots and Keillor himself.
6. 'The People Vs. Larry Flynt' (1996)
Perhaps only Harrelson could peer into the perverted soul of porn chieftain Larry Flynt and find the mensch within. Miloš Forman's biopic chronicles the Hustler magnate in both his prime and the post-sensation below-the-waist years after a near-fatal assassination attempt leaves him in a wheelchair. Flynt's rise from mere smut peddler to political activist, free speech advocate and provocateur is definitely something the outspoken Harrelson could connect to.
5. 'No Country For Old Men' (2007)
As Carson Wells, a would-be bounty hunter who winds up biting a bullet from Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh, Harrelson gets to deliver some of the wittier back-and-forths in the Coen Brothers' adroit screenplay. When the man who hires him to hunt down Chigurh asks, "Did I say you could sit?" Wells replies, "No, but you strike me as a man who wouldn't want to waste his chair." This is perhaps the dozenth film where Woody dons a cowboy hat, so he fits right into author Cormac McCarthy's neo-western motif.
4. 'White Men Can't Jump' (1992)
This was Harrelson's first real breakout success on the big screen, re-teaming him with his "Wildcats" pal Wesley Snipes in a story of two streetballers who hustle each other and others for cash. Woody shared even greater chemistry with the audacious Rosie Perez as his whip-smart girlfriend studying to become a "Jeopardy" contestant. Unfortunately her absence was felt when Snipes and Harrelson came together for their third action outing, "Money Train."
3. 'Kingpin' (1996)
Arguably the Farrelly Brothers' best movie, "Kingpin" offered Woody a chance to go full-tilt boogie into broad comedy. Roy Munson (Harrelson) is a former bowling prodigy who lost his hand and spent the next 15 years in the gutter, but life hands him a spare in the form of squeaky-clean Amish boy and bowling sensation Ishmael (Randy Quaid). Munson proceeds to give Ishmael the full tour of decadence on the road to a Vegas bowling championship, but Woody masterfully maintains the innocence underneath the surface sleaze. Example: When he burns a baby with hot coffee while trying to coochie-coo it, it shows he's basically a decent dude underneath the beer gut and aloe vera aftershave, even when his intentions don't quite work out.
2. 'Natural Born Killers' (1994)
Harrelson's Mickey Knox is a serial killer psychopath painting America red through a trail of bodies he and wife Mallory (Juliette Lewis) leave behind during their homicidal honeymoon. Sounds like a stretch from the guy who played a goofy bartender on NBC, but the character hits closer to home than you would think: Woody's real-life dad Charles Harrelson was a contract killer for the mafia, convicted of murdering a federal judge. Through the warped lens of Oliver Stone's multimedia visual kaleidoscope (B&W, animation, grainy Super-8 footage, video, back-screen projection), Knox is a frightening creature but not nearly as scary as the media circus that turns him into a pop culture hero.
1. 'Zombieland' (2009)
The Woodman finally got to combine the shotgun-wielding badass part of himself with the lovable kidult we know him to be with "Zombieland," earning him a surprise smash hit in the process. Tallahassee, as his character is called, is the prototypical über-hero who comes across the anxiety-ridden OCD survivalist Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and the two of them forge an unlikely partnership that … well, if you can imagine Bruce Campbell teaming up with Woody Allen to fight zombies, you get the picture. True to form, Harrelson did not break vegan edge for the Twinkie scene, instead consuming a fake one made out of cornmeal.