Looking through Woody Harrelson’s filmography, what stands out is he does a lot of movies. (So many that we just spoke to Harrelson, along with his War for the Planet of the Apes co-stars, a couple of weeks ago.) And it’s not just that he’s prolific – a lot of actors are – but that he also has a knack for being in a lot of good movies. For a guy who refers to himself as a “lazy bum,” he sure does work a lot.
This week, Harrelson plays Rex Walls, the eccentric father of Jeannette Walls in the film adaptation of her bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle. It’s directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, whose prior work includes Short Term 12, and works as a character study of a loving but troubled man, the vagabond life he provided for his family, and how that affected his relationship with Jeannette (played as an adult by Brie Larson), who broke away from her family to move to New York and become a renowned columnist.
Ahead, Harrelson called us from London where he’s shooting the still untitled Han Solo film and we do our best to convince Harrelson he’s not a “lazy bum.” Also, when Harrelson’s first movie, Wildcats, is brought up, Harrelson surprises himself by reciting his rap from the end credits. (He honestly seemed bewildered that he could still do that, but the fact I heard it with my own ears is something I think I will cherish.)
A couple weeks ago Harrelson assured us “the Force is with them,” after the directing change, but is Harrelson a fan of Star Wars in general? It’s not like people have really ever associated Harrelson and Star Wars together before. So, yes, we asked him about that, too.
You play Rex in an interesting way. He could be a scoundrel, but he always has a humanity to him that makes you realize why Jeannette loves him.
Yeah, I think that’s a fair appraisal of him. I mean, definitely a complex guy. He’s not all good. [Laughs.]
In the earlier scenes, it looks almost fun at times. And then as time goes on, you kind of realize how awful this is becoming.
Well, it feels like the more he drinks, the worse things get. But the cool thing is, I watched it last night with like 110 friends here in London, and they had an incredible, great response to it and people were moved by it. But I’d forgotten how funny it is, you know? I thought there was a lot of laughs that I’d forgotten about and that was cool.
I was going through your filmography, and this is one of the first times you’ve played a role that’s mostly about being a dad. Maybe Wilson a little bit, but that was different…
Well, I also did in Rampart, when I worked with Brie before…
True, but there’s a lot of cop stuff in that movie.
Yeah, that’s true. And also it’s a rare thing that you get a movie that’s so focused on dad and daughter relationships, which is cool.
You don’t do a lot of movies like this. Why this one?
You know, I had great director, a great script, other actors, fantastic. So he really liked to try things and mix it up and that always helps. But I don’t know, I mean you read the book, it’s just so wonderfully written and so powerful and I think all of us were just hoping to make a movie that was true to the book.
You gave a monologue about health care that’s very timely.
Yeah! Yeah, I do kind of agree with that. There’s a lot of things that he said all those years ago that I felt were really right on target.
What else did you agree with?
Well, for example, the way he feels about education: that it’s better to be experiential than just sitting in a classroom. It’s better to go out in nature and talk about what you see and explain – you know, educate the children by what they’re seeing and touching and experiencing.