I read a piece this week in which a writer railed on Woody Harrelson for what sounded like a fairly terrible interview.
This is right on the heels of a fairly disastrous appearance that Harrelson made at Reddit. Taken as a one-two punch, it was not the most flattering week of press for Harrelson overall, and it would be easy to assume he’s a bad interview in general.
The thing is, I think it’s sort of an unfair pile-on. The Reddit thing was a case of Woody simply not being ready for a truly unfiltered encounter with The Internet in all its glory, and then the VICE writer walked into a room where the interview subject had just been roughed up a bit, and then seemed to misread the entire thing. That interview is awful, but I don’t think that’s Harrelson’s fault.
Interviews are weird anyway. Just the idea that you’re going to have this forced conversation and try to create something that feels like actual intimacy in a set time period on a set subject… it’s an illusion. A successful interview is like a two-person magic trick, where you make it look like you’re actually having a relaxed normal conversation about something, and it takes both ends to make an interview work.
I have walked into plenty of rooms where as soon as I sat down, I knew things weren’t going to work. I’ve been in situations where another interviewer ruined things for me before I walked in, I’ve been in situations where the other person obviously didn’t want to be there or discuss the thing they were promoting, and I’ve had situations where lunch was obviously a higher priority than talking to me. And that’s just the nature of the job.
My own encounter with Harrelson during the press day for “Rampart” was very different than the one reported by the VICE reporter. He seemed quite fond of the film, and he was happy to talk about that and about “Hunger Games.” It’s pretty easy to tell when Harrelson actually likes something he’s made, and I get the feeling he enjoys his collaboration with Oren Moverman on this and “The Messenger.”
I’ve spent a little social time with Harrelson in the past in a non-interview setting, and he struck me as a guy who doesn’t really have a filter he puts on for interviews. He is who he is, and at this point, I think it’s probably ridiculous to write him off completely just because of one crappy day.
“Rampart” is opening in limited release today.