As 'Cheers' fades, Harrelson's role turns 'Indecent'

April 09, 1993|By Dallas Morning News

Woody Harrelson is, for the moment, at peace.

Assured that his orange juice is freshly squeezed, he relaxes enough to cross his legs in a semi-yoga position and massage a large, naked foot.

For Mr. Harrelson, being mellow isn't as easy as his laid-back demeanor might indicate. After all he has a lot on his mind: On a personal basis, he is a new father. Professionally, he has a new movie -- "Indecent Proposal" with Robert Redford and Demi Moore -- which opened Wednesday. The last episode of the long-running television series, "Cheers," in which he co-stars, will air in May. And he is author, director and star of a new play, "Furthest From the Sun," which opens a three-week run at a small Los Angeles playhouse in early April.

"Surfing in Hawaii seems more and more appealing to me," he says with a trace of Midwestern twang.

He has mixed feelings regarding the finale of "Cheers."

"Ted [Danson] didn't want to continue 'Cheers,' and that was the deciding factor," he says without rancor. "I guess we all would have liked to be part of the decision, but Ted is the hub of the wheel. No one feels any resentment. It's time for the show to be done. Everything has its season. We had 11 of them. After a while, there's just no reason to keep on. But I cried when we all got together for the final scene. I just bawled my eyes out. I never mind crying. An adult is nothing but a child with layers on."

On the other hand, every moviegoer seems to know what "Indecent Proposal" is about: A billionaire (Mr. Redford) offers a debt-ridden married couple (Mr. Harrelson and Ms. Moore) a million dollars if the wife will spend the night with him. Like "Honeymoon in Vegas" and "Mad Dog and Glory," it stands open to the accusation that it treats women as chattel.

"I don't think it's a backlash to feminism," he says. "It's more like a flashback to the '80s, to the idea that money can buy anything, like the right for corporations to pollute waters. But what money can or cannot buy is a very important question, and there's no cut-and-dry decision. I know. At times, I've been dirt-poor, and I don't know what I would have done for a million dollars."

His regard for co-star Mr. Redford seems genuine. "He has incredible nuance. He does the tiniest thing with his eyes, and it turns out to be dazzling on screen," he says. The most intimate love scenes in "Indecent Proposal" are not between the billionaire and his "purchased" one-night lover but, rather, between the husband and wife. And those were the most difficult for Mr. Harrelson to do.

"I'm close friends with Demi and with Demi's husband [Bruce Willis]. You have to draw the line at how far to go, and I'm not good at drawing lines. I like to be lineless, without boundaries. The scene was flesh and flesh coming together. I don't know if Demi was turned on, but me . . . But you have to think of what the repercussions will be. I don't want Bruce coming after me."

Mr. Harrelson is not a believer in marriage. "I don't even know if the mother of my child is a so-called life partner," he says.

His daughter, Montana, was born a month ago. Her mother is Laura Louie, Mr. Harrelson's one-time personal assistant, with whom he lives. "You might say I gave her a raise," he quips.

"All the time I spend with my daughter, I want to treat her lovingly," he says. "I want there to be a sacred space for us. I want her to have a peaceful upbringing, even if it's in the eye of the storm."

Mr. Harrelson next will co-star with Juliette Lewis in Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers," in which he will portray a serial killer. The title may strike some ironic chords for the actor. His father, Charles Harrelson, whom he declines to discuss, is serving a life sentence in an Illinois prison for murdering a federal judge in San Antonio.

"I've had violence and rage in my life," Mr. Harrelson says. "But the last couple of years, I've repressed it. This will be a good way of releasing it, and I'm going to steep myself in research."

By comparison, his new play seems much more genteel. "Further From the Sun" is drawn from the actor's own experiences during a year he spent with two roommates in Houston. One of his roommates was Frank Buster Hymen, a native of Harlem.

"He was very street-smart, and his impact on me was huge. I always wanted to pay homage to him. And doing the play is a way of getting in touch with my shadow."

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