At the end of 2019, Woody Harrelson granted us an interview for the release of Return to Zombieland, a barjo sequel where he took over the role of Tallahassee, a redneck with a big heart facing the zombie apocalypse. The film is rebroadcast this evening on Canal +.
When I was told you were in Hawaii right now, I imagined you on vacation. But do you actually live there?
Absolutely. My daughter was born at the end of Cheers [série comique dans laquelle il a joué durant huit ans] in 1993. And since I especially didn’t want her to grow up in Los Angeles, I looked for places where we could live. We spent a few years in Costa Rica, and we finally landed here in Hawaii. Either way, I don’t wanna live in LA
Hawaii certainly fits more with the image we have of you …
(Laughs.) Los Angeles is a great city to visit and I have lots of friends there, but to raise kids? People have an attitude there … The discussions always revolve around success: what have you been playing in lately? Did it work out well? I don’t want my kids to adopt this mentality. All that interests me little. I measure success by happiness, not by money or fame.
Director Ruben Fleischer aptly says you had a great time on the set of the first Zombieland. Is…
(It cuts us off.) One of the best experiences of my life! Everyone got along wonderfully, an idyllic shoot. This is also where I became friends with Jesse Eisenberg. We have kept very strong ties, we have four films together! But to be honest, it took me a long time to take a look at the script. My agent kept asking, “Is it okay?” You read it ? “The script was at the bottom of a pile … I was like,” Zombies? Really ? Have I fallen so low? (Laughs.) And when I finally read it, I immediately felt there was something. But it was impossible to know how well the film would be received.
Today the zombies are on all screens, until the overdose. Not too strange to dive back into this universe ten years later?
Not at all, because we play a lot of it in the movie and our tone is quite different. It was a great reunion, without pressure. In these cases, you don’t really feel like you’re working.
You shoot a lot, with three or four films a year. Is it a need or are you twisting your nature?
Hmm … very good question. Why am I doing this to myself? (Laughs.) It goes completely against my personality to work so much. Deep down, I’m a real slacker. However, a lot of films have come across in a few years and I felt the urge to make them. Today, I am much more scrupulous when I choose a project. In 2018 and 2019, I was on vacation all summer. It was grandiose.
But what stopped you from turning down films?
In the early 2000s, I was having a hard time finding a job. I compensated later by working a lot. It was a way to get to the point where I could afford to just enjoy life.
Why were you offered fewer roles at the time?
I’ve been in four or five movies in a row that went wrong, basically Larry flynt at Live on Ed TV. Hollywood stop hiring you if your movies don’t work. (Laughs.) No more complicated than that. Well, we could focus on the negative, but I don’t really want to talk about that …
Return to Zombieland: according to Jesse Eisenberg, the film could have been released sooner without Deadpool
Let’s change the subject then: in 2017, you started directing with Lost in london. A barjo comedy, shot and broadcast live in theaters. Funny idea for a first film, isn’t it?
It was indeed a crazy project. (Laughs.) The story is based on something that really happened to me. [En 2002, lors d’une nuit alcoolisée à Londres, il a tenté de fuir après avoir cassé un cendrier dans un taxi. S’est ensuivi une improbable course poursuite qui a fini par le mener à passer la nuit en prison.] I was ashamed of it and for a long time I put it under the rug. And then I started to think to myself that it was a good base for comedy … I wrote the script wondering if I could not shoot this in a single sequence shot, like Victoria by Sebastian Schipper, who blew me away. So why not broadcast it live in cinemas as well? I was told yes, and it was on. It took two months of non-stop rehearsals and we encountered all possible technical problems. The live even skipped twice the night just before the shoot … It’s amazing that it worked!
Was it an arty experience or a real movie?
Both, right? I am very happy with the result and it works well when you watch it with friends. I saw it with an audience and people were laughing a lot. But I should have played it slightly differently, the movie relies a lot on me and I always sound a little too serious.
Precisely, you have rarely been a headliner throughout your career. Is it a deliberate choice because you prefer supporting roles?
Indeed, I love it. I like the idea of being part of a group of actors, of a troupe. I don’t need to be the lead, to be the hero. It never really tickled me. I have no desire to shine. I just want an interesting character to play and be one of the cogs that will tell a good story. No more.
But does this job still give you so much pleasure?
Yes, and I take it very seriously. Well, there are roles in which I should have invested myself more … Don’t look, I won’t say which ones. But the other day I saw Once upon a time … in Hollywood and it stunned me: I realized how Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, with the careers they have, continue to believe in it, to love this profession and to deliver great performances. It is admirable.
Did you like the film?
I found it phenomenal! The storytelling is amazing. What the character of DiCaprio goes through, the anguish of not being on top anymore … It speaks to me. I was touched by the way it all affects him psychologically, the fact that he blames himself personally … And I admire Tarantino’s imagination. He doesn’t care if he changes the narrator halfway through the movie or changes the story. He has his vision and he goes for it. I love it.
And yet, even though he co-wrote the screenplay for Born killers, you’ve never toured with him. Which seems crazy to me, because you would be a perfect Tarantine character.
I would love to work with him. Next time you talk to her, pass the message on to her! Quentin, I am available! (Laughs.)
Return to Zombieland: A Successful Sequel [Critique]