After replacing the dearly departed character of Coach on Cheers in the '90s, Woody Harrelson proved he could do it all—comedy, drama (Natural Born Killers, The People vs. Larry Flynt)-- although Kingpin may be his masterpiece. More recently he was nominated for an Oscar for his role in The Messenger and played a corrupt cop in Rampart. And then there was that little movie The Hunger Games….
In Seven Psychopaths (opening wide Oct. 12), directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), Harrelson plays Charlie, a killer with a soft spot for his dog Bonnie. When some bumbling dognappers (Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken) take Bonnie, Charlie comes after them, and a struggling screenwriter (Colin Farrell) uses it as inspiration.
We got to chat with Harrelson when Seven Psychopaths premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he was excited to discuss that film as well as what's next with the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire.
Fandango: What did you think of Charlie when you read the Seven Psychopaths script?
Harrelson: Oh, I liked the character. I thought there were some juicy scenes in there.
Fandango: Did you think about Mickey Knox when you played another psychopathic killer?
Harrelson: [Laughs] Not really. Maybe I should have just to make sure there wasn’t too much overlap but I guess I just thought of Charlie Costanza as a whole different type of person. He’s not killing for the joy of it. That would be a different type of psychopath. He dispatches people as necessary, you know.
Fandango: Have you ever experienced a midnight audience like you had here in Toronto?
Harrelson: Oh my god, it was fantastic. It was a great response. I think making people laugh, there’s nothing better.
Fandango: So a dark laugh is as good as a lighthearted laugh?
Harrelson: Yeah, that’s what I love about Martin. A lot of jokes really challenge the audience to laugh because you could just as easily gasp. Martin has this ability to have just the right amount of darkness and light.
Fandango: There were some Haymitch fans waiting for you. Did you expect to see Hunger Games fans here?
Harrelson: Oh, I didn’t see them.
Fandango: They were calling, “Haymitch!” when you arrived.
Harrelson: Oh really? Oh man, I think there were just so many people out there I didn’t hear.
Fandango: What are you looking forward to about shooting Catching Fire with Francis Lawrence?
Harrelson: Well, I ran into Jen[nifer Lawrence] last night. There’s such cool people that are working on this and that worked on the last one. It’s a wild thing to switch your conductor but I think that he’ll be great. He’s really hyper prepared and he’s a fantastic director. Having hung with him a couple times I like his temperament. I hear he’s very mellow on set. You never know if you’re going to get a screamer but he’s not that. I think it’ll be really good.
Fandango: Is Haymitch Abernathy the best name for a character you’ve ever played?
Harrelson: Maybe so. I love it.
Fandango: What do think about making the third book as two movies?
Harrelson: Well, I think it could work. It really depends on how the scripts come in. I hate to comment on it before I know what it’s going to be. Obviously it’s possible that you can do it but how it’s going to turn out, I don’t know. I’m hopeful.