Memory lane: Woody Harrelson carries a giant torch for Toronto. Here’s the photo album to prove it

Memory lane: Woody Harrelson carries a giant torch for Toronto. Here’s the photo album to prove it

Woody Harrelson at FreshWoody Harrelson likes us. He really, really likes us. The American actor and enviro poster boy has been in Toronto since February, rehearsing his loosely autobiographical comedy, Bullet for Adolf. The play is set in the summer of 1983—during which Harrelson worked construction in Houston alongside his pal (and co-writer) Frankie Hyman—and covers everything from race relations to dissolving friendships. This new show is the latest chapter in the Woody-hearts-Hogtown saga that began more than 20 years ago when the actor, newly famous for playing a lovably dim bartender on Cheers, hung out with Ted Danson on the Toronto set of Three Men and a Baby. Since then, he has returned regularly for film and theatre projects, awards ceremonies and the mother of all yoga sessions. We met with him over milk thistle smoothies at his top nosh spot, Live, to reminisce about his best Toronto moments.

Breaking a killer fast, August 2003
“I had started a juice fast before I got to town. The cast and producers of This Is Our Youth—a play I was directing here—threw me a welcome party at Fresh. I thought I was just going to sit there, but I hadn’t eaten in 30-odd days. The smell was too much; I was onto those sweet potato fries before I knew it. God, those things are good. I’m kind of an extremist, so I’ll do the fast and then I’ll gorge. Same old bullshit.”

Woody Harrelson at a yoga gatheringOhm-ing en masse, September 2003
“What an incredible experience. At the time this was one of the largest yoga gatherings ever. There were 1,500 people at King’s College Circle. I thought about getting the Guinness World Records thing going, but I never did due to sheer laziness, which has been a real driving force in my life.”

Woody Harrelson at TIFF in 2003Stretching it out, September 2003
“Ha! A little bit showy, a little bit showy. This was during TIFF. I was in Toronto for the premiere of Go Further, a documentary I made with the filmmaker Ron Mann about promoting eco-consciousness on college campuses. My friends and I travelled the west coast of the United States by bike and on a hemp-fuelled bus, and Ron filmed us. It’s a funny movie and not at all preachy.”

Woody Harrelson at TIFF in 2007Ripping it up at TIFF, September 2007
“This is at the Ryerson Theatre with Andre 3000 from Outkast (at left) and my buddy Stuart Townsend. That year we were at TIFF for Battle in Seattle. I love the quality of the audiences in Toronto—they’re really savvy and appreciative. And as far as the parties are concerned, I know from the dearth of memories that they were great times.”

Woody Harrelson with Jane GoodallRubbing elbows with a green giant, November 2008
“This was taken at an evening to honour Jane Goodall, hosted by the co-founders of Roots, Michael Budman and Don Green. We didn’t talk about anything too deep, just chit-chat. We have similar passions, but I’d say she’s a little more of a doer. I’m a little more of a talker. She’s a first-rate doer, I’m a second-rate talker.”

Woody Harrelson in DefendorPlaying the (super)hero, January 2009
“Peter Stebbings, who’s a great Canadian actor, wrote and directed Defendor. It’s about a guy with fetal alcohol syndrome who believes he’s a superhero. I thought it was such a terrific and unusual script. And I was psyched to come back and shoot it in Hamilton. Unfortunately not a lot of people saw the movie.”

Woody Harrelson receiving his honourary doctorate at York UniversityBecoming a doctor, October 2009
“York University gave me an honourary doctorate for my environmental work. I was nominated by the professors. Really, what can you say? It’s such a great honour. I had to give a speech. I think I spoke too long. I wish I could go back and do it again. Public speaking makes me really nervous.”

Woody Harrelson working with Bullet for Adolf cast membersDirecting my life, March 2011
“I am so happy with the cast members of my new play, Bullet for Adolf—they’re phenomenal. So if the show sucks, it’s on me and my co-writer Frankie Hyman. My friendship with Frankie has been a funny one: he left Houston, where the play takes place, in 1983 and didn’t give me a forwarding address. It took me 10 years to track him down. I even hired a private detective, but no luck. Then I was on Jay Leno one night and said that if any of the viewers knew Frankie Hyman, they should tell him to please get in touch. Turns out his brother was watching.”

Bullet for Adolf
April 19 to May 7, Hart House Theatre

(Images: Yoga by George Pimentel/Wireimage; TIFF 2003 by Carlo Allegri/Getty; TIFF 2007 by Evan Agostini/Getty; Jane Goodall courtesy of Central Image Agency; Defendor courtesy of Darius Films; Bullet for Adolf by Ian Willms