It’s hard to imagine Woody Harrelson as anything but an A-List film actor. But there was a time when he feared he would be pigeonholed as the dumb bar-back Woody Boyd on Cheers.
Harrelson spoke with Interview Magazine in 2009 and opened up about his early days in Hollywood. He also discussed some of his early failures. Most notably was his inability to find work.
“I was on Cheers for eight years, and I couldn’t get another job. And I thought, I’m going to be Woody Boyd forever,” he said. “Which is not bad, but I really thought I was capable of more.”
That changed he said after he was able to land the leading role in White Men Can’t Jump in 1992. Though, Keanu Reeves had a hand in helping him there.
“It was really White Men Can’t Jump,” he said of his big break after Cheers. “I guess I probably would’ve just been Woody Boyd but for the fact that Keanu Reeves didn’t play great basketball. That was the only thing that saved me.”
Following White Men Can’t Jump, Harrelson starred in Indecent Proposal and Natural Born Killers. Two very different but much-hyped films, cementing him as a viable star.
He’s since gone on to star in massive blockbusters and become one of Hollywood’s most famous leading men. He’s been nominated for three Oscars as well. Pretty good for a dumb bar-back.
Woody Harrelson Struggled With Fame on ‘Cheers’
That’s not to say it was easy. Woody Harrelson says rocketing to stardom as he did deeply affected him.
“Before, I’d been gregarious – someone who enjoyed the company of others,” Harrelson told The Guardian in 2018. “But during Cheers, the pressure of people that I didn’t know constantly wanting to talk to me made me recoil and become less outgoing.”
He landed the role in 1985 following the death of Ernie “Coach” Pantusso. The show made Harrelson a celebrity, and the pressure made him a jerk.
“It had quite a negative impact,” he said. “I went through a period of arrogance and having my head up my a**. But, luckily, this life and my family – my wife (Laura Louie) and my daughters (Deni, 24, Zoe, 21, and Makani, 11) they kind of loved me into a better human being.”
Harrelson was born in Texas and raised by his mother after they moved to Ohio. His father, Charles Harrelson, was a convicted murderer who died in a Colorado prison in 2007.