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Woody Harrelson Has Quit Pot and Is Learning How to Be Quiet On Camera

By Abraham Riesman

At first, Woody Harrelson appears to fit the primary stereotype about him: He seems like he’s stoned. While chatting with Vulture at Manhattan’s Whitby Hotel over the weekend, he declined to sit in the interview chair selected by his publicist, opting instead to lie on his king-sized bed, stretching his legs by grabbing his shoeless feet. Harrelson spoke in between long pauses, stretching his words like taffy and squinting his eyes to ponder each point he made. His Texas drawl floated in the air like smoke from a joint. But no, that’s just how he is. Woody’s not stoned. Indeed, he hasn’t been for nearly a year.

Harrelson was in town to promote his latest film, Craig Johnson’s comic adaptation, Wilson, in which he plays the title character — a socially awkward malcontent who insists on discussing the universe with total strangers and convincing his ex-wife to join him in pursuing their long-lost daughter. At the movie’s press day, he spoke to Vulture about his own social awkwardness, the status of his LBJ biopic, and why he’s decided to quit pot for the time being.

Why take this role? Why did this movie appeal to you?
Well, I’m really more or less in the habit of … Having had some experiences where I was just like, That was stupid that I did that movie, I learned one thing — the most important thing is the director. The second most important thing? The director. [Laughs.] The third most important thing? The director. My god, if you don’t have a great director … And I’ve watched [Craig Johnson’s previous film] Skeleton Twins and I was really impressed by that.

What parts of you are in Wilson, and vice versa?
Well, I consider myself very gregarious. I do love people. I get touched by people. Even people I just meet really briefly. I just kind of size ’em up and be like … I get a sense of who they are, and their life, and something about it touches me. But I think part of that is in Wilson, and I do think also, sometimes I’m a little socially awkward, you know?

So you must hate press days like this one.
Yeah, that’s a good example. I do sometimes get quite awkward in press situations. For example: talk shows. I do tend to try to avoid ’em. I mean you have to do ’em, sometimes you just have to. I’m doing it tomorrow.

What’s a misconception that people have about you?
[Another long pause.] They think I’m a party animal, which … I am a party animal. I mean, that might be one thing. But I am a party animal. But on the other hand, I haven’t … I’m now extremely moderate and … I actually stopped smoking pot almost a year ago.

Mazel tov. That’s not easy. I’m also in the process of trying to quit.
Oh, really?

Yeah, I had a problem with it.
Why? Just too much?

It messes with my head and makes me less productive.
Yeah, that was a little bit of my issue. Just 30 solid years of just partying too fucking hard.

What do you do to keep from relapsing?
Well, like, last night, someone had — not just good herb but sativa; really good sativa. There’s a joint, and beautifully rolled. I like a beautifully rolled … and I just was like, I mean, I’ve gone this long. It would be weird to just be like, “Okay, let me have a hit off that,” and then suddenly go back to smoking too much, which is … I don’t have a problem at all with smoking. I think it’s great. I think it’s a great drug, in terms of … Even cops say that the side effect is euphoria. Or the … what do you call it?

The effect?
Right. The effect of it is euphoria. But when you’re doing it all the time, it just becomes … Well, you know. I feel like it was keeping me from being emotionally available. I really don’t want this interview to turn into a whole thing about that.

Well, congratulations. It’s not easy.
I still drink. But I try to be moderate with the drinking, too.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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