Woody Harrelson freely cops to letting his role as “Rampart’s” corrupt L.A. lawman get under his skin.
“While I was doing it, I felt really paranoid and that I was losing everything,” he says. “And afterward, I heard myself saying things that weren’t me. I was like, ‘Woody, what’s wrong with you? Get your shit together.’?”
It’s not hard to see why “Date Rape” Dave Brown would be hard to shake. A chain-smoking, pill-popping womanizer, he’s a loose cannon whose life slowly disintegrates after he’s caught on camera beating one of the citizens he’s sworn to protect.
Believing everyone’s out to get him, he becomes his own worst enemy. It’s harrowing material, and Harrelson responds by turning in what may be one of the top perfs of his career.
To prepare for the project — which marks his second collaboration with Oren Moverman, who previously directed the actor to a supporting Oscar nom in “The Messenger” — Harrelson immersed himself in all things cop, spending two months doing ride-alongs with the LAPD. The Texas native also worked with a dialect coach to lose his Southern drawl and dropped 30 pounds to underscore his hard-drinking character’s distaste for not only food but also intimacy.
Hoping for tips on slimming down, the actor reached out to Christian Bale, who previously shed major poundage for films like “The Fighter” and “The Machinist.”
“He left me one of the all-time great messages on my machine,” recalls Harrelson. “He basically said, ‘There is no secret. Just avoid food and run like crazy.’ So I did.”
Auds may be shocked by the onscreen transformation. Harrelson was, and not in a good way.
“I hated my performance,” he says. “I just thought I did it all wrong.”
In fact, he wasn’t a fan of the movie when he viewed an unfinished cut last spring. Moverman’s decision to focus on the devastating toll that the dirty cop’s actions take on his family meant leaving several other characters, and at least three dozen scenes, on the cutting-room floor. It was only after watching the finished film months later that Harrelson was able to appreciate the director’s choices.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not only not bad, that’s maybe the best movie I’ve ever done,’” he says with a laugh. It was the best surprise I’d had in a long time.”