You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Playback: Woody Harrelson on ‘Solo’ and Having the Skills to Land ‘White Men Can’t Jump’

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

As a sort of mentor to the young Han Solo in “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” Oscar-nominated actor Woody Harrelson gets a pretty sweet place in cinema history. He stars alongside Alden Ehrenreich as Tobias Beckett, a career criminal making his way through the seedy underbelly of the galaxy when the scruffy-looking upstart crosses his path. Along with the rest of the cast and crew, Harrelson weathered a change in the director’s chair four months into filming. He says he was “devastated” by the removal of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose process he enjoyed.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

“Phil and Chris are really good filmmakers, they just have a different style,” Harrelson says. “They love to improvise and try things and mix it up. I love their style of working, but it wasn’t ideal for the ‘Star Wars’ universe. They wanted to do it different than the way the powers that be were used to ‘Star Wars’ being done. I’d love to work with them again some time. I think they’re terrific. But it would have been a much different movie if Ron [Howard] hadn’t come in.”

Regarding Howard, like the rest of the team, Harrelson has nothing but glowing things to say. It takes a certain kind of filmmaker to walk in with a steady hand in the middle of that kind of uncertainty and keep things moving.

“He’s such a gentleman. Such a sweetheart. So savvy,” Harrelson says of the Oscar-winning director. “He’s just a guy who can come in like that after four months of shooting and just go, ‘OK, we’re going to do this, do this, and just pick up the pieces and go on,’ and that’s what he did.”

Harrelson is busy as ever these days, and part of the glut was a stab at the director’s chair himself. He made his debut behind the camera with “Lost in London,” which just happens to be releasing via Hulu and iTunes on the very same day as “Solo.” It’s a single-take escapade in the streets of London, which radically aired live in select theaters as it was filming more than a year ago.

“[It was] a great bunch of actors in London who helped me recreate a night in my life that happened many years ago that was without question one of the worst nights of my life,” Harrelson explains. “But I started thinking a couple years after that there’s merits to the story. It’s a redemption story about true gratitude for the life you have, in a sense. I started thinking that even though it was just a humorless night, it could be funny.”

We also branch out a bit to discuss a few other things, including “White Men Can’t Jump,” which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year and put Harrelson on the cinema map after years in the TV trenches. But if a certain movie star had the skillset, things might have gone a lot differently.

“I remember auditioning for it, because at the time I was on ‘Cheers’ and had been on ‘Cheers’ six years, and I just couldn’t get other work,” Harrelson says. “At the time it was much more of an issue of if you’re on a show, then you’re kind of known for that character and you’re not in movies. Now it’s not quite as restricted. So I remember trying out for it and part of it was we had to show we could play basketball. Well, if Keanu Reeves was a good basketball player, he would have done that part. Because he wanted to do it and he was already a popular actor. My mindset was very positive and confident and just, ‘I’ve got to get this part.’ I just had a feeling. And then of course it did change my life.”

For more, including discussion of last year’s “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the upcoming Roland Emmerich film “Midway” and Harrelson’s further ambitions behind the camera, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Hear more episodes of “Playback” at iHeartRadio.
Subscribe via iTunes.

More Film

  • Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller

    Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller 'Blackwing' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Voltage Pictures will produce and fully finance screenwriter David Loughery’s latest thriller “Blackwing,” Variety has learned exclusively. The company will introduce “Blackwing” to buyers at the upcoming European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival, which opens Feb. 7. Nicolas Chartier and Dominic Rustam are producing, and Jonathan Deckter is executive producing for Voltage Pictures. [...]

  • ‘Metro Exodus’ Opens Up Post-Apocalyptic Russia

    ‘Metro Exodus’ Author On Film, Possible TV Series, Expansive New Game

    Since the launch of the post-apocalyptic survival first-person shooter “Metro 2033” in 2010, the series has kept its action confined to the tunnels running underneath Russia. “Metro Exodus,” due out next month, takes the gameplay to the surface for the first time, going above ground with sprawling levels against a changing backdrop of weather conditions [...]

  • Berlin Film 'The Ground Beneath My

    Berlin Competition Film 'The Ground Beneath My Feet' Sold to Germany's Salzgeber (EXCLUSIVE)

    Salzgeber has acquired the German rights for Berlin Film Festival competition title “The Ground Beneath My Feet” from sales agent Picture Tree International. Variety has been given exclusive access to the film’s trailer. Salzgeber will release the film, directed by Marie Kreutzer, mid-May. Picture Tree describes the movie as a “contemporary female-led drama touching on [...]

  • Donald Glover'Atlanta' TV show premiere, Arrivals,

    Childish Gambino Surprises Beverly Hills Crowd With Reimagined 'Redbone'

    Donald Glover made an unexpected appearance at Film Independent’s “An Evening With…” series tonight (Jan. 15), held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and presented by the HFPA. Joining “Black Panther” composer and Childish Gambino collaborator Ludwig Göransson, who was the subject of a Q&A conducted by “The Treatment” host Elvis [...]


    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at the 14th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot in [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. Reitman has also co-written a [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content