Pubdate: Sun, 11 Jun 2000
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000 The Toronto Star
Contact:  One Yonge St., Toronto ON, M5E 1E6
Fax: (416) 869-4322
Author: Betsy Powell, Entertainment Reporter


Film star Woody Harrelson, a longtime Hollywood proponent of the
legalization of marijuana, says a new Canadian-made film opening this
week inspired him to continue his pro-pot crusade.

He agreed to narrate Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann's acclaimed
documentary, Grass, after seeing rough cuts on a video sent to him by
his brother Brett.

"I felt like I was too immersed in the whole issue and really needed
to just back away from it for a while. But when I saw it I loved it,"
said the actor.

"People know how I feel . . . someone else needs to take up this thing
and yet now I feel like, well I can't just do something halfway. I
might as well go for it 'cause it's important."

Harrelson, 38, has a tough time keeping his opinions to himself. A
dedicated environmentalist, he participates in protests and gets
arrested for doing so. In 1991, he opposed the Gulf War and let people
know it. He doesn't think being an advocate has cost him any roles,
but admits "I don't think it's necessarily a positive thing for one's

His on-screen credits also include some controversial films, such as
Indecent Proposal, Natural Born Killers and The People Vs. Larry
Flynt, a role that earned him an Oscar nomination in 1997.

"Probably some people wouldn't offer me a job because of it, but those
aren't the people I want to work with anyway," said Harrelson, who is
probably best known for six seasons of tending bar as Woody Boyd on
the much-loved TV series Cheers.

Pot smoking is as pervasive in Hollywood as it is throughout North
America, he said.

"It's very widespread. Statistics are 20 million smoke it in this
country. I don't know about Canada, though my experience is that it's
just as prolific there."

Yet celebrities are reluctant to take a stand because they don't want
to get mixed up in controversy, Harrelson said in a telephone
interview from Hawaii. "I think that they're afraid of the
repercussions, though I do think some would be willing to come out
about it," he says.

But Harrelson, who is taking a hiatus to spend time with his two
children, says the cause is too important for him not to push for change.

"I've had too many friends go to jail, and I'm really upset about it,"
he says. "It's just wrong. These are non-violent people. Good people."

Harrelson says Grass builds a persuasive case, in an entertaining way,
that the U.S. government's $100 billion (U.S.) war against illegal
drugs - "That doesn't exist, actually; it's a war on non-corporate
drugs" - has been a bust. And he blames the pharmaceutical and beer
industries for fighting to keep marijuana illegal.

He laughed when told of the film's near ban in Ontario. On Monday, the
Ontario Film Review Board reversed a decision to keep Grass out of
theatres unless a 20-second snippet showing laboratory monkeys smoking
pot was cut. "It's nice to know censorship is alive and well," he said.

Grass, which debuted at the Toronto Film Festival last September,
opens Friday at the Bloor Cinema for a one-week run after last night's
midnight showing at the Paramount.

Harrelson plans to promote it with Mann and will accompany the
filmmaker to Czechoslovakia.

Harrelson hopes Grass will reach a broad audience, rather than
preaching to the converted. Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., for
instance, would be an ideal target audience, though he's not
optimistic they'll flock to theatres to see it. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Don Beck