Scoring his breakthrough role as Woody Boyd in the 1980s hit sitcom Cheers, Woody Harrelson was the ultimate wildcard of a celebrity when he started, with run-ins with the law to scandalous tabloid presence.
His wild ways could have been a result of his troubled childhood.
When Woody was seven years old, his father Charles left their family, leaving behind Woody, his mother Diane, and his two brothers Brett and Jordan. But Charles wasn’t your typical father, either.
Charles was a contracted killer or, quite literally, a hired assassin. When Woody was 18, his father was arrested for the assassination of US District Judge John Wood Jr. of San Antonio, Texas, and served two life sentences before his death in 2007, per EW.
Woody also remembers his father as a gambler and con man.
“He was quite a charming fellow and a gambler. He made a lot of money gambling. He cheated, but he was more of a con artist,” the Zombieland actor said while talking with The Hollywood Reporter in 2017.
He shared a story of when his father would bring people onto his boat for a fishing trip where he’d play card games and rob his guests blind.
“And then he’d say, ‘Want to play a couple hands?’ And before you know it, the guy’s completely fleeced,” he shared.
With his father gone in his early childhood, Woody became a recklessly trouble-making kid, getting kicked out of pre-school and even stealing his teacher’s purse when he was just six years old.
“I think I was also just too soft. I was so sensitive, so vulnerable,” he told GQ in 2012 regarding his mindset as a fatherless child.
Although they couldn’t keep him totally under control, Woody was raised by a group of strong women consisting of his mother, his grandmother, and his great grandmother. He made a particularly deep connection with his great grandmother Polly, calling her “a real pistol” and shared that she “could tell a story and everything about her was great.”
Unfortunately, one of his biggest regrets was not seeing her for the last time before she passed away.
“I regret the last chance I had to see my great grandmother when my mom said, ‘Now you be sure to stop by there on your way to the airport,’ and I was running late and I’m like, ‘I’ll see her next time,’ and I didn’t get a chance to,” he said. “I wish I’d written down her stories because there were some great stories and she knew all this stuff about her mom and her mom’s mom and now that’s all gone.”
Thankfully, Woody has plenty of women in his life that he cares so deeply for.
In 1987, he met his future wife Laura Louie who was hired to be his personal assistant on Cheers. He wouldn’t confess his love for her for another three years when he wrote a song about her that he couldn’t keep hidden any longer.
“I remember I was 28, and there’s a line in it: ‘I’m only 28, but I’m bored with everything I do. / I’ve got nothing when I’m not next to you. … Are you thinking about me, baby? / ‘Cause I’m thinking about you,’” he remembered. “It was pretty direct.”
But falling in love with his assistant, let alone the idea marriage, was not something Woody had intended on doing.
“[Laura] was so great that every other person in Cheers got an assistant after that,” said of meeting his wife. “She became my assistant the day after I met her and for the next three years. It was one of those things I wouldn’t admit to myself: I didn’t want to be attracted to my amazing assistant.”
“I never believed in the concept of [marriage]. I just never believed that it made any sense, this long-term monogamy thing that humans do,” he added. “I just was incapable of long-term relationships. I was with whoever would have me. Then I met my wife.”
They went on to welcome all three of his daughters, Deni, Zoe, and Makani, before finally tying the knot in 2008. Makani, being ten years younger than their second born, was announced to be their last child they’d have, telling Today, “In this crazy patriarchal world we live in, we are doing our part to balance the energy. We are proud to announce the completion of our goddess trilogy with the birth of our third daughter, Makani Ravello.”
It seems like the “goddess trilogy” was a recurring theme in Woody’s life that truly helped him get through tough times and would help lead him to be the widely loved actor he is today.