Hollywood's angry young man

Interview - Benjamin Davis discusses George W Bush and other demons with the star of <em>The Night o

Woody Harrelson has requested an open window in our conference room on a cold November evening. He is still sweating after a final rehearsal for The Night of the Iguana. Harrelson plays Reverend Shannon, a minister marooned in Mexico who has been locked out of his church for "fornication and heresy . . . in the same week". He is a man on the run from his demons.

"I think it's about a man's search for his soul," says Harrelson. "His sexuality is a mess, his concept of God is at odds with the Church . . . this is a real glimpse into the soul and the psyche of Tennessee Williams." Harrelson paraphrases a line from Williams: "I'm afraid to exorcise my demons 'cos I think I might lose my angels." He claims their run-through that evening felt like an "exorcism".

On first impression, the star seems like another Hollywood space cadet: he launched an oxygen bar in Los Angeles where customers pay to breathe oxygenated air; was arrested in 1996 for planting "industrial" hemp seeds in rural Kentucky; and names John Lennon, Anita Roddick and John Pilger as role models.

But Harrelson emphasises that his work should do the talking. He has worked with many of Hollywood's top directors, but has chosen to distance himself from the LA scene. Like his Night of the Iguana alter ego, he considers himself an exile who has found peace only in the rainforests. The Harrelsons used to live in Costa Rica, but they now live on an organic farm in Hawaii. "I always gravitate to the tropics, like Shannon."

I tell Harrelson that I campaigned for Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate blamed for siphoning off Democratic votes and allowing the Republicans to steal the election in 2000. Harrelson also voted Nader, despite being harangued by his fellow angry young movie star Sean Penn. "Gore wasn't making the environment an issue. He was being an automaton. And I thought that was his biggest downfall." He pauses for a moment. "Well, that and the fact that they rigged it."

Unsurprisingly, his fellow Texan George W Bush still riles Harrelson more than anything. "If Bush ever got out of his air-conditioned limousine he might say, 'My God, it is kinda unseasonably warm.'" He might also notice that "the epidemic of all the human rights violations all stems from the same sick source, and that is The Beast: these giant frigging industries that control the body politic, our society and certainly our economy. And if he did notice that, then maybe he would act from his heart and be a little more kind."

On our way out, Woody demonstrates a Southern appreciation for the "kindness of strangers" by writing a thank-you note for the hotel employee who opened the window.