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Woody Harrelson’s new play is about an old friend
Harrelson now says he just blurt it out. “Once I got to be famous, I guess it was only a matter of time that it dawned on me, `Well, hey, I could just go on a talk show and ask for him,’” says Harrelson with a laugh.
Within 24 hours, the two men were in touch again. Harrelson put his friend on a plane and flew him to the West Coast to help him get sober. “That was the beginning of him actually getting his hands on me and pulling me out of a very dark place,” says Hyman.
Soon they began co-writing a play _ naturally, about that summer in 1983. Hyman, who had kicked drugs because of his old friend, now had another reason to thank him.
“I’ve always been a storyteller and I’ve always been able to write. But to think for a minute that I could become a professional writer? No way,” Hyman says during a joint interview in Harrelson’s Upper West Side apartment, a space sweltering due to Harrelson’s dislike of air conditioners. “And not only that: I’ve also developed the confidence and now the passion. He put me on that track.”
`RIDE THE EDGE’
The result of their collaboration _ “Bullet for Adolf” _ had its world premiere this spring at the Hart House Theatre in Toronto and opens off-Broadway next month at New World Stages. Harrelson also directs.
The eight-character comedy is, as the creators like to say, 7 percent true and 93 percent fiction. A key decision was to plop a real story Harrelson heard about a gun once used in an attempt to kill Adolf Hitler into the tale of unlikely friends bonding in Houston in 1983.
“I kept wondering how that story factored into this play. I kept thinking, `There’s got to be a way.’ Sure enough, it gave us our plot. Because prior to that we kind of lacked a plot. We just had an amalgam of scenes,” says Harrelson.
They’ve written a racy, edgy script. The N-word is tossed around a lot, gross stuff is eaten, pedophilia is joked about and there’s even a reference to the ovens used in the Holocaust.
“We didn’t want to pull any punches writing this thing,” says Harrelson. “I think it’s good to be able to talk about some of these topics and hopefully laugh. That is the first avenue in toward a real discussion.”
Some lines are purely provocative _ “Poverty and justification goes together like cream and coffee,” someone says _ while other exchanges are just silly, as when one character says, “I like a woman who can beat me up” and another replies: “Then why don’t you like my mother?”
“That’s the way we talk to each other all the time. We try to ride the edge wouldn’t you say, Frankie?” Harrelson asks his friend.
“We do. We do,” Hyman responds, smiling.
Whatever theater critics think _ and the play was roasted in Canada before changes were made _ “Bullet for Adolf” is about the origin of something real: a deep friendship.
The writers even make a gentle nod to it when they made the character named Frankie say to the character based on Harrelson: “I don’t think either of us knows the give and take of friendship.”
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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