In the world of action movies, every character has some kind of crazy backstory, but there are only so many times a character can turn out to be the son of an infamous assassin or a child tragically orphaned by the mob and raised in an inner city dive bar before the movie officially becomes a comedy. Then you find out that those things happened to Woody Harrelson and Dylan McDermott in real life, and you realize actors' lives are sometimes way crazier than any character they played in a movie ...
5 Woody Harrelson's Dad Was a Contract Killer
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Woody Harrelson has enjoyed a long and fruitful career, with such memorable roles as Woody on Cheers and a recent turn as a detective on True Detective. He also frequently plays Jesse Eisenberg's stepfather. Woody is such a likeable, laid-back guy that it's hard to believe his father was a cold-blooded contract killer who murdered people at the behest of criminals.
Scott Griessel/iStock/Getty Images
We had our money on long-haired Deadhead marijuana activist at 3-1 odds.
Charles Harrelson walked out on his wife and three sons in 1968, which was only the third worst thing he did that year. After being acquitted for a murder he probably committed thanks to a bush league prosecutor, Charles was hired to kill another person so the victim's business partner could collect insurance money. Amazingly, he got off again, this time on a mistrial, because Texas' judicial system in the '60s was apparently the equivalent of a first-turn guess in a game of Clue. Let that sink in -- Charles Harrelson killed two people in one year and got away with it both times.
The state got their shit together and tried Charles again five years later, sentencing him to 15 years in jail. Prison straightened Charles out, and he dedicated the rest of his life to his family. This is another way of saying that he got out of prison after serving only five years of his sentence and immediately murdered a judge. The parole board was batting a thousand that year.
"But what about all the people we paroled who didn't commit murder?"
The judge in question had a reputation for tough sentences, and Charles was hired to kill him by a drug dealer who was about to stand trial. Shockingly, their plan to avoid punishment for a major crime by committing a second major crime didn't work out, and everyone involved went to prison. This story was actually referenced in No Country for Old Men, a film that featured Woody Harrelson getting murdered by a character who, according to the brother of one of Charles' victims, is eerily similar to Charles himself. That's like an Escher painting brought to horrible life.
Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage
Although Chigurh's hair is straight up Picasso.
Charles also claimed that he shot JFK during a six-hour standoff with the police while he was high on cocaine. The incident got Woody's attention, and upon learning that his father was a multiple murderer, Woody promptly befriended him and sunk several million dollars into trying to get Charles a retrial. Before his death in 2007, Woody described Charles as "one of the most articulate, well-read, charming people I've ever known," and also said, "I look at him as someone who could be a friend more than someone who was a father." And now we're scared of Woody Harrelson.
And while we're on the subject of Cheers alums ...
4 Everyone Kelsey Grammer Has Ever Loved Has Died Tragically
Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Kelsey Grammer's neurotic radio therapist Frasier Crane (featured in both Cheers and the aptly titled Frasier) taught us that stuffy, rich intellectuals are hilarious. But it's painfully ironic that Grammer found success in comedy, because his biography reads like the most excruciatingly tragic hero's trial we've ever seen.
Danny Smythe/iStock/Getty Images
"It's depressing to read alone! Take this."
Kelsey's father, Frank Allen Grammer, Jr., was shot to death on his front lawn by a deranged cab driver for absolutely no reason. The man had no connection to Frank whatsoever -- he showed up at Frank's house, lit the family car on fire to lure him outside, then shot him to death. Just for the hell of it. Then, when Kelsey was 20 and had just been expelled from Juilliard, his younger sister Karen was waiting for her boyfriend in a Red Lobster parking lot when a gang of thieves showed up to rob the place. When they spotted Karen, they decided they couldn't leave a witness and brutally murdered her to cover their tracks.
You might think this would be the point where we say, "But luckily things began looking up for Kelsey," but you would be wrong. Dead wrong. Just five years later, Grammer's two half-brothers, Stephen and Billy, were killed in a bizarre scuba diving accident wherein one of them was probably eaten by sharks. That's not a glib joke at the expense of Kelsey Grammer's family -- one of his two half-brothers was almost certainly killed by a fucking shark.
Because the universe just couldn't stop shitting on Kelsey Grammer, his good friend and longtime producer David Angell was killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11. And Ben Novack, one of Kelsey's best friends for over 40 years, was murdered by his own wife in a double-homicide inheritance scheme. We kind of want to track Grammer down and give him a great big bear hug.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Or at least give him the "It's not your fault" speech.
Two of his wives were physically abusive and emotionally unstable (nothing against Kelsey, but that's kind of what happens when you marry a stripper immediately after meeting her). When he tried to leave his former exotic dancer wife, she locked herself in a hotel room and attempted suicide. She survived, but the couple's unborn child did not. Kelsey Grammer's life has essentially been one extended Greek tragedy.
CBS Television Distribution
"Cruel fate -- I'm listening."