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Why Woody Harrelson is the perfect Planet of the Apes villain


He's one of the greatest character actors in the business, having stunned in movies as diverse as Natural Born Killers and young adult blockbuster phenomenon The Hunger Games. He's even recently signed on to play young Han Solo's mentor in the standalone Star Wars movie starring Alden Ehrenreich.

But we're here to discuss why Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson will be the perfect villain in War for the Planet of the Apes, the third film in the massively successful Apes reboot. He plays the villainous Colonel, latest nemesis of super-intelligent ape Caesar (Andy Serkis). So why is he the right man for the job? Let's find out.

He's simply an awesome actor

Having won an Emmy award for his supporting role in the television show Cheers, and been nominated for a Golden Globe Award on four separate occasions there’s no doubting Harrelson’s talent. His role as Martin Hart in True Detective alongside Matthew McConaughey was particularly impressive, as he portrayed a complex character who committed many disgraceful acts, yet was still able to get the audience to sympathise with him.

While Harrelson is usually a supporting actor, it’s great to see him cast as the main antagonist for War for the Planet of the Apes. He's brought villainous unpredictability to roles in the aforementioned Natural Born Killers and thriller Out of the Furnace opposite Christian Bale, so we can't wait to see how evil the Colonel is.

He looks the part

For some reason, a lack of hair makes a star look instantly tougher. Take the likes of Bruce Willis and Vin Diesel for example, or when Bryan Cranston shaved it all off to become Heisenberg in Breaking Bad. Woody Harrelson is another actor that fits the bald tough guy stereotype. In fact, it looks like he was born to play the action hero, or should we say “action villain” in this case?

Harrelson looks the part for the role of the Colonel. And it’s not just the lack of hair that helps. A muscular torso, a thick jaw and eyes with a glimmer of crazy all combine to warn off any hot-headed punk looking to pick a fight. And to people who say, "Looks don’t matter, it’s what inside that counts", could you really see, for instance, Scott Pilgrim's Michael Cera playing the role instead? Saying that, we wonder what Cera would look like if he were bald…

He's human

This one might sound pretty obvious at first, but hear us out. What we mean to say is that Woody won’t be hiding behind CGI as another hairy ape. That’s no disrespect to the likes of Andy Serkis (Caesar) and Toby Kebbell (Koba), who do fantastic work with motion capture technology, but for War for the Planet of the Apes we want a human antagonist as the war between ape and mankind reaches its climax.

Harrelson knows how to dominate the screen, even without speaking. The range of facial expressions he can pull is key to this, which is perhaps best shown in his role as Haymitch in The Hunger Games. There are few actors with such an intimidating frown, which we’re sure Caesar will see plenty of during the upcoming film.

He can do emotion, too

Why do we want to see a villain who’s a big softy on the inside? It’s not as if we ever saw Darth Vader or Voldemort sobbing their eyes out. However, a villain that can show a range of emotions instantly becomes a more rounded and interesting character. And Woody has demonstrated his emotional side before, even to comic extremes in the likes of the brilliant Zombieland.

Harrelson's character is fighting to save humanity, so he isn’t necessarily evil per se. A small part of us will be wanting him to succeed, as we're human, after all. But with humanity on the brink we still expect him to be morally questionable, as desperate men do desperate things.

Why do you think Woody Harrelson will make the perfect villain? Tweet us your thoughts @Cineworld. War for the Planet of the Apes is released on 14th July 2017.

Ryan Jones is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.