Woody Harrelson: Natural-born paper salesman

  @FortuneMagazine August 29, 2013: 7:19 AM ET
WOO16 woody harrelson
(Fortune)

Woody Harrelson is hugging a tree . Not just any tree, but a massive, century-old kiawe on Honolulu's glistening Waikiki Beach. This particular species, a member of the deciduous mesquite family, was brought to Hawaii by a Catholic priest in 1827. Its eradication in Peru more than 1,000 years ago is believed to have led to ecological collapse and, ultimately, the demise of an ancient civilization.

Harrelson -- whose movie roles tend to be edgy outsiders, but who in person seems more like the lovable goof he played on Cheers -- is here to discuss his decades-long crusade to save the world's forests. In bare feet, jeans, and a T-shirt, he alternately disses corporate America for its environmental record and dishes about one of his upcoming movies, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a sci-fi flick about a dystopian society (he plays an inebriated has-been gladiator). But Harrelson, 52, isn't just a rich and famous actor with a cause du jour. He has spent the past 25 years trying to put a stop to deforestation, lobbying the government to restrict logging and participating in awareness-raising stunts that have resulted in brushes with the law. Now he's pouring his star power -- and significant chunks of his own money -- into a small company with an ambitious goal: to build a $600 million mill capable of mass-producing environmentally friendly paper made from agricultural waste. "It's a paper revolution," says Harrelson. "And although things are going great, it's going to take time."

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