Woody Harrelson: Lost in Ames?

“Lost in London” was the first film to be filmed live while being streamed to an audience.

Alison Soelberg

Woody Harrelson, known recently for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” will be screening his directorial debut “Lost in London” at ISU AfterDark

Many millennial students recognize Woody Harrelson from movies like “Zombieland,” “The Hunger Games,” “Now You See Me” or the show “True Detective.” Harrelson, who seems to star in just about all of our favorite movies, is visiting Iowa State University’s ISU AfterDark Friday night to introduce us to another one.

The Academy Award nominated and Emmy winning actor will be debuting his movie “Lost in London” for the second time since it was streamed live to 500 theaters in the United States on Jan. 19, 2017. Following the movie, Harrelson will take the stage of the Memorial Union for a question and answer session with director of student assistance, Kipp Van Dyke.

The film “Lost in London” is inspired by a night in 2002 that actually happened to Harrelson. 

“It was an awful night I wanted to forget forever, but it wouldn’t leave my mind,” Harrelson said. “As tragic as it was in terms of the threat to my relationship with my wife, time spent in the slammer, and various things like that, I thought it could be a good comedy.”

With that in mind, Harrelson set off to write, direct and produce “Lost in London.” The film was streamed live to the United States from London and was filmed in one take with a single camera. When asked what gave him the idea for such a unique filming technique, Harrelson began to explain his love for theatre.

“It’s almost like capturing a play,” Harrelson said.

At first, when the idea came to him he thought he could conceivably do it in real time with one take, but without streaming. Harrelson ended up wondering if the technology existed to film while streaming the entire movie live, and the answer was yes.

There are a few people in the film that students might recognize, including Owen Wilson and Willie Nelson. Harrelson referred to Wilson as ‘O’ and one of his “best buddies” and explained that besides helping with the script and being a phenomenal actor, there is a scene in the film that explains exactly why Wilson was cast. As for casting Willie Nelson, well, that came with a story.

“Once [Wilson] agreed to do it, I called him to talk about the script,” Harrelson said. “He was hanging out with Willie in Maui playing dominoes when [Wilson] told me Willie wanted to say ‘Hi.’ So, Willie gets on the phone and says, ‘Why aren’t you having me in your movie?’ and I ended up writing him into the script.” 

With the main cast decided, the 25 supporting cast members, 500 extras and 14 locations in London all set to be filmed, Harrelson explained some of the filming logistics.

Harrelson believed that the film would need to be shot with multiple cameras since the movie has some action scenes, including a police chase. “Well, let’s say I ran and they pursued me,” Harrelson said.

“It was quite complicated,” Harrelson said. “Logistically it seemed like it would not work technically.”

Over the course of a few weeks, Harrelson and the director of photography went back and forth on whether or not it would be feasible to film the live movie with one camera or multiple. After three rounds of deliberation, Harrelson was finally convinced that they could do it with only one camera, so they did. 

And with that, “Lost in London” was created and filmed live to be streamed to the United States and now to be shown in Iowa State’s very own Memorial Union.

The Student Union Board and ISU AfterDark have been planning this event for a long time.

“Woody was first mentioned at the end of last semester. We send out an offer to the entertainers and their agents, and then they can either accept or deny,” said Summer Bontrager, junior in public relations and vice president of administration for the Student Union Board. “We want to bring people that varied students can connect with and are excited to see.”

Luckily for us, Harrelson and his team accepted the offer, but they are not only visiting Ames. Harrelson will be going on a five-day trip to five different colleges starting Thursday, Jan. 25 at the University of Iowa and continuing to Iowa State University on Jan. 26. After Iowa State, he will continue to Rhode Island, Florida and Pennsylvania.

“I showed [the film] in England at a couple of colleges and the colleges were the best to respond to it,” Harrelson said. “They just seem to get the humor more than anybody.”

Harrelson is hoping to get the movie out into the United States by getting good reactions from college students so that he can eventually release it for streaming.

As for the question and answer portion, Bontrager explains that the discussion will focus on Harrelson and the film. 

“Since this movie is so ground-breaking and original, a lot of the discussion is sure to cover the movie and the creation of it,” Bontrager said. “We are toying with an idea on how to get the audience involved either by social media or an app interaction.”

The ISU AfterDark event begins at 9 p.m. Friday night  in the Great Hall with the “Lost in London” film and continues with a discussion with Woody Harrelson at 11 p.m. The event is free to ISU students and their guests.