Woody Harrelson to play psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary in new series
Woody Harrelson, who you know best as Haymitch from The Hunger Games and your parents know best as Woody from Cheers, has landed his next big role. Deadline announced the 57-year-old will play psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary in a limited series. Luke Davies (Hulu's Catch-22) will adapt the project, which is based on Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis's book The Most Dangerous Man in America.
As a psychology professor at Harvard in the 1960's, Leary experimented with psychedelic drugs, believing the effects could be therapeutic. These research projects got him canned at Harvard, so he relocated the operation to Zihuatanejo, Mexico. When the Mexican media published reports about the "LSD Paradise," the government gave Leary the boot, prompting he and his team to move to a mansion in Millbrook, New York.
"A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness," Leary and colleagues Richard Alpert and Alpert and Ralph Metzner wrote in the 1964 book The Psychedelic Experience. "The scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of spacetime dimensions, and of the ego or identity."
They continued: "Such experiences of enlarged consciousness can occur in a variety of ways: sensory deprivation, yoga exercises, disciplined meditation... [and] through the ingestion of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, etc. Of course, the drug does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key -it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structure."
Leary's passionate advocacy for psychedelics made him a countercultural icon in the swinging 60's. The "performing philosopher" popularized fab, groovy catchphrases like "turn on, tune in, drop out" and "think for yourself and question authority." However, Leary's trippy exploits also got him trouble with the feds, as in 1970 he got sentenced to sentenced to ten years in prison for marijuana possession.
With the help of The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and the Weather Underground, Leary broke out of prison and managed to dodge the FBI for nearly two and a half years. He fled to Algeria to hide out with the Black Panthers, then flew to Switzerland, where he was sheltered/imprisoned by arms dealer Michel Hauchard. Eventually Leary made his way to Afghanistan, where officials finally arrested him in 1972.
During this madcap narrative, President Richard Nixon dubbed Leary "the most dangerous man in America." Hence the title of the 2018 book, and the upcoming limited series. There's no network attached to The Most Dangerous Man in America as of this writing, but it's only a matter considering the fascinating story and absolutely perfect casting. Sounds far out, man!