Woody Harrelson grew up in Texas and Ohio with his brothers Jordan and Brett
Academy Award-nominated actor Woody Harrelson has two lookalike siblings: older brother Jordan and younger brother Brett.
The three Harrelson brothers were born to mom Diane Harrelson and dad Charles Harrelson, in Midland, Texas. They faced adversity early on: Charles abandoned the family around 1968 and later served time in prison for a murder-for-hire killing. In 1981, he was sentenced to two life terms in prison for the 1979 assassination of U.S. District Judge John H. Wood Jr.
Despite the challenging times he and his brothers faced, The Hunger Games star has looked back on his childhood fondly.
“I used to have Bible studies at my house,” the Suncoast actor told Men’s Journal in 2013. “I was in the choir. I was mischievous, but also a real mama’s boy. It was a pretty happy childhood.”
Now adults, the brothers have pursued various careers and both Brett and Jordan have even shared the screen with Woody in a few Hollywood projects.
Here’s everything to know about Woody Harrelson’s two brothers.
They were born in Texas and moved to Ohio in the late '60s
The Harrelson brothers were born within three years of each other in Midland. After Charles left the family when Woody was around 7 years old, Diane moved her sons to her hometown of Lebanon, Ohio.
Diane was a legal secretary and raised her three sons in a strict Presbyterian household, per Esquire. With their father gone, she shouldered much of the load in raising the boys with some help from their grandmother and great-grandmother.
“It’s kind of tough when you’re a kid and you don’t have a dad ... My mom was playing both roles,” Jordan said on an episode of the podcast Son of a Hitman. “She was mom and dad ... My mom ... she [was] raising three boys on her own.”
Jordan is the only brother who still lives in Midland
While the three Harrelson brothers were born in Midland, Jordan is the only sibling living there today. Woody and his family reside in Maui, but in October 2023, the actor announced they are moving to Austin, while Brett lives in Venice, California.
In 1997, PEOPLE revealed Jordan was working as an insurance broker in Charlotte during an interview with Woody and Brett, but it seems he made his way back home. In 2020, investigative reporter and host of the Son of a Hitman podcast Jason Cavanagh visited Jordan and his family at their home in Midland and described the eldest Harrelson brother as "pretty down to earth and well-adjusted.”
Woody, Brett and Jordan have differing opinions of their father’s convictions
In 1981, Charles was convicted of murdering a federal judge two years prior and received two consecutive life sentences. He died in prison in 2007, but the boys, who got back in touch with their father during his second sentence by visiting and speaking with him in prison, all feel differently about his conviction.
Brett and Jordan discussed their father on the Son of a Hitman podcast, which Brett co-produced.
“I feel that I would love to expose just the magnitude of how corrupt this trial was and how my father didn’t receive a fair trial,” Brett said. “The guy’s no saint but what he went to prison for life for, you know, I don’t know if he did that or not. I have a lot of mixed feelings and unanswered questions.”
“Do I believe he did it? Do I believe he could have done it? Yes,” Jordan added. “Just this son’s opinion? I think that he was guilty, but it’s not anything factual in terms of proof. It’s just a gut feeling.”
Decades earlier, Woody opened up to PEOPLE about his feelings toward his father. “This might sound odd to say about a convicted felon, but my father is one of the most articulate, well-read, charming people I’ve ever known," the Cheers actor said in 1988. "Still, I’m just now gauging whether he merits my loyalty or friendship. I look at him as someone who could be a friend more than someone who was a father."
Woody elaborated on his feelings about his father’s conviction in a 1997 interview with Barbara Walters.
“He is in prison right now for the killing of a federal judge. I think that it was not a fair trial, especially because the guy who supposedly hired my father to commit the murder was later acquitted on a retrial,” Woody said. “I’m not saying my father’s a saint, but I think he’s innocent of [the second murder].”
Brett followed Woody into acting and eventually became his assistant
Brett and Woody didn’t always get along growing up, with Brett admitting to PEOPLE in 1997, "I was the black sheep and Woody was the straight arrow." When Brett was 17, he dropped out of high school to serve in the Army for two years.
However, as they grew up, they became so close that Brett followed Woody to Hollywood to become an actor like his brother.
“We spent a lot of time angry at each other,” Woody recalled in 1997. “Today, Brett’s very zen. He’s focused.”
When Brett’s acting career didn’t pan out as he’d hoped, he became a professional motorcycle driver, ranking number eight in the country in 1992. After witnessing fellow competitors lose their lives to the sport, he worked as Woody’s assistant and later played Woody's brother in The People Vs. Larry Flynt — a movie for which Woody received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination.
Brett owns a CBD company
Woody is an outspoken advocate for cannabis and recently opened The Woods, a cannabis dispensary in West Hollywood, California. Brett has also endeavored into a similar business venture by starting Harrelson’s Own CBD.
The brand's website describes Brett as an actor, National Cart racing champion, vegan and "hemp enthusiast and activitist."
They may have another brother in Matthew McConaughey
While Woody and Matthew McConaughey have starred in several movies and series together, including EDtv, Surfer, Dude and True Detective, they have suggested that they might be related to each other.
It all began when McConaughey’s mother shared with the two actors that she knew Woody’s father during a time when she was separated from McConaughey’s father.
"My family thinks a lot of pictures of him are me, his family thinks a lot of pictures of me are him," McConaughey said on a 2023 episode of SiriusXM podcast Let's Talk off Camera with Kelly Ripa. "In Greece a few years ago, we're sitting around talking about how close we are and our families and et cetera and my mom is there. And she says, 'Woody, I knew your dad.' "
“Well, I’ll just say there is some veracity to that thought because we talked to Ma’ Mac, Matthew’s legitimate mother,” Woody said. “And I have known Ma’ Mac a long time, and she goes, ‘I knew ... your father.’ And it was the ellipses I found a little troubling, or interesting. ‘ I knew your father.’ ”
“The thing is, we want to go for a test, but for him it’s a much more big deal,” Woody continued. “I mean, he feels like he is losing a father. But I’m like, ‘No, you’re gaining a different father and a brother.’ ”
Woody and Brett attended a Formula 1 race with former President Bill Clinton
Brett used to race motorcycles and told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he was still an avid fan of racing, particularly Formula 1, in 1999. In October 2017, Woody posted a photo on Instagram of him and Brett with former President Bill Clinton at the United States Grand Prix — part of the Formula 1 World Championship — in Austin.
“#billclinton brett harrelson [and me] at formula one Austin,” Woody wrote on Instagram. “What a cool guy [Bill Clinton is].”
They've started families of their own
The Harrelson brothers have each gone on to have children of their own.
Woody and wife Laura Louie — his former assistant — got married on an island in Maui in 2008. The couple have been together for over 30 years and have three kids together: Denni Montana, born in 1994; Zoe Giordano, born in 1996; and Makani Ravello, born in June 2006.
Brett has two children, sons Preston and Trace, from a previous relationship, while Jordan is reportedly a father of three.
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