1994: Woody Harrelson passes on hosting SNL to appear in college play

Woody on stage in 1994
Posted at 5:30 AM, Apr 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-25 05:30:04-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Woody Harrelson became a member of the Saturday Night Live Five-Timers Club in February 2023. But that honor could’ve come sooner had Harrelson not been a man of his word.

Harrelson, a 1983 graduate of Hanover College here in Indiana, returned to his alma mater in May 1994 to appear in a play by Jim Leonard, Jr. called “The Diviners.” It’s the same play Harrelson auditioned for in 1979. A role he didn’t get.

Hanover yearbook
Woodrow T. Harrelson pictured in a Hanover College yearbook.

But in the years that followed, Harrelson would land a number of roles including his breakout role on Cheers and the 1993 film White Men Can’t Jump. Proof there wasn’t much Harrelson couldn’t do despite his skeptics.

"Woody's success was surprising,” Dr. Tom Evans told WRTV’s Derrik Thomas in 1994. “Woody was the kind of guy who was always late and liked to party.”

Harrelson surprised folks once again when it was revealed that he turned down the opportunity to host the season finale of SNL in order to appear in “The Diviners.”

The Diviners 1994
Woody Harrelson returned to his alma mater in 1994 to appear in the play “The Diviners.”

“We said we were going to do this several months ago and we had it locked down,” Harrelson said. “The opportunity came up for Saturday Night Live, there was no way I could let down the people who committed to doing the play. To me, it’s not that one is bigger than the other it’s whichever one you made the commitment to.”