McConaughey has been a Redskins fan since he was four years old. He thinks it
started with watching late-night movies on TV, when he rooted for the
"Indians" against the cowboys. Nowadays, he watches games throughout
the season. He's got a satellite dish back on his ranch in Texas, and he likes
to watch football on Sundays, when he says, he can "flip all around and get
all the games." McConaughey's passionate interest in football is matched by
his love of filmmaking. He's a 1992 graduate of the film program at the
University of Texas at Austin -- where he studied directing, not acting -- and
he still looks back fondly on his senior film, a twelve-minute documentary on
low rider culture called Chicano Chariots. His subjects were perfect,
McConaughey recalls, "They were so comfortable. If anything, they were too
eager in front of the camera. It was not a shy group."
also pretty comfortable in the spotlight. His laid-back attitude is legendary in
always rush-rushing Hollywood, and so I'm not as surprised as I might have been
when McConaughey greets me at the door of his Los Angeles Four Seasons hotel
room, fresh from the shower and at ease in his plush white terry robe. He
invites me inside, leans back into the couch and lights a cigarette.
"Okay," his level gaze seems to say, "Shoot." We do the
Hollywood thing, for a minute, and begin by talking about his new film, The
Wedding Planner, in which he stars -- and dances -- with former In Living
Color flygirl Jennifer Lopez.
How did you think about your performance in The Wedding Planner? Was it
different for you, as your first romantic comedy?
There's a real optimism to this film. It's buoyant, a fairy tale that we've all
heard one time or another, that you're going to meet someone and it's going to
be true love and you'll know it. It's very innocent. And it's a comedy set-up,
so the thing to do is to play it at an even keel and as straightforward as
possible. The dialogue and situations are already comedic, so I was trying to
ground it as much as possible. But when I saw it, there were things that were
coming out of my mouth where I was wondering, "Did you just say that?"
Did you have previous dancing experience?
I didn't know how to tango before the movie. I took some lessons. I can dance, I
have rhythm, but I'm so very undisciplined and don't know any steps. For the
tango, it's complicated, because you have steps and your torso is doing
something else, and then you lay dialogue over it. If it's going to be worth it,
you need to try to forget what you're saying and where your feet are going. If
it works, it's what's not being said, the cat-and-mouse, who's pushing, who's
How do you maintain your sense of distance and groundedness?
It is an effort. It becomes something that you tenaciously seek out. It's going
back to the ranch for twenty-five days, taking that drive to Texas. I have a
nice car named Midnight. It's a midnight blue 740 IL BMW, the ultimate driving
machine. My dog [Miss Hud, named after the Paul Newman movie] and I like to go
on road trips. I might be having a great time here [in Los Angeles], but I still
know that I need to get away. It's like when you're going to work out, the hard
part is getting your shoes on, but if you get out the door, you're always glad
you went. I need a little time for a little reflection, you gotta remember to
take it, and then boom, go, and come back, richer, our memory catches up. You
know what it is, in this part of it, you don't meet strangers anymore,
everyone's got a biography on you but you don't have a biography on them, so
every conversation's a little bit imbalanced, because they know some things that
you don't. It's nice to go meet strangers, or be around people who don't measure
you by what your job is. Around the family or my friends, we don't talk about
movies. Hell, we don't even go see movies. We do things. It makes it easier to
come back here, and in the past two years, I've really come to like Hollywood.
There's only one place like it: everyone's trying to tell a story. But if
everyone's telling stories, who's living the stories? But in getting away, you
meet the people that they tell the stories about.
You're looking to produce some of those stories, with you production company,
j.k. livin' [adopted from a line spoken by his character in Dazed and
Confused]. That seems to bring you back to your work at University of Texas.
We haven't physically produced anything yet. We worked on a documentary, Hands
on a Hard Body, a contest that started down in Longview, Texas, where people
put their hands on a truck, and the last one to remove their hands, wins the
truck. It's a great set-up for a story, because you got your beginning, middle
and you know you're gonna get your end. But we've got some stories, three things
that are ready to go. After [my next film,] Rain of Fire, one of them
will be the first thing to go, either after the strike or without the strike.
It's important for you to have the company?
I need something on the side to have a little pride in, that's ongoing, that I
can devote some of my time to. Acting's hard work six days a week and then
you're off, and it's all Saturdays. I need something that I check in with. The
best thing I did acting-wise, was about two years ago, I kept getting really
close to jobs but I wasn't getting them, it was like I was getting too
conservative. But then I hopped up and wrote and directed a short, and then I
started getting acting jobs, because I had that thing on the side that I had
pride in. It allowed me to be free, to take more risks. I respected every
How do you decide what roles to pursue?
I try and mix it up. It depends on where I am and what I'd like to spend time
doing at that time in my life. Can I get an angle on it? Is it something that
could be a strength of mine, something I can experiment with? Do I feel funny?
It's sort of seasonal.
Your performances look unforced. Do you have a set strategy for acting?
When I'm thinking about a role, there are some people whose opinions I like to
get, then I start with basics, trying to define a character, to see how he comes
together. I do more work in pre-production, which I think is the most important
part. After you go that first day, and establish yourself on screen in one
scene, there's a lot of things you're married to from there, so there's a
liberation that comes from there. Because you've got your walk, you've got your
talk, and your general attitude. And you're married now, if you don't like them,
too late. Then there's that gap between what you want to do and what you
actually do, and then another gap between what you actually do and what gets
recorded, in the camera-editing process. You try and do something, but it's not
getting recorded or it's getting misread. The smaller the gaps are, the more
gratifying the acting process.
So you don't fret too much about those gaps?
I can handle going to see dailies now, I can objectively see myself without
being vain. I can see and tell the truth about the character and see what's
working for me, and if what I've got is what I was trying to do. I can find
something I like or dislike, and be constructively critical of my work now, and
I couldn't before. I love the process, I love the making of them. But if I see a
movie of mine on TV, I just keep flipping.
Click here to read Gregory Avery's review.