On Redefining Himself, Transforming His Career, Losing Weight for Dallas Buyers Club, Being a Father, And Having a Happy-Go-Lucky Spirit

By Jan Janssen / The Interview Feed

Photo Credits: Reuters

One of the handsomest actors in Hollywood, Matthew McConaughey reached a point in his career several years ago where he decided to shake up his image. Instead of continuing to play the charming romantic hero, he would seek out more serious roles in smaller, independent projects. Recent films like Killer Joe, The Paperboy, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Mud have seen him playing against type as he tries to widen his range in darker kinds of stories. That determination to redefine himself is nowhere more evident than in his recent film, Dallas Buyers Club, co-starring Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner.

In order to lend credibility to his portrayal of real-life Texas electrician Ron Woodroof, McConaughey lost 45 lbs to play the womanizing, substance-abusing, and homophobic straight man who contracted AIDS in 1985, was told that he has 30 days to live, and then started a “club” from which people infected with the virus could buy drugs that had yet to be approved for sale in the U.S. McConaughey’s performance landed him both Golden Globe and Oscar awards this year. “It was time to go back to the kinds of stories which inspired me to become an actor in the first place,” McConaughey, 44, explains.

McConaughey still makes his home in his native Texas where he lives with his wife, Brazilian model Camila Alves, and their three children, Levi, Vida, and Livingston.

Question (Q): Matthew, your physical appearance in Dallas Buyers Club will shock many people. How difficult was it for you to lose so much weight?

Matthew McConaughey (MM): The hardest thing was going through different stages of weight loss. At the beginning, it was easy to take off the weight with exercise and eating less but then you reach a point where 90% of the weight loss is achieved purely through reducing your calorie intake. My goal was to lose four lbs per week and that worked well for the first few months but then things got tricky.

Q: Films like Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, and other recent films are part of your process of transforming your career. Did you hate your old leading man image?

MM: No, but I hated repeating myself. The last films I’ve done – not once did I ever have the feeling that I was dialing it in. Each of the films, whether it’s Magic Mike or Dallas Buyers Club, was a challenge for me. I had to dig deeper. Also, my decision to shake things up came after my first child was born. I had taken nearly two years off and I thought that I would enjoy my time as a dad and wait until something interesting came along. But I kept getting more romantic kinds of scripts or action films, and I would tell my agent that I wasn’t interested in any of those projects.

Q: What was Hollywood’s reaction?

MM: (Laughs) Oh, the offers dried up after a few years and it was like I had fallen off the radar. But then directors like William Friedkin (Killer Joe), Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike), and Lee Daniels (The Paperboy) got in touch with me and wanted me to be part of their films. That was a whole new chapter for me. I didn’t chase any of those films and it made me think that I was right to take a chance, say no to the kind of thing I had grown tired of doing, and wait until something good came around. And it did! (Laughs)

Q: You’re the father of three children now. Is it a big adjustment for you and Camila?

MM: It’s wonderful. I’ve been wanting to have my own family since I was young. It just took me a while to find the perfect woman. Camila is a beautiful and loving and sexy woman who makes my life so much better every day. Having children has also helped me become a better actor because they remind you to play make believe. It’s the ease and naturalness of their beings. They just play and it’s completely real for them at the time. As an actor, if we do it well, we make you believe.

Q: You’ve always seemed to be the kind of man who’s brimming with confidence and a happy-go-lucky spirit?

MM: What can I say? I believe in living in the present and making each day count. I don’t pay much attention to the past or the future. I met a fabulous woman and we’ve built this family together. And over the last two or three years, I feel I’ve been on the right wavelength again. It doesn’t really get much better than that! (Laughs) HBM