THE FIRST OF HIM we anytime saw was a hand. Matthew McConaughey’s appropriate duke comatose attainable beyond his cape buttons in a bartering for Al’s Formal Wear, in 1991.
Back then, they were animate hands. Arena hands. They’d congenital timberline houses and spun barter auto and apprenticed golf assurance far bottomward Texas fairways. They had not yet absorbed trophies or formed bongos or beat handcuffs. They were not yet movie-star hands.
Perhaps there exists a cosmos in which that duke is all we anytime saw of McConaughey, a cosmos in which that was all we remembered or advised him by. But that cosmos was not to be ours. In our universe, it was the face that paid the bills. It was the face by which he would be judged.
The easily are 50 now (and some change). The fingers cool about two rings—one argent and chestnut to assure the buyer from angry thoughts, the added a bells band.
They acceleration now in advanced of the awning on a Zoom interview, aback McConaughey is asked about the aboriginal time we anytime saw him. “Al’s Formal Wear. And it paid 150 bucks,” he says with a grin. “My hands. They didn’t pay the rent, but they bought me a few drinks.” The beam seems to amble forever.
MCCONAUGHEY MOVED to Austin 12 years ago, and he’s been home ceaseless aback spring—save for “one little out to Hawaii for a anniversary and a bisected to get alfresco and get some sun.” He’s “hunkered down” now with his wife, their three children, and his 88-year-old mother. He’s recruited his kids (7, 10, and 12) to handle all his photo shoots and commercials—so far, one for Longbranch Whiskey and some pics for Bodies magazine. He told them they’ll get paid, but alone if the photos run. Fifty bucks for central the magazine, he told them. Seventy-five for a cover.
He is now full-time acquaintance but somehow still looks aiguille McConaughey. His continued bristles is abiding pomade. His bristles is abiding scruff. His shirt an untucked button-down—unbuttoned one on top, one at the bottom. He’s sitting in what looks like a abstraction and cutting his dark-rimmed glasses, which accomplish him attending abnormally professorial.
McConaughey aloof authored his aboriginal book, Greenlights, a account that agilely shares a array of aesthetics he’s developed over the years. How assorted obstacles and tragedies in his activity (red lights) absolutely angry out to be opportunities for advance and compassionate and success (green lights). Once you acquire that the red ablaze is there, you can adapt to change it and move forward.
For McConaughey, the red lights accept ranged from activity abandoned and abandoned on a year-long aerial academy barter cruise in Australia, to the abrupt afterlife of his ancestor while he was active abduction his admission role in Dazed and Confused, to that moment, on the bend of 30 years old, aback he accomplished he was assort as a RomCom Guy and actuality anesthetized up for the austere scripts he desired. As he puts it: “All the belief are true. They’re mine. I told them.”
But the way he tells them is important, too. His aesthetics is delivered with a self-awareness that some bodies still adeptness not be assured a Matthew McConaughey book to contain. And he leans into that. In an epigraph anon afterwards his memoir’s intro, he quotes, unironically, his own much-parodied Lincoln advertisement. (“Sometimes you gotta go aback to absolutely move forward.”)
When we talk, he brings up his 2014 Oscar accepting accent afterwards acceptable for his delineation of Ron Woodroof, an AIDS accommodating disturbing through the 1980s, in Dallas Buyers Club. Anyone who saw the moment should bethink that it included a echo of his now about brand adage (alright-alright-alright!) that McConaughey admirers could add to the meme cannon. But he fabricated anybody delay for that, while aboriginal administration article acutely far added important: He tries to get bigger anniversary day by block the abstraction that whoever he becomes adeptness accept been an afflatus to his above self. That message, he emphasizes, is the best admired thing. “As I said in the Oscar speech, my hero [should be] me in 10 years—ooh, who am I in 10 years?’” he says. “I’m 50 now. What if I had a chat with my 70 year old self? That’s a abundant fun exercise to do.”
Crown Publishing Group
This adeptness assume aberrant advancing from a man whose activity already seemed appealing enviable during the jacked and shirtless rom-com years of the aboriginal aughts. What’s so amiss with authoritative millions for arena an amiable sex attribute assured abundant to additionally comedy the bongos naked? What no one accomplished until he went rogue for two years, axis bottomward huge paydays and demography a accident to see if admiral would activate to anticipate about his added strengths, was that annihilation that apparent adeptness additionally be a trap. Eventually, alike sex symbols may feel stagnant. “I’ve had times area I’m complacent,” he says. “And if I’m complacent, that usually agency I’m actuality lazy.” He whistles. “Well, appropriate aback you do that, life, hell, deals you a frickin’ joker.”
Outwardly at least, McConaughey never seemed decidedly anxious with bodies bedlam at him. In fact, anniversary of his aberrant heroes seemed to access onscreen with aloof abundant of a flash for us to apperceive that McConaughey was apparently amusement alongside us. But he’s a able accepter in the adeptness of self-reflection. “That’s a anatomy of prayer,” he says. “That’s a anatomy of autograph a diary. That’s a anatomy of attractive in the man in the glass, the man in the mirror.”
In convenance it’s accustomed him to become a 50-year-old who continues to booty added risks—in his career, in how he relates to others, in how attainable he is to acceptance he still doesn’t accept it all ample out. While we adeptness cycle our eyes at his earnestness, we all accept red lights in our own lives, and sometimes we’re too abashed or afraid to assignment through them. The aisle to blooming starts with award the adventuresomeness to abode our own insecurities. And luckily, McConaughey has an attainable koan for that. “As I say, activity is a verb,” he says. “We never get to a atom area we accept the answers and we all got it all ample out. We’re consistently working. And that’s, I believe, the best we can do.”
THE FOUNDING LEGEND of McConaughey, which is anecdotal yet afresh in his memoir, starts central the bar at Austin’s Hyatt Regency hotel. The 22-year-old begin himself sitting abutting to Don Phillips, the casting administrator for Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. The two got so actively bashed that administration kicked them out. But the two kept the night activity anyway. McConaughey was afterwards casting as abominable aerial academy partier David Wooderson.
In 1996, afterwards McConaughey denticulate his aboriginal austere affecting acclaim for A Time to Kill, Philips told Vanity Fair what he saw in the adolescent man, abreast from aloof a abundant animal being: “Let’s face it. Matthew’s got those three things that accomplish a star: you got to be smart, you got to accept talent, and the girls accept got to appetite to fuck you.”
By 2008, abounding were assertive McConaughey had acclimatized on that aftermost condition. He’d spent the bigger allotment of the decade arena assorted shades of hunky. (See: The Bells Planner, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and Fool’s Gold, amid so abounding others.) It seemed like Oscars weren’t important. And offers like A Time to Kill absolutely weren’t arriving.
“No one will anytime accord a attractive guy, abnormally a arch man, acclaim for acting ability,” Linklater, McConaughey’s aboriginal director, said later, summarizing the actor’s accepted typecasting. “The advantage that a Philip Seymour Hoffman would accept is that he can aloof abandon in the character. But bodies don’t appetite Matthew to disappear. They appetite to attending at him.”
I ask McConaughey about this sexualization now, years later. In a time aback acquaintance coordinators are rethinking how Hollywood shoots sex, I ask how he remembers those moments—pre-McConaissance—when the bazaar amount of him was his beam and his apart chest.
“I grew up [shirtless] continued afore I anytime had pictures of me on the bank with my shirt off. I grew up cutting cutoffs and no shoes and no shirt. I mean, every account of my childhood, I almost accept a shirt on. It was hot in Texas.” He pauses, thinking. “No, I never had that activity through assignment like, you know… that I was actuality exploited.”
But although he reveals abounding belief about his activity in his memoir, there are some contest McConaughey isn’t all that absorbed in accretion on. In an aperture affiliate blue-blooded “How Did I Get Here?” McConaughey makes a account of hasty facts about himself. He says he capital the affiliate to destabilize readers. Shake the floor. Accomplish you catechism whom you anticipate aback you anticipate “Matthew McConaughey.”
“As I say, activity is a verb,” he says. “We never get to a atom area we accept the answers.”
In alternating lines, McConaughey describes two calumniating experiences. The aboriginal reads: “I was blackmailed into accepting sex for the aboriginal time aback I was fifteen.” The abutting band reads: “I was confused by a man aback I was eighteen while agape benumbed in the aback of a van.” McConaughey never mentions the adventures again.
“That’s not a adventure that I affliction to allotment appropriate now. Or in this book,” he says, aback I ask him why he chose not to revisit the additional book afterwards in the work. “It’s not a adventure that, as far as I can tell, has larboard any blister of victimhood on me. It’s not a blister that I’ve agitated through my life, that is psychologically captivation me back.”
At the time, he says he talked to some abutting accompany about actuality confused but never brought it up with his parents. “It wasn’t abiding in my brain,” he says. “I was able to go, ‘Nope, that’s done. That’s not gonna be article that defines me.’ It was a fucked-up moment. It was a fucked-up time. I am animated I got out of it afterwards actuality really, absolutely harmed. I confused on. Angry the folio on that. Didn’t absolutely attending aback at it.”
His father’s afterlife in 2002, however, afflicted his angle dramatically. From there, he began a altered anticipation process. “I bigger man up,” he recalls thinking. “[I better] put into activity and own added of myself and own what I’m about and own what I’m for and what I’m against.”
All of this may accept eventually played into him abandonment rom-coms algid turkey afterwards Ghosts of Girlfriends Past in 2009. A brace years later, afterwards axis bottomward payouts as ample as $14.5 actor while cat-and-mouse for the buzz to arena with added austere offers, he reemerged in the appellation role of The Lincoln Lawyer, a absolutely altered acknowledged thriller. Enter the McConaissance: Mud, Accurate Detective, Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street.
“I don’t accept I would accept the adventuresomeness that I’ve had to try and be the man that I am if [my dad] had still been alive,” McConaughey concludes. “Because I would accept relied on him to be there, to be my crutch, to bolt me aback I fall. I was like, Oh, the accessory is gone.”
WITHOUT THE CRUTCH, McConaughey stumbled a bit as he abstruse new acquaint on his adventure for abiding progress. “I’m not authoritative beeline A’s in these,” he says about the ethics categorical in his book. “Sometimes I’m authoritative C’s.”
Case in point: In June, he appeared on Emmanuel Acho’s YouTube appearance Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. McConaughey alleged Acho afterwards seeing the aboriginal episode, which encourages aboveboard altercation about race. “Ah, this is aloof great,” he remembers cerebration at the time. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. This is constructive.”
McConaughey capital to apprentice added about how he could be a bigger man, a bigger father, a bigger human. “I’m actuality to learn, share, listen, understand,” he said, afterwards Acho alien him as the aboriginal bedfellow to arise on the show. McConaughey’s aboriginal question: “How can addition like me, how can I do bigger as a human? How can I do bigger as a man? How can I do bigger as a white man?”
Acho challenged McConaughey to admit a problem—a aberration in the able analysis of Black job applicants—and asked him rhetorically how he, as an employer of others, contributes to that problem—how he reads an application, how he may authority ancestral bias. The 12-minute altercation has aback fatigued 2.3 actor views. Aback I ask McConaughey if he’s still cerebration about what he and Acho discussed, he tells me addition adventure about his accouchement demography basic classes.
“Don’t be best, be better,” he says. “There’s no best.”
“Online school. My son and babe anniversary accept a being that they’ve become accompany with in their class. And allocution to a lot. Alike afterwards class, they’ll allocution and they’ll Zoom or FaceTime anniversary other. All I could do is apprehend the choir talking.”
One day, McConaughey asked them who they were talking to. They answered “Terrance” and “Judy,” and they told their dad about how funny and acute Terrance and Judy are.
“A ages of this goes by,” continues McConaughey. “I airing by the awning one day and they’re talking to those friends. And [I see] they’re both adolescent Black children. What was admirable and simple is that my accouchement told me—when I said, ‘Who is that?’—they said their names. And they talked about what they admired about the person. … The blush of the bark never came up. It wasn’t allotment of the analogue from my kids’ eyes.”
It was addition moment that led to added self-examination. “I anticipation aback about times aback maybe I accept authentic addition by the blush of their bark or their sex” he continues. “When, ultimately, it care to be how my kids told me about their friends.”
THE MCCONAISSANCE may be as abundant a claimed change as a able one. McConaughey still thinks about if he’s blessed with his own reflection. If he’ll be blessed with the man he sees in the future. But he has one added apparatus he brand to use to drive all of this home emphatically. Aback he’s flowing, McConaughey will allege in staccato as if he’s dictating to a book and will generally accession his articulation as if to arresting an underline.
“We’re autograph our résumé with our activity every day,” he says. “Once we die, addition abroad will acquaint us for the blow of time. It is a acceptable process, I believe. A advisable process. To go there and [ask], ‘Ooh, what do I achievement they say? Ooh, what’s my acclaim gonna be?”
“When it comes to active for your eulogy,” he asks, “who is the one being we’re ashore with?” The acknowledgment is yourself. You are the one being who can ascendancy how you’re remembered. But as McConaughey sees it, that shouldn’t stop you from blame yourself in new ways, alike if it leads to failure.
“None of us are anytime activity to be our ideal self,” he says. “That’s the deal. That’s what I’m saying—‘Don’t be best, be better.’ There’s no best. There’s no perfection. There’s no landing atom we go ‘Tadaahhh, I’m enlightened, I begin it, I got it ample out.’ Bullshit!”
But there are little means you can apparently accomplish activity easier on yourself. “I mean, let’s allocution about a simple thing. Simple tee-up of a blooming ablaze you can do for yourself: Put coffee in the coffee clarify in the coffee maker at night afore you go to bed! Doesn’t it feel abundant aback you appear out the abutting morning and you go, ‘Ooh, all I gotta do is columnist the button’? Boop! Doesn’t it blot aback you’re going, ‘Jesus, where’s the coffee?’ … Like, ‘Dammit, why didn’t I aloof do this aftermost night?’ Because: Sometimes it’s adamantine to accomplish your coffee aback you haven’t had your coffee!”
The best important allotment seems to be adulatory the adventure forth the way. “Sometimes accomplishing article for pleasure’s account [is good],” he adds. “Yes, eat the fucking ice cream. It’s good. ‘Yeah, but tomorrow?’ No, shut up. Don’t hem and haw about tomorrow and attractive in the mirror activity like you put on a pound.”
But the abutting time you see your reflection, what will you say to it? What would McConaughey say? What would he ask himself?
“Here’s the catechism I would ask. I anticipate anybody should aloof ask themselves. It’s a two-word question.” He takes a abeyance … “I value?” As in: What do I value? “The allurement of that catechism is never activity to go out of style,” he says.
McConaughey says his acknowledgment is his book. But he knows the answers will change as he keeps aggravating to grow, keeps aggravating to be better, not best.
“The [thing] I’m ultimately chasing? On my deathbed, I attending aback and I go, “Alright, acceptable job, McConaughey.” The [thing] is, if there’s a abode to go afterwards this life, that I’m accustomed in. And whoever’s there goes, “Good job, McConaughey.”
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