Over the last twenty years Matthew McConaughey has taken many turns in his career path, but he could now be on his way to grabbing his first Oscar. That’s the big buzz that’s surrounding him and his transformative role in Dallas Buyers Club. Ever since McConaughey first began losing the weight for this part, there were already murmurs about what this role could mean for his career. He’s always been a very dedicated actor, but everything is turning up McConaughey.
In Dallas Buyers Club he plays Ron Woodroof, which is based on a real man who gets AIDS in the 80s. The disease forces him to re-examine his life as he uses alternative medicine to keep himself alive. From that he creates the Dallas Buyers Club which gets him into trouble with the law on multiple occasions as he and others struggle to try and stay alive. McConaughey is at a special point where he’s jumping to the next level in his career, being taken seriously as a dramatic actor who has the chops to stand toe-to-toe against other Oscar champs and dish out amazing performances. We got the chance to speak with McConaughey about this particular experience.
Do you consider this to be a career-defining role? Jean-Marc [Vallée] was just here and he said he talked to you before there was any commitment by the studio or anything and you said this is gold.
Matthew McConaughey: I had read the script and I have been able to read a few scripts where wanted to get it made, couldn’t get it made, but this one I kept on top of my desk for years. Every time I’ve revisited it, every time that’s the one I want to get made, but nobody wanted to put up the money to make. It so it took time, some stars aligned, somebody grabbed a hold of it and said this is it, we’re going to make it. I remember Jean-Marc [Vallée] called me the week before we were supposed to start shooting and he said I don’t know, the financing is not there completely. We’re supposed to shoot next Tuesday. If you show up, I’ll pay you and I will be there. Then the last bit of financing, like a wave kind of caught us back and then it was okay, we’re making it. I never heard of [Ron Woodroof], and dealing with a disease like HIV from a heterosexual’s point of view is interesting, it’s never been done. Dealing with it especially from a guy who doesn’t start off waving the flag, not crusading. He’s trying to survive by any means necessary, and then without even knowing it becomes a crusader in the end.
What was the hardest thing emotionally about capturing this real man?
Matthew McConaughey: The hardest but one of the coolest was understanding his monologue. I’ve been saying that a lot because I’ve learned on this film that if I get the character’s monologue then I can get the dialogue. If you understand who you are, then you can be whoever you can be yourself in whatever circumstances, and that happened when I got the diary. So getting his diary, I have the tapes of him talking, I have all of his stuff, talked to his family and everything, but that’s still two layers away from the truth, because it’s not subjective. He was talking on the tapes when he had the Dallas Buyers Club. He was telling them about the Dallas Buyers Club, selling something. When I read his diary, even before he had HIV, that’s when I was sitting there going I’m sitting there with a guy, lonely on a Saturday night at 10:30 getting high, doodling in his diary trying to just make some jokes to bide the time in saying hey man, maybe Tuesday I’ll swing back down to the Sonic and see Rachel down there because she’s kind of cute, plus she gives me a dollar off on those burgers. It was just this wandering mind that was kind of lost. When he got back home, he loved 30s big band stuff and 30s jazz stuff. He wanted to be in another time and place.
It was fun for me to track his isolation. When he gets on the road to go to Mexico he doesn’t have any friends, he gets a house and I thought that was important for us to track that as truthfully as possible. Here’s a guy with a 7th grade education, electrician, bull-rider who becomes a scientist, who becomes an expert on the disease of HIV and learns how to prolong his life in a healthy way. This was a brand new disease for everybody. Doctors didn’t know what to do with it either. So he went and said f–k it, I’m going over the border, doing anything by any means necessary to stay alive.
There was a lot of body language in your character. Is that something you recreated completely or did you get this from the tapes when you were listening to him or…?
Matthew McConaughey: He was feverish. I’ll say this; say I lost 40% of energy and power from the neck down with losing the weight, the 40% got added to the neck up, and that’s how this guy was leading from his head. You know how it’s always fun to go to characters and say that they lead with their mid section, they lead with their chest, their heart, but this guy was.. he wanted to use his crotch. I had a person in my life that was battling cancer. I saw him become more and more out of his skin energy as the disease was getting worse. He was becoming more alive. He wasn’t receding, he was coming out more and it was scary. It was like he was emanating out of his skin and it was like he was growing fangs because he was just scratching, scratching for life. So that was some of the information on the tape with Ron’s physicality.
The director Jean-Marc mentioned that Jared Leto was his character on set the entire time and what the set was like with him and the rest of the cast in these particular roles.
Matthew McConaughey: Everyone I worked with, even Jennifer [Garner] I’ve worked with now a few times, we didn’t talk about the kids much, if at all. First, there wasn’t time, and second, we’ve created a world where as soon as we were off, that was just the world we stayed in. So I never though about Jared, I was just thinking about the guy who was Rayon. It was only after we were done did he introduce me to his mom that I heard his voice drop a couple of octaves. But that’s what was part of the fun because there was no time to be precious or overly considerate. We honestly did not have time, so everyone just dove in. There was no demarkation, there was no reset. You never reset. Once we stared it was 25 days later where somebody came up and told us that was it, you’re done. Stop. Then we have to take a walk and shake that off because it was like the days, the nights, the mornings there was never a reset, and that’s fine.
They just celebrated the 20th anniversary of Dazed and Confused at the New York Film Festival this weekend which started you off and you’re now at this career peak. When you look at this journey, do you see things are all coming into place for you?
Matthew McConaughey: I’m in a good place right now but I’m not going to sure as hell say things have come into place. If anything, part of my happiness with my relationship, with my career right now is that I really am … it’s all a process. It’s a wonderful time in my career right now, I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying my job more than I’ve ever had, I’m more excited about my career. I’m more excited that I’m getting up and going to work because I have more things I seem to be interested in character-wise and story-wise, and so that’s where I am right now and I’m just trying to keep cultivating that.
And the Oscar talk? Everybody is saying you’re a shoe-in for a Best Actor nomination.
Matthew McConaughey: Hey, it’s wonderful being in that conversation, honestly.
Dallas Buyers Club comes out in limited theaters this Friday.