If you're familiar with Matthew McConaughey, then this shouldn't come as a surprise: He is a very animated guy in person. This can make writing up a print interview with him a bit of a nightmare, as the undefinable noises and erratic hand gestures he makes don't exactly translate well on the page (er, screen). But that's part of the fun in chatting with the 43-year-old star, especially when the topic is a film he's very passionate abou t.
"Dallas Buyers Club," which had its world premiere last week at the Toronto Film Festival, is the latest in a string of critically acclaimed movies for McConaughey. In the last three years, he's released "The Lincoln Lawyer," "Mud," "Killer Joe," "Bernie," "Magic Mike," and "The Paperboy." With "Dallas Buyers Club," McConaughey plays Ron Woodruff, a hard-partying, homophobic Texan who gets diagnosed with HIV at the height of the AIDS epidemic and soon finds himself smuggling in illegal (though more effective) medication for other AIDS patients.
The film has already garnered a ton of press, due mostly to McConaughey dropping nearly 40 pounds to play Woodruff. It was a method-acting story tailor-made for the tabloids, a fact that wasn't lost on the star: "That was kind of the narrative that went with it," he told Moviefone in Toronto. The actor also spoke about the challenges of making a movie about AIDS, the other big-name actors who came and went before he signed on (including Brad Pitt and Woody Harrelson), and the film's unexpected sense of humor. He also dropped a few chest-thumping tidbits about the upcoming "The Wolf of Wall Street," and, in typical animated fashion, reenacted his first meeting with the film's director, Martin Scorsese.
Moviefone: This is a difficult movie to watch. Was it difficult to shoot?
Matthew McConaughey: I mean, it was a constant challenge. It wasn't, like, difficult as in [Lets out an audible sigh]. There wasn't a moment of complacency anywhere, from the material to the time constraints to the budget. But there are two kinds of fatigue. You got the bad fatigue, which comes from anticipation and you get there and you struggle with it and gotta kind of just work to get that square peg in the round hole. Then there's the good fatigue where you feel like you're laying it down and you're in construction and the architecture is live and at the end of the day you don't even sleep well. And you get up and you do it again, and you know you're building something.
So, this film was all about good fatigue for you.
Yeah, we literally broke a sweat each day. And I like to do that. I don't like the other fatigue, the stop-start-stop-start. We didn't have time to be precious.
This film had been in the making for quite a while. At one point, Brad Pitt was signed on, Woody Harrelson was signed on...
...Yep, Gosling. Did you ever think to yourself, Well, if those guys couldn't make it, how would I?
No, I was pretty immediately into Ha ha, got this one! I can't believe it slipped through. That's where I was: Boy, aren't I fortunate it slipped through and didn't get made. I wasn't thinking about Oh, they didn't get it made, why wasn't it made? I saw clearly what I thought it could be. But it sure did keep me from ever getting overly frustrated and abandoning it. I get why you're not going to have a big budget, I get why it's not a studio picture. But I also got how it wasn't your typical HIV movie. I got that it was a wild bull-ride of a romp, with this guy taking us through it. I understood what was original about it being from a heterosexual point of view. I understood how it could be entertaining in an original way because it wasn't a "message" movie, and it wasn't a movie where, in the third act, he says "Now I am a crusader, now I am an activist." And I understood that, boy, if we follow this guy, follow this story, and let him remain a bastard -- let him remain a self-serving businessman, a scarface -- the crusader, the activist, the cause, the message will come out of this story.
Do you think it couldn't be a studio movie because of the HIV subject matter, or because of the character overall -- him being a pretty unlikable homophobe who happened to have HIV?
I'd say HIV first. I think for a one-liner, this thing has been passed on by studios for a long time. I don't think people ever got in deep enough to be Well, it could be an interesting angle but this guy is too rough around the edges. I don't think most of the nos went that deep.
Despite the dark subject matter, this movie actually has a lot of humor to it.
Well, it was very important for me to keep the anarchy of the guy and the blasphemous, heavy sarcasm. And I noticed, the screening last night was interesting. There's some sh*t Ron says early that you're like, "Oh! Sh*t! What did he just say?" In today's age, you look around and say, "Can you say that?" And you go, "You know, he just said it." But you caught people kind of wanting to laugh but catching themselves.
So, do you think the film played well?
I didn't even have any expectations other than the film is good. There are some undeniable aspects to the film whether you like it or not. And I thought it was perceived real well. When you watch it with an audience, you can kind of feel what's happening. We had a lot of laughs but it does punch you in the gut. I had three different people come up and say, "I had somewhere I was supposed to be after the screening. I didn't go. My car was waiting but I took the two-mile walk."
You mentioned not having expectations. Is it hard not having expectations, particularly on this film?
I started enjoying the process so much, even before this film. I love making movies so much -- the construction of making the movie. I like it better than the movie itself. My favorite thing to do is grab ahold, hunker down, try and see it from the inside angle. I love filmmaking. I've gotten so much pleasure out of that. Do I want [the film] to be accepted? You damn right. Would that have any effect on how I would feel about the experience of making the movie or whatever perceived sacrifices I make? Absolutely not. That's a personal journey that means something to me, whether anyone sees it. Whether the thing went straight to video -- which I wouldn't want it to -- but if it did that, it would take no residual from that experience or Dammit why did I do that? or Oh, I lost all that weight for that movie and no one saw it. No. Zero. I am already golden with the experience.
Let's talk about "Wolf of Wall Street." The trailer was great, and this movie looks insane.
I went in and only worked about five days. First of all, I remember going to meet Scorsese. I am going through Newark, I am getting driven, I am like, "Man, this is the guy I studied in film school, and now I am going to...no, I am getting driven to his house." All right! So I go to meet him, and the way he and I really communicated was musically. He loves beats and tones and sounds: da-bump-bump-bah. And, man, that's a language I really understand and am turned on by. So he'd speak English, and I'd speak back English to him, but mainly it would become da-bump-bah, ts-ts-ts, ah-ggg-gah. And I was like ya-ya-ya-ya.
And then working with Leonardo was excellent. I had heard good things about him. We stole from each other. And what I mean by that is, a great set to work on is where it's so creatively open, people steal from each other and the person being stolen from is more flattered than the person who is stealing. You know what I mean? Get a good idea bam, steal it, use it, take it, go. And it was his idea, the whole thing you'll see in there [he starts beating his chest]. I do that before scenes to relax my voice and relax me, and then I started the take. So, we had it and then Leo goes, "Hang on a second, Marty." [Rolls his hand for another take] So we put it in the scene, and then we started an interaction with it.
And it's in the trailer!
Yes! And it's musical!