Matthew McConaughey: Big Matt

Nine years ago, Matthew McConaughey was on a downward spiral. Now he's earning £4m a film – and life's grand, he tells Gill Pringle

"I never went in search of fame. It came and bit me in the butt," Matthew McConaughey once said. A law school drop-out, he's had a love-hate relationship with celebrity since he put his legal training to good use, starring as a lawyer in the thriller A Time To Kill 12 years ago.

Admittedly, fame has its benefits – an $8m-per-movie salary, travel, and romantic opportunities with co-stars Penelope Cruz, Ashley Judd and Sandra Bullock. "I guess you could say it [fame] made my life crazy for a couple of years," he sighs, in reference to an incident nine years ago involving nude bongo-playing, after which he was charged with marijuana possession and resisting arrest.

But when McConaughey goes on to complain about a lack of privacy, one wonders whether he protests too much, given his proclivity for on-screen displays of bare-chestedness. Is it a contractual requirement? "Of course not," he replies, impatiently. "If you look at my character, what is it? I'd look pretty funny as a diver with a V-neck sweater on."

Given that his latest role in action comedy Fool's Gold casts him as modern-day treasure hunter, he may have a point. Filming it with Kate Hudson on Australia's Gold Coast certainly provided ample beach time: "That place has a lot of bite to it – in the air, and in the water, and on land. So it was quite the adventure in every respect. It wasn't like you lived up in a hotel, all protected on top of the hill and then came down into the wild – it wasn't like that. We were pretty much at the mercy of Mother Nature, and we had a scare with the irukandji jellyfish, where a couple of people got stung. And we swam with sharks – but they were well fed, which was a good thing for us. Kate had poisonous spiders in her place and I had amethystine pythons in my house, so the whole thing was pretty wild."

McConaughey has always been a nature boy, preferring the outdoors of his native Texas to the classroom. One of three sons born to a schoolteacher mother, his late father had a brief career with pro football team the Green Bay Packers before going into the oil industry. Rejecting a career in the family oil business, McConaughey decided to capitalise on his good looks and charm by becoming an actor.



Watch a trailer for 'Fools Gold'


While at film school in Austin, Texas, a friend cast him in a student project, and this tiny role brought him to Hollywood's attention and a breakout role in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused in 1993.

His subsequent career has been hit-and-miss: alongside attention-grabbing roles in Steven Spielberg's Amistad and Robert Zemeckis's Contact, he's played box-office candy in How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Sahara and The Wedding Planner.

After A Time To Kill, instead of installing himself in a Beverly Hills mansion, McConaughey backpacked around Peru, and now lives in a trailer. "Once a year, I take a three-week walkabout by myself and don't tell anyone where I am going until I get back. I was a wrestling champion in four villages in Africa during one of my walkabouts. And I love my mobile home. I can feel my independence. It's great having my own four walls instead of staying in hotels all the time. It's not like a five-star hotel, but I like it better," says the actor, who once lived at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont for two years.

McConaughey shrugs off setbacks such as losing out to Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead in Titanic: "At the time, I thought it would suck more than it did. I had a hundred options after A Time To Kill, but then my stock went down. But if I didn't understand that, then I'm in the wrong business. Besides, it made me work harder. I still love Hollywood. It's silly to say it's a world of false and stupid people. Sure, there are swindlers – but you also meet creative and generous people, too. It's a pleasant place to work when you are hip to the game and enjoy it for what it is."

In many ways, acting comes second to McConaughey's pursuit of life itself – surfing, swimming and cycling, launching a range of beachwear, and operating his record label, j k livin – the name based on his personal mantra: "Just keep livin'."

While many actors long to be taken seriously, no one could accuse McConaughey of such lofty ambitions – he makes his debut as a producer later this year with two comedies, Surfer Dude, described as "a wave twisting tale of a soul-searching surfer experiencing an existential crisis", and The Grackle, in which he has cast himself as a bar-room brawler who starts a business settling disputes for people who can't afford a lawyer.

Now, McConaughey is soon to be a father, and the 38-year-old actor wants us to believe he's become responsible. Beneath the public image of a naked, bongo-playing, pot-smoking, heart-breaking beach-bum, he's very different, he pleads: "That's not me. There's a certain amount of structure that I have to have.

"Probably my living in a trailer sounds like I'm just a wanderlust vagabond, but part of it is because I know where my stuff is and how I like it, and there's not enough square footage to have too many places to get lost. So I like to create a world where I'm secure and structured, and do my homework first – just like when I'm preparing for roles; get it all down. I'm a conservative guy in order to live a liberal life.

"My child will spend some nights in the trailer. He's going to have culture and travel, but that's one of the great benefits of my business. Parenthood isn't an exact science. I've got the instincts for it. I'm looking forward to the big baby adventure. Hopefully, I'll make a good daddy. But make no doubt about it: my kid will dance. He will be on the beach and taking wild hikes."

So, we'll still see McConaughey flexing his toned abs on the beach and cycling with his best buddy Lance Armstrong, but he's looking forward to settling down with the 25-year-old mother of his unborn child, the Brazilian model Camila Alves, although not necessarily in the traditional sense. "My parents were divorced twice and married three times to each other," he says. "I believe in the institution [of marriage], but I don't feel you have to marry. A kid just needs a mom and a dad."

Whether parenthood will curb his wild streak remains to be seen. Internet rumours claim that should McConaughey have a boy, he plans to name him Bud after his favourite beer – a tip he picked up from his elder brother, who named his son Miller Lite.

'Fool's Gold' opens on 18 April

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence