Sharp dresser: Since becoming the face of Dolce & Gabbana's men's fragrances in 2008, McConaughey has begun to experiment with different, more challenging roles / Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/Contour by Getty Images

The Oscar-winning actor is the face of Dolce & Gabbana's The One fragrance but, he tells Rebecca Gonsalves, there are many other sides to him

If you lost sleep over the intense, emaciated chain-smoker Rust Cohle in HBO's noirish hit True Detective, you may have Dolce & Gabbana to blame. Not that Rust's grubby shirt and beer-can ashtray carry the hallmarks of Domenico and Stefano's finest tailoring.

Since becoming the face of their fragrance The One in 2008, Matthew McConaughey noticably began to experiment with different, more challenging roles. Maybe it's just a coincidence that since he signed with the label, he's begun to favour heavier, more serious roles, but when he picked up a Best Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club in March, there was no denying that the actor who, for a long time, was pigeon-holed as a rom-com pretty-boy had entered into a new phase of his career.

Though the idea of A-listers needing to make ends meet is obviously ludicrous, we've become used to sportsmen, singers and film stars who are media-trained to act like they're doing endorsements for the love rather than money.

And yet... "I like the financial aspect of the relationship," says McConaughey, his Southern drawl a smooth candy-coating for such candid words. "But I don't want to work with a brand I don't believe in, that I don't care about. But I like that it's a good give-and-take and I get a nice pay cheque – that's very good for me and helps me live my life."

Matthew McConaughey (right) and Woody Harrelson in HBO's noirish hit True Detective

Such honesty is refreshing in a world where contracts like this run into the millions, but the idea of money being exchanged is often dismissed out of hand. "We don't have a deal where I have to wear Dolce & Gabbana on the red carpet, but a lot of the time I choose to because I like their cut, I like their menswear. I want to work with a brand that I look forward to going out and speaking about."

While Dolce & Gabbana's catwalk collections are not known for minimalism or restraint, there is something much more traditional about their fragrance campaigns, which present a classical ideal of masculinity. "They've got a term that we've talked about: 'modern hedonist'. I've got some pretty traditional values as a man but at the same time I'm trying to evolve every day and I consider myself quite progressive as well. You know, I'm definitely a pleasure-seeker. The classic hedonist isn't necessarily someone who makes choices for their immediate gratification; it's one who makes his choices for the ultimate, or the most gratification." Perhaps, then, that explains the commercially-popular but critically-disdained titles that clutter his filmography.


The definition of movie-star good looks, McConaughey recognises that being blessed in that department hasn't been a hardship: "I like an elegant, timeless image – which you may call handsome – juxtaposed with something like you'd see in True Detective, like 'Oh my God, this guy scares me'. It's just another side of me that I'm sure as heck not going to go against. I like having simultaneous images like that, there are many sides to me and those are just two." I think that's his way of saying the McConaissance isn't as black and white as you've been led to believe. After all, for every Magic Mike there's a Dazed & Confused, for every The Wedding Planner there's A Time to Kill.

"One unforeseen pleasure of my relationship with Dolce & Gabbana, has been building my international presence in a new way. I get pictures [of the adverts] sent by my friends that are in wild places in airports and cities all over the world, and I still get pretty excited by that. I like the campaign; I really like the photos and the commercials. It's a classy, elegant image and having that international presence has, in a way, helped to open Europe up to me. Not in a really intimate way of going to see my films or having me there in person – although I do get to travel to Italy or France with them which is always pretty fun."

Fine tailoring: McConaughey on the Dolce & Gabbana set

The fragrance sector is a cash cow for designers, providing them the freedom to channel their creativity into clothes, rather than worry about the bottom line. Often, signing a licencing deal to bottle the essence of a brand can be a licence to print money. But, if that little bottle is seen as anything but a luxury proposition it risks de-valuing the brand, so strategy is key.

Although they may seem a safe strategy for a brand, the actor can be the one who runs the risks – most pertinently that of looking ridiculous. Just ask Brad Pitt, whose 2012 advert for Chanel No 5 was bizarre and much-derided ("The world turns, we turn with it") or Nicole Kidman, who's only just recovering from: "I'm a dancer, I love to dance!" in a Baz Luhrmann-directed film for the same fragrance.

But when done right, such deals can be lucrative for all parties involved, and McConaughey's work with Dolce & Gabbana is a remove from the depressing shilling for a quick buck satirised by Sofia Coppola in Lost in Translation; it's even a far cry from some of his more forgettable film roles, thanks to the involvement of his occasional co-star Scarlett Johansson and directors such as Jean-Baptiste Mondino and Martin Scorsese.

"I worked with Martin on The Wolf of Wall Street a few months before doing Dolce & Gabbana [The One fragrance campaign], with him so this was a little different. Our work together in film was much more dialogue-driven, but all of his direction comes from a rhythm – a musical rhythm – and I understand that very well actually. I like to communicate like that as well, so that's really where our relationship comes from. I enjoyed working with him very much."

McConaughey says: 'I want to work with a brand that I look forward to going out and speaking about.' (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/Contour by Getty Images)

It's clear that, though the process may be enjoyable and fun, there's a sense of seriousness that's fitting for the names – and pay cheques – involved. "The commercials aren't about looking down a camera lens, these are much more mood pieces and images. With Martin, we talked musically about the playfulness, it was a little more playful than previously. With Mondino, we saw the character differently, as a sort of 007-type, we spoke about how the Dolce & Gabbana man would never rush, no matter what. We were very clear about what the taste and tone and deliberate mood was. We want it to look like it's a timeless piece and you don't know where you are. Maybe you're on a Fellini set in 1960, or maybe you're in Malibu in 2014."

Admirably, McConaughey shows no signs of embarrassment over the variety of films that pepper his CV, perhaps instead hoping that, if anything, his versatility and resolve speak in his favour. He's not likely to channel any Cohle from True Detective or Dallas from Magic Mike on set with Scorsese though: "I don't have a particular character in mind when I'm on set; instead I play a heightened version of myself. Before we even get to that point though, we've already talked with the photographer about what the tone of the campaign is, what the movement is. You talk to the director and the photographer about what kind of world we're trying to create, 'cause we've all got to work together. It's a bit of a dance, it's a bit choreographed – it's about movement, about pace, it's slow and deliberate."

Slow and deliberate, just like the second act of McConaughey's career.

Print campaign BTS photographer: Peter Lindbergh's crew
Make-up artist: Felicity Bowring
Hair stylist: Marc Lopez
Stylist: Tabitha Simmons
Manicurist: Lisa Postma