Success hasn’t come easy to Texas-born Matthew McConaughey. Relaxing in his Los Angeles hotel suite while promoting his latest film, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, the relaxed actor could be forgiven for adopting a somewhat cynical attitude about Hollywood and the whole acting business
But the 34-year old, who made his film debut in 1993’s My Boyfriend’s Back, has a very down-to-earth philosophy when it comes to evaluating his varied career over the years. “If anything, when you first get out here, no matter how well much work you’re getting or not, there’s part of it that any normal human being could become somewhat cynical because if you take everything personally, whether it’s the ass kissing or the negative stuff, you can work yourself into a hyper reality on the good stuff and cynicism on the bad stuff,” McConaughey says sipping from a bottle of water. Defining himself as a marketable product, the actor says that whether his product value has risen or fallen, “I’ve been working consistently and for the most part have been able to be a part of stories and play parts that I want to play and however many people have gone to see those after I’ve been out of them, that’s what you’re market value is,” aggress McConaughey.
“But, I think that cynicism you’re talking about is the number one trap that someone can fall into out here, absolutely man. I know people that are arguably as products more successful than I am, are some of the most cynical people I’ve met out here. They absolutely insulate themselves, won’t get out and about, thinking that the whole town is full of witches and devils and that’s it, and part of the town is that. But, I’ve met some of the coolest and most creative people I’ve ever met here, too.” McConaughey says that he is never enjoyed himself more in Hollywood than in the last three years because he has learned not to take the downside of his career too seriously. “I get the joke, and it ain’t personal: The good, the bad and the hype. Either way, it’s not personal.” It sounds as if the actor has learned not to take the business too seriously. “I take my work seriously, I take laughter pretty seriously and I take myself pretty seriously. I was told one time to take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously but I like to flip that. I take myself very seriously, and I also take laughter very seriously, and I humour myself quite a bit and I do some funny stuff sometimes that cracks me up.”
McConaughey says that he has a good sense of humour. “If I screw up, I’m able to laugh at it, or do my best to laugh at it.” Perhaps that is why the actor has suddenly discovered a niche in romantic comedies, which began with The Wedding Planner and comfortably continues with How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. “For a romantic comedy I think that it’s a pretty good one, man,” he says smilingly. In the film, Kate Hudson plays a women’s magazine reporter in New York writing an article on the irritating things women do to drive men away, from chick flick marathons, naming your man’s member, matching Burberry outfits, and going to a Celine Dion concert, just to name a few. Her male target for the article turns out to be a basketball- and poker-loving, motorcycle-riding ad executive, Benjamin Barry (McConaughey), who’s got a secret separate bet going with co-workers that he can get Hudson’s character to fall in love with him in exchange for taking over a major diamond campaign.
For McConaughey the hook here was finding a fresh take on an all-familiar genre. “The one thing you don’t know if you’re going to have when you start one of these films is chemistry between the leads, and if you don’t have that, you kind of watch one and just connect in the dots. Remember that comedy’s not really creating the wheel in that you pretty much can bet in the end, your two characters are going to get together, so there’s no surprise in concept or stories,” McConaughey concedes. “You set up the premise from the beginning and the fun is watching the two go through it. So if you don’t have the chemistry, you’re going to have a pretty boring romantic comedy that’s kind of connect the dots and it’ll be okay. If you’ve chemistry, you kind of know what’s going to happen, but you enjoy going along for the ride.” It is clear in seeing How to Lose a Guy that there is genuine chemistry between McConaughey and Hudson. The actor says that he didn’t “have any real preconceived notions about her, besides what I had seen in Almost Famous and after meeting her for five minutes, and all those things made me look forward to working with her. It pretty much came true and then some,” he says, describing the beautiful daughter of Goldie Hawn as having “that great irony of being hippie, plus somebody who’s very ambitious and likes her blue ribbons and wants to win, you know? She’s very much a little girl, but at the same time, has womanly traits that make her mature, and gets things. She’s very savvy about how the world works and how the business works.” And on set they had a lot of fun together, he recalls. “We have similar senses of humour, man. Sometimes I do things that she doesn’t think are funny, but she’s laughing because I think they’re funny while sometimes she’ll do things that I don’t think are funny, but I’m cracking up because she thinks it’s funny.”
McConaughey, who came off serious roles in the gothic thriller Frailty, the post-apocalyptic action epic Reign Of Fire, and the independent drama 13 Conversations About One Thing, said he wasn’t looking for a romantic comedy when the How To script came along, but loved the premise of the piece and the kind of character he got to play here. “This was a guy that I had an angle on, meaning that Ben’s a man, not a boy and a lot of times in romantic comedies, the guy is the foil and the comedic relief. This guy has his own secret. As an actor, that gave me something to stand on and Say, ‘Okay, I can still play the comedic beats, and we can still keep it humorous and buoyant,’ but at the same time, this guy has a place he’s going." While some actors believe that death is easy but comedy is hard, not so according to McConaughey. “When I’m doing it, it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done. That’s where I naturally lean towards a lot in life as well. I’ll put a finger on the peculiar, or I’ll be really concerned about the obvious. I am usually not the guy that laughs at the punch line at the joke, but I laugh at some particular way the person told it along the way.”
McConaughey, who divides his time between his Hollywood Hills home and ranch in Texas, He loves both but, admits that Texas offers him something different to Hollywood. “Basically that environment gets my clock set right, you know where a minute feels like 60 seconds and an hour feels like 60 minutes. I’ll show up out there, after being out here working hard and stuff, get up at eight in the morning and all of a sudden, I’ll think it’s like three in the afternoon, but it’s only 11:30 in the morning and slowly, but surely after a week or two I’ll wake up at seven in the morning and go it’s 12:30 and I’ll look at the clock and it’s 12:30 too, and it’s right. What I mean is I’ve got 1600 acres of nothing out there but animals. There is some electricity, but there is not a lot of incoming sensations. You walk around, and a day takes a long time.” When he’s not working or ranching, McConaughey’s other passion in life is to travel. His most recent jaunt was a four-week African adventure to look up the Malian musician Ali Farka Toure, while travelling under the assumed identity of a boxer and painter named David.
"I love to travel to different countries where there is no electricity or where I don’t know the language, there is no hot food, there is no clean water, where all of a sudden you go through withdrawals," he said. "And then you come back home to America and, ‘Oh, man, that just tastes beautiful and that hot water just feels great, that soft bed feels good)’ You respect it, you give it the justice it deserves. I don’t notice sometimes the luxuries I have until I leave them."
HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS OPENS ON APRIL 24
- PAUL FISCHER