M. McConaughey shakes hands with fame

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Nov. 26, 2002 at 6:39 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- The way Matthew McConaughey sees it he is building his career "in reverse order," having achieved fame a decade ago -- even though he is just now reaching the age, 33, when actors more typically make professional breakthroughs.

In an interview to promote the DVD release of the movie "Thirteen Conversation About One Thing," McConaughey was asked whether he is comfortable with the celebrity that came to him as a result of high-profile appearances in "Dazed and Confused" (1993), "A Time to Kill" (1996), "Contact" (1997) and "U-571" (2002).

"If I haven't shaken hands with that part by now, it's too late," said the Uvalde, Texas, native. "I've already immortalized myself as an actor, because the movies last forever."

McConaughey acknowledges that movie stardom is "a wild ride." But he said he is enjoying his work now more than ever.

"I'm just doing it in reverse order," said McConaughey. "A lot of what happened in (the early) years, I just recognized a couple of years ago."

"Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" -- directed by Jill Sprecher from a screenplay she wrote with Karen Sprecher -- examines the unexpected ways in which one's life can change suddenly and dramatically.

Alan Arkin ("Glengarry Glen Ross") plays an over-the-hill insurance agent whose envy of a co-worker's cheerful attitude dominates his outlook. John Turturro ("Quiz Show") plays a man who decides to add some excitement to his life, but gets a lot more than he bargained for.

McConaughey plays a prosecutor who has to deal with the emotional fallout from leaving the scene of an accident after hitting a pedestrian with his car. He said he doesn't ever want to find himself in a spot like that.

"I don't like carrying those kinds of things on my shoulders," he said. "I don't ever want to carry a secret like that. He was putting himself through his own hell."

For McConaughey, "Thirteen Conversations" is about more than just how suddenly one's life can be turned upside-down. It's about taking responsibility for one's own choices and behavior.

"You've got to be responsible," he said. "If you're a complete fatalist why do you stop at a red light?"

"Thirteen Conversations" is a far cry from the high-profile projects McConaughey has specialized in -- including "The Wedding Planner," a romantic comedy with Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Spielberg's "Amistad." Even though it sports a cast that includes not only Arkin and Turturro but also Clea DuVall ("Girl, Interrupted") and Amy Irving ("Traffic"), the movie was shot on a low budget.

"Doing 'Thirteen' felt like I was back in college doing student films," said McConaughey. "And I loved it. I love feeling part of the filmmaking process. It's probably because I went to directing school at the University of Texas."

McConaughey said he isn't fond of "making of" features that show-and-tell how movies are put together, because he wants to feel as though he is "under the spell of the movie" when he sees it. On the other hand, he likes to hear war stories about filmmaking after he has already seen a movie -- and he said Martin Scorsese's director's commentary on "Raging Bull" gave him a new appreciation for what one can learn from that kind of DVD feature.

"I was sitting down with a buddy writing a script so we were able to flip through the DVD very quickly," he said. "We were excited to find out how easily and realistically he covered a decade (in the life of boxer Jake La Motta). It helped us in the writing process."

McConaughey doubted that home DVD will replace the actual movie going experience -- at least he hoped it will not. But he said the growing DVD market will probably change the art of the Hollywood deal.

"You used to say, 'I'll take a chunk of international,'" he said. "Now you'll say, 'I'll take a chunk of DVD.'"

McConaughey's next couple of projects will be more along the lines of the "major motion picture" sort of project he has typically been associated with.

He's due in theaters early next year in "How to Lose a Guy," a romantic comedy directed by Donald Petrie ("Miss Congeniality"), and starring Kate Hudson ("Almost Famous") as a woman who writes a how-to column for a magazine and tries to show how easy it is to get a man and then get rid of him. She uses McConaughey's character as the guinea pig, not knowing that he has just learned that he can land a huge account for his ad company if he can get her to fall in love with him.

Also in 2003, he'll show up on screens in "Tiptoes," a comedy-drama in which he and Gary Oldman play twins with a twist. Oldman's character is a dwarf and Kate Beckinsale ("Pearl Harbor"), McConaughey's pregnant girlfriend, finds herself falling in love with the smaller brother.

"It's way out of the box," said McConaughey.

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