A Chat with Matthew McConaughey, McConaughey interview, "Surfer, Dude", "Dazed and Confused"

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I’ll be honest with you: for as much as I enjoyed doing this interview, my wife enjoyed me doing it a whole lot more. When I first told her that I had been offered the opportunity to chat with Matthew McConaughey, her first reaction was denial. (“No, you’re not!” “I am!” “No, you’re not!” “Swear to God, I AM!”) Once she wrapped her head around it, of course, she was on the phone immediately to tell her mother…and her friends…and, well, you get the idea.

The occasion for Bullz-Eye getting the chance to chat with McConaughey came about in connection with the DVD release of his latest film, “Surfer, Dude,” (scheduled for DVD release on 12/30) but his schedule was such that we shared our time with another website: Starpulse.com. I was going to include their questions and his resulting answers within the piece as well, offering the appropriate attribution, but…well, for lack of a better phrase, let’s just say that their agenda was slightly different from ours. (Their first question was about how he maintains his physique, the second involved asking about the accuracy of various rumors, including whether he has a fear of revolving doors and if it’s true that, as a rule, he doesn’t wear deodorant).

For our part, though, we asked him how much method acting was involved in a film that involves a fair about of marijuana smoking and co-stars Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson, we got the inside scoop on how his famous “all right, all right, all right” line came about in “Dazed and Confused,” and learned what projects are coming up next for him.

Bullz-Eye: How’s it going, Matthew?

Matthew McConaughey: Good, man, it’s goin’ real nice.

BE: I read a review of “Surfer, Dude” that suggested that it was kind of your version of the “Oceans Eleven” films, in that you were having as much fun hanging out with your buds as making a movie.

MM: (Laughs) I’ve never read that one. That’s a funny one!

BE: Would you say there’s any truth to it?

MM: Yeah, “Oceans Eleven,” but we were all living in a trailer park. It was probably more like on an old Robert Altman film, like shooting “Nashville” or something. We had a low budget, and we did shoot it with friends and acquaintances, and people did favors. Like, Woody (Harrelson) came in, and Willie (Nelson) came in, and all us lived…there’s about sixteen trailers we had in a trailer park, so it really felt like that old commune feeling that you got from the Altman films. We wanted that feeling where we woke up in the morning, and we drove just down the street, and we were on the set, which was the beach. And we came home after work, and everybody kinda congregated, laughed about the day, had a cocktail, ate some dinner, crashed, and got up and did it again. It was a real feeling of a traveling circus…so, yeah, that’s a fair description.

BE: You mentioned Woody and Willie being in the film. Given the combination of them and a film where a lot of the characters are smoking a fair amount, how much method acting was going on?

MM: Method acting…? (Laughs) You’d have to ask them on that one, man. But I’ll tell you that one of the things that we wanted to do in the film, and in a very subtle way, was…the feeling was to have the smoking of the joints by the characters to be a situation where it’s more like when they don’t smoke, they go a little crazy. So we never really wanted to do the, “Hey, zoom in close, here’s the funny part where the guy smokes a joint!” We were going back to that ‘70s feeling, that thing where you don’t even call attention to it and just have it be like an extension of a lot of different characters’ hands, and not have them act any differently, which is sort of the opposite of what most comedies do today. We just kind of flipped it and said, “Let’s just make it so that the people who are smoking, for them, it’s like drinking water.” (Hesitates) But that’s as far as the characters go, y’know what I mean? (Cackles)

BE: I don’t know if you’re familiar with the sitcom, “My Boys,” but they had a subplot in one episode where a character was banned from a bar for “pulling a McConaughey,” by trying to pick up girls by saying, “all right, all right.”

MM: (Laughs) Actually, it’s, “all right, all right, all right.” It’s three all rights. Those were the first words I ever said on film, in “Dazed and Confused,” the very first time I was ever in front of the camera. Actually, I had heard lots of live tapes of Jim Morrison at a Doors concert, and there’s…I don’t remember what the album is or where the concert was, but between one of the songs, he goes, “all right, all right, all right, all right.” He says it four times, right? And I was in “Dazed and Confused,” and it’s my first scene, the first take, and my character was about to pull into the Top Notch to go try and pick up on the red-headed intellectual. And they said, “Action,” and I was really nervous, and I just went, “all right, all right, all right!” And it sort of became a lead-in to get me to relax, and it turned out to be Wooderson-esque, and it’s a line that’s stuck. So that’s pretty cool.

BE: So how do you feel about the fact that that’s instantly what people quote back when you mention the name “Matthew McConaughey”? That you’ve done all this work, but they still call back to your first words in your first film?

MM: I think it’s pretty cool! You know, the “Dazed” fans that…I get a lot of people when I’m just out and about, or there’s a crowd, or I’m at a game, and you’ll hear somebody in the crowd go, “all right, all right, all right!” And I just always kinda give a little nod, because those fans are always really cool, and that’s all I have to do. Or sometimes they’ll say the first half of a line I’ve said, and I’ll give them the second half. But I’ll take that, ‘cause those were the first words I ever said on film. I’ll take that. I’m cool with people repeating that one. That’s a good one. I still say that.

BE: In “Surfer, Dude,” there’s a scene where you’re naked and playing a didgeridoo. I’m sure everybody immediately parallels that to the, uh, bongo incident, but whose idea was it to include that scene in the movie?

MM: Um… (Laughs) We just thought it was kind of off the wall! And we kind of thought it would be weird and funky and funny to have this guy kinda being off his tree and trying these ridiculous ways to get the waves to come back, these kinds of hideous, ridiculous ideas that he would have to get right back on time with Mother Nature. I’d been in Australia, so I picked up a didgeridoo and started playing it, and I was sitting around one day when we were going through the script in pre-production, and I would carry my didgeridoo with me and play it. And someone came up with…well, it’s a very weird instrument that not many Americans know about, but it’s a very cool instrument and one that we have in our score a lot. And it’s a very earthy instrument. So we said, “I think he should play the didgeridoo.” And we said, “What if, when he’s off his rocker, he’s just stuck at home, all alone, sitting out and doing a meditation, not even playing the didgeridoo very well, but he’s sitting out there doing it buck naked, and then Danni comes over.” And he said, “That’s a funny idea, let’s shoot it.”

BE: Surely it occurred to you, though, that people would think about the reported bongo incident.

On filming "Surfer, Dude": "We woke up in the morning, and we drove just down the street, and we were on the set, which was the beach. And we came home after work, and everybody kinda congregated, laughed about the day, had a cocktail, ate some dinner, crashed, and got up and did it again. It was a real feeling of a traveling circus.”

MM: The reported one? (Bursts into laughter)

BE: Hey, man, I never actually heard you talking about it. I thought I’d just be polite.

MM: Yeah, most of that…well, I definitely was playing some bongos. It was late, and it was hot, and there was…there wasn’t much clothing going on with the bongos. (Laughs) But, yeah, we brought that up, that someone may go, “Oh, that might be a callback.” So, yeah, it’s a bit of a wink. Yeah, it’s a wink.

BE: Is it safe to say that you were a fan of S.R. Bindler’s last film, “Hands on a Hard Body,” or had you known him prior to that?

MM: Well, I was an executive producer on that.

BE: I didn’t know that.

MM: Yeah, that was shot in our hometown, where Rob, the director, and I met when we were 14 years old. It was shot in Longview, Texas, and he went down and shot it, and then he needed some extra financing to go and finish it up, so I invested in it. (Writer’s note: McConaughey is not actually credited as an executive producer, but he does receive “special thanks” in the credits.) But, yeah, I was a fan and knew of it, and it’s a great documentary, too.

BE: Absolutely. I wish they’d reissued it on DVD; it’s out of print now.

MM: Yeah, Rob’s working on that, and it’s a shame that it is. There’s a bunch of reasons why that we don’t need to go into now, but that documentary should be seen by as many eyes as possible, and there are a lot of eyes who haven’t seen it. But everybody who does see it goes, “Geez, this is great!” They were thinking about making a feature film based on it, and Rob still may do that, ‘cause Rob has the rights to it.

BE: Lastly, that’s the word on you doing this “Magnum, P.I.” movie? Everybody wants to attach you to it, but I’ve never heard any confirmation from your end.

MM: No, no confirmation on that. At this time, it’s not something that I think I’m gonna be doing. There are some serious talks about it, but that’s not happening at this time.

BE: Is there anything coming up that you are excited about?

MM: Yeah, there is! I’ve got a production called “The Grackle,” which is the funniest script I’ve ever, ever read, that we’re hopefully gonna be lining up to go next summer, or maybe early next year. That’s in development, and we’re running that through my production company, J.K. Livin. That’s a game breaker. That’s a rule-changing role and movie, right there.

BE: all right, Matthew, good talking to you. Thanks a lot, man!

MM: You’re welcome! Have a good one, and just keep livin’, yeah?

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