Matthew McConaughey on his revitalised career and the woman behind his happiness
Going from Hollywood lightweight to serious actor hasn’t just been about great roles. Meeting model wife Camila and starting a family are all part of Matthew McConaughey’s wonderful new world, he tells Melissa Field.
My life has been a pretty crazy ride so far,” concedes Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey. He’s not wrong. After a producer spotted the then Austin College (Texas) student in a bar in the early
1990s and offered him his breakthrough role in a 1992 youth comedy, Dazed and Confused, Matthew has worked almost continuously in front of the camera.
Before then, residents of a quiet town called Warnervale in New South Wales, Australia, who were visiting a local bank in the late 1980s, could have been cashing their cheques with an Oscarwinning A-lister of the future.
“I lived in Australia for a year when I was two weeks out of high school and worked 11 different odd jobs, including as an ANZ bank teller,” Matthew McConaughey tells The Australian Women’s Weekly.
Texas native Matthew, now 47, came to Australia in 1988 on a Rotary exchange programme before going on to become one of Hollywood’s most versatile and gifted actors.
An early hint at what Matthew was capable of came in 1999’s critically well-received EDtv – but an unfortunate incident involving his arrest following some naked bongo drums playing, combined with a slew of roles in forgettable rom-coms including The Wedding Planner, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Fool’s Gold, almost saw Matthew consigned to the lightweight list.
Then, in more recent years, came the career “McConnaissance”, as it’s been dubbed, in which he has shone in dramatic roles, including The Lincoln Lawyer, The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club, which won him the 2013 Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Matthew acknowledges but plays down the directional change his career undertook, saying: “I just shifted to another gear.”
But surely it can’t be a coincidence his career resurgence came at the same time as he found happiness and contentment in his personal life? Matthew makes no secret of the fact that when he met his now wife, Brazilian model and TV presenter Camila Alves, in a bar in 2006, it was love at first sight. Earlier this year he recalled the moment. “Out of the corner of my eye, this aqua-green figure went floating across the frame in front of me. I didn’t say ‘Who is that?’ but ‘What is that?’ Then, in my head [I thought], ‘This is not the kind of woman you call over across the room, McConaughey. Get your ass out of your chair and go get her.’ Which I did.”
The pair wed on June 9, 2012, and have three children together: sons Levi, eight, and Livingston, four, and daughter Vida, seven. With his refreshing and trademark honesty, Matthew recently explained why Camila is the only woman for him. “I have been very faithful with my wife,” he revealed. “Very selfishly. I like being under her spell and I don’t want to break that.”
In his Texan drawl, Matthew shares more with The Australian Women’s Weekly about his personal life. “With three kids, it’s chaos,” he says. “But Camila and I are a team and we run a pretty tight ship. We pick each other up, love one another and have a good time – we respect ourselves and each other.”
By Hollywood standards, the longevity of their relationship is impressive – and uncommon – but the couple works at it.
“Wherever I’m working, family always comes with me,” says Matthew. “For me, travel is the great educator and Camila and I want our kids to experience as much culture and different ways of life as possible. So wherever I go, they go. We get a house, we live like locals but the kids keep on track with their American schooling while we’re away too. It works for us.”
Despite the privileges afforded his family thanks to the $15 to $20 million he can command per film these days, Matthew is determined not to raise spoilt children.“I want my kids to have a work ethic,” he says. “My oldest two, they’ve worked catering on set. I said to them, ‘If you want to do half a day during the week you can and you’ll get paid – but you’ve got to do a good job.’ I want them to appreciate that to get to the top you have to work your way up and work hard.”
It’s an ethos instilled in him growing up in Uvalde, Texas, by late father James, who ran an oil pipe supply business, and former kindergarten teacher mother Kay, whom Matthew is devoted to. He mentioned her during his Oscar acceptance speech: “She taught me and my two brothers – demanded – we respect ourselves. Thank you for that, Mama,” he said. Matthew’s also close to brothers Michael and Pat.
“My folks brought me and my brothers up to be honest and work hard, and I want my kids to have that upbringing. I’m doing my best to hand that to them.”
It was that same work hard (and play hard) notion that brought him to Australia as a teenager in 1988.
“As well as the bank I did a bunch of jobs while I was there, including being a boat serviceman, a barrister’s assistant during a trial and a carpenter. I lived with four great families. I went to the beach.
It was one of the most fun and important years of my life,” he says.
Matthew believes there’s not much difference between Texans and Australians. “We are of a similar ilk, I find,” he says. “They are two rugged places and are both pretty no-frills too. If somebody thinks they’re hot shit, Texans and Australians will bring them back down to earth pretty darn quickly.”
While he was in Australia, Matthew picked up the lingo too. “I love that contraction you guys do,” he says. “Shortening ‘afternoon’ to ‘arvo’ makes perfect sense to me!”
Gold, which opens in New Zealand on February 9, is loosely based on the true story of the largest gold mine find in history – and the adventurers who hoped to make a fortune from the discovery. Matthew gained a considerable paunch and lost his hairline to play the scheming, down-on-his-luck prospector, Kenny Wells.
“I lost a bunch of weight for Dallas Buyers Club but I’ve never transformed myself in the way that I have to play Kenny,” says Matthew. “For eight months I gave myself permission to eat all the cheeseburgers and drink all the beer. It was not a chore! I’ve never gone above 190lbs [86kg] – so to go up to 217lbs [98kg] for this role was a ride.
“Is Kenny an attractive character? No. But as soon as I read the script I was like, ‘I’m the only guy who can play this role.’”
Indeed, Matthew totally immerses himself in the role, and although he was left off the Golden Globes nomination list for his portrayal of Kenny Wells, it’s another incredibly watchable addition to the “McConnaissance” roster. He has also chosen to make some upcoming films his kids can actually see, too. “That’s why I did [animated films] Sing and Kubo and the
Two Strings. I like to mix it up.”
With a jam-packed schedule that includes his Just Keep Livin youth health foundation – can Australia’s Warnervale expect a visit from their most famous former exchange student any time soon?
“I’d love to come back to Australia with my family,” he says. “Hopefully I’ll have another job there soon. It would be so great to get there for a while, get a house and do it right. I’d love to show my kids where I spent my time Down Under – that absolutely would be all right by me.”
I was like, ‘I’m the only guy who can play this role.’
The 2013 Oscar proved Matthew McConaughey was a serious dramatic actor.
A transformed Matthew in Gold (left) and with Camila and their children at the Sing premiere in Los Angeles last December.