Matthew McConaughey: Academy Award winner. I have to admit that I never thought those two things would go together. When I think about McConaughey’s career, it seemed highly unlikely, at least until recently. He’s been going gangbusters in the last couple of years with artistic integrity and an obvious commitment to his art (he lost 43 pounds for Dallas Buyers Club.) Even in a less dramatic, non-physically altering role, he’s good (The Lincoln Lawyer, anyone?) When I think back to McConaughey’s film roles before 2010, there were few indications that he’d become an award-winning actor. He was in that group, the group of actors who’d probably never win an Oscar. He’s no longer a member of that group because he repositioned himself from an acting lightweight to an industry heavyweight thanks to some bold and different choices.
McConaughey’s career has turned into quite an exciting and impressive one. Before all of the acclaim and accolades, McConaughey was an actor who demonstrated initial talent and potential, but he spent years making lackluster films and tacky romcoms. His pre-award-winning filmography is rather unremarkable. He was amusing in the stoner flick Dazed and Confused and captivating in the John Grisham adaptation A Time to Kill. He gave a decent comedic turn in Edtv, but the film paled in comparison to its better counterpart The Truman Show. He starred in a few lackluster action films with U-571, Reign of Fire and Sahara, and he spent nearly a decade making a slew of rom-coms – some good (How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days) and some bad (Failure to Launch and Fool’s Gold). Not long ago, McConaughey was known not so much for great acting and powerhouse performances, but for being a mediocre, one-dimensional actor who walked around shirtless most of the time.
I read in a New York Times article that McConaughey has become a role model to young Hollywood and up-and-coming actors fresh out of film school. It’s amazing the turnaround that can happen when an actor makes artistic choices and better films. He becomes an actor that others want to emulate. He turned down roles in more romantic comedies in favour of meatier, more challenging roles: a district attorney in Bernie, a gay reporter in The Paperboy, a fugitive in Mud and a strip club owner in Magic Mike. McConaughey followed up this string of roles with his best yet: a stockbroker in The Wolf of Wall Street, a detective in True Detective and an AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club.
I watched the first season of True Detective and Matthew McConaughey was in a word: superb. Praise is being lavished on him (and his co-star Woody Harrelson) for his role as a Louisiana detective and rightfully so. In scene after scene where he chain smoked cigarettes, formed empty beer cans into little tin men and spouted nihilistic and grand philosophies, he was mesmerizing and entirely believable. It wasn’t Matthew McConaughey playing a role. He was Rust Cohle through and through, and it was his and Harrelson’s acting above all else that had me transfixed for eight episodes. McConaughey should make room on his mantle because he may very well get an Emmy to place next to his Oscar very soon.
Can you think of other actors who have transformed their careers like Matthew McConaughey? Let us know in the comments section.