Fun fuels actor's work ethic
NEW YORK-Thirteen years after Matthew McConaughey improvised the "Just keep livin'" line for the movie Dazed and Confused, he is still playing slackers on-screen, but he is slowly building an empire off it.
His latest film, Failure to Launch, which opens Friday (March 10), sees him playing Trip, a 35-year-old who still lives with his parents (Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates). Whenever Trip feels that a girlfriend is getting too close to him, he ends it by bringing her home. Eventually, his parents go looking for a way to end his dependence on them and find it through a woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) who has helped several other couples with similar problems. She pretends to have a crush on their sons, then lures the men out of the home. By the time she has dumped them, they feel as though they can survive on their own.
McConaughey says that he reads a lot of scripts in the romantic-comedy genre but has found few that don't base their humour on insulting men. "There are romantic comedies that some women like in which the men get emasculated," he says in a New York hotel's interview room. "A lot of these romantic comedies are set up to be some sort of war of the sexes and that is the fun of it, but I think that if you are going to do that, then it needs to be balanced. Unfortunately, most of them aren't balanced and the man is a foil who is pulled left and right and then sent on his way by the girl. I think it rings more true if you can go in and be a guy's guy. You have to give the guy some huevos [balls]. Then it is funnier to me and it doesn't alienate anyone. I dug that idea when I first read this script. It is not that you have to stand up for the men, but you should see a guy playing the light side and still being a man."
If you only read the tabloid stories, you would think that McConaughey was barely acting. You would assume he was always playing some version of himself: a wisecracking Texas good ol' boy who lives in a trailer and dates beautiful women. Although the off-screen part is mostly true, McConaughey is also building a company to fall back on in case the acting career starts to wane. His production company, j.k. livin', named after the phrase he coined in Dazed and Confused, has several productions on studio schedules and has already produced two movies. He says that he can't imagine being a slacker because he works as hard as he plays.
"Hard work can be fun when you maintain a goal," he explains. "You have an idea for a script and you sit down with writers and it comes back and you think 'This is not what we were talking about.' But you keep working on it, and four years later you look at it and think 'This is what we were dreaming of. It was hard work getting there, but there is the gratification of accomplishing something.' I have always been a hard worker, but if I didn't care about certain things or have a good work ethic, I wouldn't have fun. I would feel shame and laziness, and that is not fun for me."
McConaughey founded j.k. livin' in the mid-1990s. The company was launched in 1997 with Hands on a Hardbody: The Documentary and followed up with Last Flight of the Raven three years later. It has The Loop and Dear Deliah coming out within the next year. McConaughey, whose father ran an oil-pipe-supply business, says the business he started with friends from his home state is growing with his career.
"We have been working together for 11 years, and the projects have evolved. It is nice when you get a script [finished] and someone says, 'What are you talking about?' and you can say, 'Have a read.' It is a great place to get to. To have 120 pages of something a few years after you scribbled something on a piece of paper is outstanding because the development process is a B-I-T-C-H. You get people in the right positions so you can maximize their potential. I like the management and structure of the company and people's responsibilities. I have always liked that and I have the most fun when they are having fun, and that is not saying that we sit around and say, 'We will get to it later.' That is not fun. That is just being irresponsible. I pay them salaries for a reason and it is my main investment, so that is where I want to see returns."