When Matthew McConaughey decided to “f*** the bucks” and stop making romantic comedies in a quest for more challenging roles, he committed to it. And during that nearly two-year span that he didn’t get offers for dramatic roles, he seriously considered a career change — and had a short list of potential new vocations, some of of which are really surprising.
Speaking to Oprah Winfrey for her The Oprah Conversation on Apple+, she asked him about “un-branding himself as the rom-com man” in 2008, after making many, including 2001’s The Wedding Planner, 2003’s How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and 2006’s Failure to Launch. And, yes, they discussed him turning down the offer of $14.5 million for one after he had already committed to pivot.
“My life was so vital,” the actor, 50, explained, citing how at the time he had fallen in love with his now-wife, Camila, and they had started their family. “But the roles were not nearly as vital as my life... So because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, I decided to stop doing what I was doing — not knowing how long I was going to be in this desert, proverbially, and not get any work. And it was a 20-month sabbatical before anything came my way. It was 20 months before I became a good idea — a new idea.”
During that time, McConaughey and his young family moved back to his home state of Texas and he wrote in his book, Greenlights, that he spent his days raising his kids, gardening, writing, praying, hanging out with friends and visiting family. Winfrey asked if he set a limit in his mind of how long he would remain in that proverbial desert until he’d give in and say yes to rom-com, or other less inspiring project, just to work in Hollywood again.
“No, I was in,” he said of his commitment to a new direction creatively as an actor. “I would have changed vocations. I had dabbled with thinking about other careers.”
Like what? Well, “I dabbled thinking being a high school football coach,” said the Texas Longhorns mega-fan, who had just played a football coach in the 2005 drama We Are Marshall.
Some other careers he was considering were even more surprising.
“I dabbled being a symphony orchestra leader,” he said, not elaborating — though we know he plays a mean bongo. “I dabbled with being a wildlife guide. Being a school teacher,” like his mother, Kay. “I was not going back” to be Hollywood’s rom-com guy.
While it was definitely a rough patch for him professionally and it shook his confidence, he said the longer he started to go without offers, the more he felt he took the right path.
“I was starting to get that feeling that the harder this gets, this means there is more reward on the other side,” he said, recalling telling himself, “‘Stick with it. Stay in it. Don’t pull the parachute, McConaughey.’”
Then the calls started coming. He was cast as a defense attorney in The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), a contract killer in Killer Joe (2011) before nabbing roles in Bernie, The Paperboy, Mud and Magic Mike.
Not long after, the 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club earned him the Best Actor Academy Award and Golden Globe. And the following year, he was nominated for a Globe and Emmy for TV’s True Detective.
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