Matthew McConaughey and director Richard Linklater go way back — to the 44-year-old actor’s very first movie role as the affably lascivious Wooderson in 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Since then, Linklater has cast the Oscar winner two more times — in the 1998 crime drama The Newton Boys and in the 2012 black comedy Bernie.
The thing is, McConaughey mistakenly thought he was up for the lead role in the latter film, as revealed in this exclusive clip for the upcoming documentary 21 Years: Richard Linklater. As awards season buzz envelops the Texas auteur’s much-lauded Boyhood, the doc examines Linklater’s filmography via interviews from the notable actors he has cast: Keanu Reeves (in A Scanner Darkly), Ethan Hawke (the Before Sunrise series, Boyhood, and more), Jack Black (School of Rock and Bernie), and McConaughey, among many others.
It’s true McConaughey owes his career to the filmmaker, but that doesn’t mean the star was willing to relinquish the lead in Bernie easily. McConaughey recalls how he demanded to audition against Jack Black as the quirky small-town Texas mortician Bernie Tiede — a man who in real life remained a beloved community leader despite admitting to murder.
"I thought I could knock that out of the park," says McConaughey in the film. But Linklater wanted the Magic Mike star for the supporting part of Danny “Buck” Davidson, a colorful local district attorney who, instead, gets the confession from Tiede.
“He’s a character actor sometimes trapped in a leading man’s body,” Linklater said last week of McConaughey. That thinking explains how the A-lister wound up with the small yet memorable role in Bernie — a larger-than-life performance that critics deemed more than just alright, alright, alright.
21 Years: Richard Linklater opens in select theaters and is available on demand Nov. 7.