Matthew McConaughey shares his parenting philosophy and how leaving Hollywood greenlit his Oscar win in new book

In his new book Greenlights, Academy Award winning actor Matthew McConaughey shares the defining and sometimes outrageous stories that shaped him as a man. Some might call it a memoir. McConaughey, 51, simply refers to it as a playbook.

“It is more of an approach book,” he told Yahoo Life. “I found consistent approaches that I've had to live that have given me more green lights in life.”

Video Transcript

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You talk about wet dreams. Wait, let me start that again, because I just started laughing on the question. I was trying to act real serious about asking you about wet dreams, and it's just like not even--

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MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Ah, it's just of those words that brings a smile to anyone's face.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: It does.

[LAUGHING]

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Hey guys, I'm Brittany Jones-Cooper, and I'm so excited to be chatting with Matthew McConaughey, the Academy Award-winning actor. Shows us a very spiritual and insightful side of himself in his new book, Greenlights.

You talk about the art of living, and you see this isn't quite a memoir, It's more of a playbook. What do you mean by that?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: It is more of an approach book. I found consistent approaches that I've had to life that have given me more green lights in life. Sometimes I engineered green lights in my life by the choices I made. Sometimes good fortune lands in our lap, and we've got to recognize it if we have the chance to and then do something with it. Make something of it.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I've kept a diary since I was 14. I'm curious, what was it like for you to go back and just unpack those different versions of Matthew?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Um, a little scary. I was afraid of being embarrassed. I was embarrassed about seeing and reading about when I was-- the times when I was sure I was going to be an arrogant little P-R-I-C-K, a Mr. Know-It-All. And I went back and read it and I saw all those things.

But most of the times that I looked at, that I thought I would be embarrassed about, I actually laughed at. I was like, oh jeez, you thought you knew it all. No you didn't. And without that arrogance, I don't know if I would have had the confidence to put myself in some of those positions where I learned a better lesson.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You talk about that shift from rom-coms to films that you felt really passionate about, and to do that you had to take a break. What did you learn about the power of saying no during that time?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I was the go to rom-com guy. I liked doing them, they paid me handsomely. I was the shirtless guy on the beach, you know those rom-coms paid for the house on the beaches that I went shirtless on. Guilty.

I wanna read the script and a character that scares me and goes, ooh man. I'm not sure I'm going to do with this, but I want to try. But those roles were not getting offered me. So because I couldn't do what I wanted to do, I quit doing what I was doing. I had a rom-com come in that started off with a $5 million offer that worked its way up to an $8 million offer. I said no, $10 million offer. I said no, $12 million. I said no, $14.5 million. And I said, you better let me read that again.

[LAUGHING]

You know? So I read it again, but ultimately said no.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I'm curious, did that rom-com go on to be very successful?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I don't think it got made.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Wow, all right.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I was kind of forgotten. Where's McConaughey? And in the where's McConaughey, all of a sudden I became a new, novel, and good idea for certain things like Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe, Paperboy, Magic Mike, True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club. The dramatic fare that I was looking for.

So I unbranded, said no and unbranded, to end up fortunately where I was able to rebrand and do the work that I wanted to do.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Yeah, and reach something that had been on your bucket list, which was to win the Academy Award.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I wrote that down in 1992.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: That was-- I loved that.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I found that when I was writing this book and my diaries. I'd forgotten I'd written any of that down. But evidently, I didn't forget when I look at it. Because I have achieved or am in the middle of achieving most of those goals.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You talk about you always wanted to be a father, and now you have three beautiful children. What's your overall parenting philosophy?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: When kids are 12, 10, 7, now they're starting to come in their own and be a little more independent and kind of lean into who they are individually. We don't allow the word "can't." So someone says I can't, go whoa whoa whoa, what did you say? Oh, I'm having trouble.

Believe you can, and it's OK to have trouble, but believe you can. Love, don't hate. And tell the truth, don't lie.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: So you call this book Greenlights, and you at the end reference 2020 and how it's a red light year that could one day be a green light year. How?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: It's been obviously a red light year. We've had a pandemic, we've got a cultural revolution, things are not going back to how they were. In time, 2020 is going to reveal its green light assets. As to awkward and as tragic as it's been for many, there are families that have gotten closer.

We have a chance to look back at 2020 as actually a banner year. Actually year that was incredibly hard, but a year that we needed. And again, not to deny the awkward and the tragic sides of it, but through the hardship it will reveal its green light assets to go, oh, there were lessons that I needed to learn.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And we all have those lessons to learn, and I think your book is a beautiful example of that. And if you guys want to check out Greenlights, it's available now wherever books are sold. Thank you, Matthew.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Here's to catching and creating more of these for ourselves and each other!

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