Matthew McConaughey: All Skin, Bones & Fight In First Footage From ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

We knew Matthew McConaughey got dangerously skinny for "Dallas Buyers Club." But we didn't realize until now that he looks amazing in the role.

For months, paparazzi images appeared in the entertainment press that showed Matthew McConaughey looking alarmingly thin and unhealthy. It turns out McConaughey went through a severe weight loss program for his role in the upcoming film "Dallas Buyers Club," in which he plays an AIDS patient who goes south of the border looking for treatment. Now the first footage from the movie has been released, and this looks like just the sort of role that makes award voters sit up and take notice.

[Related: Matthew McConaughey Speaks Out About His Dramatic Weight Loss]

Based on a true story and set in the early 1990s, "Dallas Buyers Club" revolves around Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), a hell-raising Texas rodeo rider who discovers he's HIV-positive and has developed full-blown AIDS. Refusing to settle for the thirty days to live that his doctors have given him, Woodroof begins researching other AIDS treatments and discovers there are new drugs that show greater promise than what's available in American hospitals. Unfortunately for Woodroof, they're not yet approved for use in the United States. Woodroof becomes a sort of crusading drug dealer, smuggling new AIDS drugs into Texas from Mexico, making him a hero and an outlaw at the same time.

McConaughey, who stands a strapping six feet tall, dropped 38 pounds through exercise and diet to play Woodroof, eventually getting his weight down to just 135. He told Larry King in a 2012 interview that he challenged himself to lose the weight to demonstrate his commitment to the role. "I just kinda dared myself," McConaughey said. "I haven't been this light since I was in the ninth grade. I'm kind of looking at it as sort of a cleanse, it's a bit of a spiritual cleanse, mental cleanse."

Jared Leto, who plays an HIV-positive transsexual who becomes one of Woodruff's business partners in the movie, also dropped serious weight for the project, losing thirty pounds and bottoming out at 116 pounds.

[Related: Matthew McConaughey Boards Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’]

For a guy who has spent much of his career playing charming good old boys, McConaughey has landed several unusually strong dramatic roles recently, including the independent success "Mud" and Martin Scorsese's upcoming "The Wolf of Wall Street." Judging from the clips from "Dallas Buyers Club," McConaughey may have the sort of role here that could win him on Oscar, thanks to the emotional intensity of the performance and McConaughey's fierce commitment to the role. If nothing else, this is the sort of work that shuts down any arguments that McConaughey is not a serious actor.

"Dallas Buyers Club" goes into limited release in December, and is expected to open wide in January.

See McConaughey and Leto in the first footage from "Dallas Buyers Club":