Entertainment & Arts

Matthew McConaughey: From rom-com star to Oscar winner

Matthew McConaughey Image copyright Reuters
Image caption McConaughey beat tough competition from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Chiwitel Ejiofor

It was no big surprise when Matthew McConaughey scooped this year's best actor Oscar for his role in Dallas Buyers Club as a real-life rodeo cowboy who smuggled HIV drugs into the US.

The 44-year-old had been the hot favourite for weeks to pick up the prestigious Academy Award. Just five or six years ago, though, no one would have predicted how his career has come full circle.

Born in the small city of Uvalde, Texas, McConaughey eschewed a role in the family oil pipe business to study radio, TV and film at the University of Texas.

While many still know him best for his leading roles in such rom-coms as Failure to Launch and The Wedding Planner, he actually began his career in Richard Linklater's indie cult classic, Dazed and Confused.

The 1993 film, set in a high school in the 1970s, saw him utter his now-famous line "alright, alright, alright" for the first time in his role as drifter David Wooderson.

This led to small roles in films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and road trip comedy drama Boys on the Side. But then he got his big break, playing a lawyer in the 1996 film adaptation of John Grisham novel A Time to Kill.

The role landed him on the cover of Vanity Fair. The same year he also won plaudits for his role in Lone Star, a Texas-set western directed by John Sayles.

Image copyright Film company
Image caption McConaughey's celebrated pectorals were hard to miss in Magic Mike

With a lead role in Steven Spielberg's slave drama Amistad the following year, it seemed unlikely that McConaughey would soon be going down the route of semi-naked poster boy.

But with lukewarm receptions for Linklater's The Newton Boys (1998) and Ron Howard's EdTV (1999), in which McConaughey had leading roles, it was time to change course.

The Wedding Planner (2001), co-starring Jennifer Lopez, was followed by How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) with Kate Hudson and Failure to Launch (2006), opposite Sarah Jessica Parker.

2008's Fool's Gold saw him reunite with Hudson, while 2009's Ghosts of Girlfriends Past cast him alongside Jennifer Garner.

The rom-coms were interspersed with more dramatic fare: Sahara, opposite Penelope Cruz, and Two for the Money with Al Pacino, both released in 2005. Yet McConaughey seemed to accept where his bread and butter would be made.

In a recent interview in the Daily Telegraph, McConaughey said he had no qualms about being associated with the romantic comedy genre.

"I didn't ever go, 'No, no, no.' I was like, 'Yeah! I get that. That's fun. What's the big deal?' If you go deep with the rom-com you sink the ship.

"There's a buoyancy to the frequency of rom-coms. To be light is critically always looked down upon - it's willowy, it's wispy, it's nothing. You know what? It's not easy to do and a lot of people don't do it well."

Having made his fortune at the box office, though, he made the crucial decision to be more choosy.

Three years ago, McConaughey signalled a change in direction with The Lincoln Lawyer, a critically acclaimed crime thriller that was swiftly followed by Bernie, another collaboration with Linklater.

His lead role in 2011's Killer Joe, from The Exorcist director William Friedkin, won him plenty of praise, as did his roles in The Paperboy and Mud the following year.

This burgeoning, more heavyweight career, was coined the "McConnaissance", a phrase the actor described as "fun" in a 2012 interview.

Image copyright Focus Features
Image caption McConaughey lost nearly three-and-a-half stone for his role in Dallas Buyers Club

A stripper role in Steven Soderbergh's 2012 comedy Magic Mike proved McConaughey was confident enough to still take more light-hearted roles - one which won him a best supporting actor award at last year's Independent Spirit Awards.

In a BBC interview in 2012, the actor was asked if he had become a different Matthew McConaughey these days. The actor replied: "Same one but a different chapter of my book."

It certainly seems like a lifetime ago since McConaughey was charged with resisting arrest after an early morning disturbance at his home in Texas in 1999. A police officer allegedly spotted the star through a window, dancing naked and playing bongo drums.

He was subsequently fined for disturbing the peace. In an interview with GQ magazine last year, however, he said: "Of course I still play the congas naked. I just close the windows."

Magic Mike was followed by Dallas Buyers Club, not to mention a critically acclaimed cameo role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's Oscar-nominated The Wolf of Wall Street.

Currently to be seen alongside his frequent collaborator Woody Harrelson in HBO drama series True Detective, McConaughey will be found later this year in Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic Interstellar.

Such projects show McConaughey is staying true to his motto "just keep livin'", also the name of his non-profit foundation, which provides fitness and health programmes in US schools.

Perhaps the last word should go to McConaughey's Dallas Buyers Club co-star, Jared Leto. Following his win at the Spirit awards on Saturday, he joked that he was going to "pull a reverse" from McConaughey and only do romantic comedies in the future.

If his co-star's success is anything to go by, it might not do him any harm.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites