BEVERLY HILLS – I”d seen the pictures. I’d seen the news reports. I”d heard about Matthew McConaughey”s amazing weight loss for his role in the new independent film “The Dallas Buyer”s Club” from all aspects of social media. It was another thing, however, to shake the hand of a man that looked like he”d lost half of himself since we last talked just five months before.
Frail and seemingly skinny to the bone, McConaughey has undergone the physical transformation to play a man diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1986. The film also stars Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto and began shooting on Monday. During our conversation, McConaughey revealed it”s just a five-week shoot and that he”s lost a staggering 38 pounds and his current weight is 143 pounds. It”s an incredible achievement for the 43-year-old Texan, but, on the lighter side of it all, he knows exactly what he”s going to eat once it”s over: a po boy.
Of course, if he can”t find one, a cheeseburger will do just fine as well. McConaughey smiles while reciting his dream meal, “I will have some 70 percent beef, 30 percent fat ground beef, maybe a half pound cheeseburger with another three types of cheese. I’ll prepare it all and I’ll make sure that it takes three hours just to prepare. I’m going to have buns with butter on both sides, toasted and grilled. I’m going to melt the cheese on the top bun, Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise. I want kosher dill pickles sliced nice and thin, diced white onions, slightly grilled until they get almost hard, and some thin jalapeno slices. And then I’m just going to sit back and let the [expletive] just drop on the ground.”
McConaughey shared his wish after we”d spent some time discussing his weight loss and his acclaimed performances this past year in the box office hit “Magic Mike” and the art house wonder “Bernie.” No joke, McConaughey is a legitimate contender for a best supporting actor nomination for “Mike,” a recognition that would be a welcome highlight as he ends his 20th year as a professional actor. You can watch our insightful conversation which touches on a possible “Magic Mike” sequel embedded at the top of this post or within the Q&A below.
Q: You have sort of undergone a physical transformation for your next role. You just told me you’re about to start shooting on Monday and I’m curious how much weight have you lost and how are you actually feeling right now?
I’ve lost 38 pounds. I feel good now. Overall, probably got 35 percent less energy, but there’s been plateaus, like getting past 170 was really hard, but then once you get [to] 167 the next seven come off easy. Getting passed 160, really hard. But then you fly down to 150. Getting passed 150 was really hard and then, bam! Got down to 143 and that’s where I want to be. So, once you get passed the plateau, your body seems to understand, ‘O.K., this is where we’re leaving now, this is where we are” and so the energy rises.
Q: In terms of how you lost the weight, was it all diet? We’re you also exercising more as well?
I’m doing cardio but I’ll tell you what, the more I’ve learned is – and I think it comes with age too – is it’s 90 percent diet. It’s 90 percent amount and then what you’re eating because right now I’m not losing any more weight if I burn 1,500 calories, two hours of cardio in an afternoon, or if I don’t. It doesn’t matter. It’s a matter of how much I eat or how little I eat.
Q: And just one last question on this, by doing this has your appetite gone down? Are you less hungry?
Oh, yeah. Even if I’m lying to myself, you know. Your organs [and] muscles shrink, your organs shrink [and] my stomach has shrunk as well. So, as much as I can’t wait to have that cheeseburger on the day [shooting ends] it’ll probably be damn hard to eat the whole thing.
When that day comes, and it’s coming, I don’t want to be doing this interview at a Pizza Hut buffet, you know? I choose to pick my places where there’s less good smells and temptations, you know? That’s really nice.
Q: Well let’s talk about a movie that’s full of temptation for people who watched it and for the cast, which is ‘Magic Mike.” I remember speaking during the junket with you and Channing and you guys were excited. People knew that it was good and that it was probably going to open well, but were you surprised by the reaction and the love that your character in particular received from moviegoers?
It did open well and then it went on to do well, you know. It really maintained and a lot of people saw it. So, it translated. There was for entertainment value and then the Soderbergh — sort of his tonal value people dug as well. You know, Dallas, when I was creating him and playing him, I loved him. I thought he was an absolute riot. My imagination went so far with this character and it was so easy for me to go – give me five minutes to lead up to the scene and I’ll do everything Dallas would do leading up and after the scene’s over, don’t cut ’cause I’m going to run off and keep being Dallas. He was in perpetual motion. I felt like I knew exactly where he was going to go, what he would do, and he was very cosmic character that way. You know, I’ve had people come up and go, ‘Oh, yeah, but he’s kind of the villain,” and I was like, ‘You think so?”
And I think what they meant is they go, ‘He’s kind of slippery, kind of greasy.” And I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s that,” but he didn’t consider himself a villain. He’s a poet capitalist who’s looking out for number one first.
Q: I actually saw him as someone who was teaching Channing’s character a lesson, like ‘This is the way the world. It’s not all as easy as it seems.”
‘This is how it goes. If you want out, there’s the door. If not, you’re not getting any younger; let’s go.” You know?
Q: Working with Steven, did he let you improv on the set?
Well, he did. I had a lot of ideas for how I wanted to introduce my guys [in the strip club] musically, things that I had written about, what I would say. So he could be a different form of intro. I was thinking like WWF Wrestling, how they introduce those characters in these big dramatic theatrical carny ways, you know. And so I came with those ideas and Steven was like, well, go do it. And then I went and did it and then he’d shoot it and then sometimes if he liked something that I added he might think it needed coverage even and I didn’t know how much of it was going to be in the film or not. Quite a bit of it was.
Q: Was there anything in particular that surprised you that made it in that you were pleased with that he put in?
Well, there wasn’t originally. Dallas didn’t dance at the end in the original script. When he initially called me, he was like, ‘But I think it’d be a great idea if he did.” After getting really nervous and starting to break a sweat, my mouth opened and I was like, ‘Yeah, I got to do that or I’ll regret it,” you know?
And then I came up with the idea, it was like, ‘And you know what? I think since it’s the last night in Tampa, I think Dallas would have a ballad that he sings to the ladies and they think it’s a nice touching raise-your-lighters-in-the-air Journey moment and then he’s just like ‘[expletive] this.” Crash the guitar, KISS’s ‘Calling Dr. Love’ comes on, he’s kind of duped them and he’s like now this is – ‘You know who we are. You know why you come here. There’s nothing sentimental about us; let’s get it on.” I was glad I did, and I thought it worked in the film. He kept that sequence in there, you know, with the song and the ballad and into the dance.
Q: There have been a lot of rumors since the movie came out about possible sequels and Channing has talked about it publicly a couple times. It seems obviously to me that your character, Dallas, would have to come back. Have you guys talked about that at all?
Q: Is there a storyline that they’re even thinking of that you know?
I”ve heard a couple of the storylines they were floating around. I won’t share them ’cause neither one of them may end up being what it is, but I’ve heard a couple of storylines, and if something comes back that I get to look at and I can go, ‘Boy, I know how to be Dallas in that tonally, too, you know,” then it’d be a blast to do it – to step back in Dallas’ shoes.
Q: But one of the things I read, and I don’t know if this is true, is that he wants to take a break to sort of visit the characters down on the road, have you heard anything about that?
I haven’t heard that. That’s a great idea, though. Richard Linklater circled that idea with ‘Dazed and Confused” through the years and just through the years I always checked in with me and like, ‘What do you think Wooderson would be doing now?” You know? And check with other people. ‘What do you think so and so would be doing?”
Q: Has he thought about going back and doing that – bringing those characters back again in a new movie?
I mean, he could. It’s just been talked about. It’s been circling, you know. Rick’s always kind of dabbling and working on different things that he likes – he’s got many other films he’s done. He just did the third in the series of ‘Before Sunrise.” He’s got something he’s doing with his daughter that’s tracking her life every eight years. So, he’s like following timelines, you know.
Q: As somebody who’s been in the business this long, can you reflect on how shocking it is that somehow Richard Linklater made a third ‘Before Sunrise’/’Before Sunset’ movie and no one knew it was being shot? Somehow it didn’t get out in the media. Did you know about it?
Well I knew just ’cause of him and all the sudden I was talking to him [and] the next day he was gone and I heard he was in Greece. And he was. So, he went over there to shoot and evidently he loved it. He loved shooting over there and he loved the people and then, as Rick and I do — and neither one of us are working we don’t even speak, don’t call or nothing. In fact, if I called Rick on day one of shooting when he was in Greece and left him a message I wouldn’t get a call back until he got back to Texas and checked the message. We’re both good that way. We check out and say, ‘Hey, I hadn’t talked to you in five months.” But no I didn’t know about it. I only knew about it from him knowing that that’s what he went over to do. He had a few things kind of percolating and this one hit and was able to be made and so he headed off and did it.
Q: I just think it’s amazing that somehow there were no trade reports.
So nothing came out?
Q: No. Not until it announced that he was going to sell it, that it was done.
Yeah, there you go. That’s very Rick, yeah.
Q: Yeah, speaking of Rick and you guys together, another movie that I was so happy did so well was ‘Bernie.”
Q: A great movie and a word of mouth hit on the art house circuit. Were you pleased with that success? Was it nice to know that a movie that some mini major sort of ignored sort of did its own thing?
Yeah. Absolutely. Look I got fortunate with almost all the movies I did. I did five in a row and they were independents and the thing with independent is usually a passion project, it’s something you like, something that the big studies have passed on so you’re not going to get a huge studio behind it that’s going to get it out there.
And at least give it a chance to open. So you need word of mouth; you need specific interest that people go, ‘You know, I’m going to go down here to the Art House Theater and watch that.” Man, that’s tough to pull that off for something to work. ‘Bernie” did. ‘Bernie” kept going. ‘Magic Mike” we made for $7 million [and] it’s up in the $120 millions or whatever. That had more obvious commercial ways to market it and sell it than say ‘Bernie,” but the other great thing about ‘Bernie” is I’ve had many, many people come up to me, stop me, get in front of me, make sure they’re perfectly in front of me and going, ‘Hey, Bernie. I’ve seen it four times. I love that movie.” And a lot of them are Texans that know those people and stuff, but there’s some ‘Bernie” fans that stop me and don’t just throw it off, like, ‘Hey, man, love that movie.” They look, stop, look me in the eye and go, ‘Bernie. I love, I love that movie.” And it’s people that like it really like it.
Q: Does that give you a sense of satisfaction that even critics or traditional box office doesn’t give? Is that interaction with fans or people who respect your work or love it that much?
You know, the best compliment is one when they say something like that really translated.
You know [sometimes] what I get from them, and it happened with ‘Dazed,” another Rick film, people will see characters and they go, ‘I know that person! I know him.” This one [‘Bernie’] , they went, ‘I knew that story, but I didn’t know exactly how this all went down.” ‘Yeah, they’re just like the people in my home town.” And that’s one of Rick’s real talents of capturing people in place, and it translated to other people around the country that may not live there but go, ‘I know someone just like that. That’s exactly how they view the situation.” You know what I mean? ‘Exactly how they talk, whatever it is.” So, I love it. It’s great when people come to me about a character and go, ‘I know that guy. His name was so and so in my school, you know.” Or they’ll come and they’ll go, ‘You know what that character was? He was this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this,” And I’ll go back and look at my diary and they’re saying to me exactly what I wrote down as I define the character before I ever shooting. So then I go, ‘Oh.” What you set out to do translated and someone’s coming back to you with the same vernacular and defining the character that you wrote down for yourself in private. And you go, ‘O.K., things were lining out. What I wanted to do is evidently closer to what I did. And what I did came across, translated.”
Q: And that has to be the ultimate satisfaction.
It’s one of them. It’s one of the ones that there we go.
Q: Speaking of satisfaction, when ‘Magic Mike” came out, I remember that first weekend and just random people would be Twittering about it. People on my Twitter feed who weren’t even in the industry [saying] ‘Matthew McConaughey, he should win an Oscar for ‘Magic Mike” and that you were ‘so awesome.” That’s how much they loved the character. Do you sort of take it with a grain of salt when they talk about you being a legit supporting actor contender? Does it get you excited or are you’re like, ‘Eh, we’ll see how it goes”?
Well, I mean, definitely excited. It’s exciting. This is the first time I’ve been flown into Los Angeles to do interviews specifically about being a contender as a supporting actor. That’s a new thing and that’s something I’m like, ‘Yeah, right on.” And it was a role that allowed for that sort of real identity in the form of an expression. It was a wild ride of a guy. It was on the page [and I] had a lot of help creating this guy and bringing him to life. I’m glad it resonated and translated because Dallas is a life force of his own, and he’s not someone – he’s not who I am. But he was sure fun to get in those leathers with.
“Magic Mike” and “Bernie” are now both currently available on Blu-ray and DVD. “The Dallas Buyers Club” is shooting in Louisiana.