Matthew McConaughey is smack dab in the middle of a career resurgence the likes we probably haven’t seen. The days of cheap romantic comedies seem to be over, replaced by top notch performances in projects like Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, Bernie and True Detective. I don’t think you could’ve sold me on McConaughey doing anything I would call bad ass five years ago. Now is a completely different story.
One of the projects that helped spark this stream of quality work was Killer Joe, a film from William Friedkin and Tracy Letts about a West Dallas detective that moonlights as a hired killer. The film is a slice of white trash heaven from beginning to end, but it is McConaughey that stands as the true reason to see the movie.
He’s cold and hard as the titular Joe Cooper, making the role his own at every turn in the creepiest way possible. It’s an odd ride through one of the craziest stories you’ll probably come across, with McConaughey as an insane Charon steering the ship.
But now word is that Friedkin wants to bring Killer Joe and To Live And Die In LA to television, basically calling film a dismal future of sorts. From The AV Club:
“The only thing I’m interested in now is long form, which is what you’d call television,” he says, citing Fargo and The Normal Heart as examples of how the small screen has eclipsed the big one artistically. This would explain his openness to “long-form” TV adaptations of his films To Live And Die In L.A. and Killer Joe; Friedkin says both are currently being developed for TV, and although neither will follow the same storyline as the films they’re based on, each will retain the “vibe” of the original.
Not to offer a detour away from my main topic, but To Live And Die In LA is a masterpiece of 80s filmmaking that deserves a lot more praise than it gets. It bucked trends and features one of the most glorious car chases you’ll find in cinema (rivaling Bullit and Friedkin’s previous effort in The French Connection). I’d watch that without anyone attached.
Killer Joe on the other hand is a shaky thought, mostly because McConaughey sells the movie so well. How can it distinguish itself from something like Dexter or any number of police shows that feature the same type of protagonist. It seems like an impossible notion and, while not a waste of time, a far less successful venture to undertake.
I liked True Detective, the whole series and the experience of making it, so much that I’d be open to doing another one now. At the time, I was looking at six months and not beyond that. I don’t know of a feature film I’d sign for where I’m going to say, “If this works, you’ve got me whenever you want me for the next three years.”
Three years is a long time for a commitment. But True Detective was probably one of the best programs to come out of this decade so far and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wasn’t willing to make that same decision after seeing season one.
But could Killer Joe interest him in that same vein? They are wholly different productions, but it is hard to find someone so attached to a role. Not to mention the positive working relationship between Friedkin and Mcconaughey on the set. From The Hollywood Reporter:
McConaughey says he and Friedkin had a strong creative partnership from the very beginning of the production.
“I had some minor opinions – just sort of insinuations on what I thought about the character in the film, and then I met with him and he sort of encompassed it all in an hour,” he remembers. “He was so secure with that, so precise and clear with that, I was like, OK, I’m in great hands here.”
McConaughey said he and Friedkin also communicated easily on the set.
“There were certain times it became a shorthand and we would say very little to each other,” he explains. “If I had an idea, if he liked it, we’d talk about it and try it, but we were very much already in sync.”
And it goes so much further once McConaughey starts talking about the character of Joe Cooper:
“Joe is like a black panther,” McConaughey tells THR. “Every movement is deliberate, minimal. Never really exposing light, not out to really define himself, not out to help you understand who he is, not out to ‘let’s keep this conversation rolling.’ Not out to make friends.”
Despite the character’s willingness to keep many of his motives obscure, McConaughey says the film reveals where his real interests lie. “He’s very clear about order, structure, and at the bottom of that, which happens in his relationship with Dottie (Juno Temple), is that this guy wants a family,” he says. “So everything needed to be underneath the surface.
“For like, say Magic Mike, everything with Dallas was big and out and promoting – he was the master of ceremonies,” he observes. “Joe’s not playing any of his cards. He’s very clear about the rules, but he’s not showing any other colors of himself.” (via)
It is no shock to hear this kind of talk after reading about McConaughey’s Rust Cohle manual from True Detective. It shows me that he cares about these characters and isn’t just dicking around with Kate Hudson in diving class.
I can see his Killer Joe book now. More like a running collection, with little notes popping out from all ends. He could make a real character mark on television, if he wanted to. Not that Rust Cohle isn’t a true mark, he just isn’t going to be around for more than one season. Joe Cooper could be built like Don Draper, Tony Soprano or Walter White with McConaughey’s involvement.
Sure it is probably a pipe dream. There is an acclaim attached to the role, but it pales in comparison to True Detective. But this bit of news really got the wheels turning in my head because to me, there is no Killer Joe without Matthew McConaughey. It just isn’t worth the time.