Much has been made lately about Matthew McConaughey’s career renaissance. This is a guy who, over the last ten years, has gone from the lightweight likes of Failure To Launch and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days to critically-acclaimed work in Killer Joe and Jeff Nichol’s Mud. The funny thing, though, is how much hasn’t changed for the Austin, Texas, native. Sure, he’s lost a little weight, having dropped 50 pounds to play the AIDS-afflicted Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club, but the devilish grin, charming drawl and laid-back Alpha male persona are all still there. He’s just using them to different, more interesting ends. (You can add playing Leo DiCaprio’s mentor in The Wolf of Wall Street to the list, too.) Rolling Stone caught up with McConaughey at a Manhattan hotel to talk about his roles in some of this seasons’ most talked about films.
You’ve worked with a lot of great talents recently, from Steven Soderbergh on Magic Mike to Martin Scorsese on The Wolf of Wall Street. Do you ever get nervous?
Working with [Martin] Scorsese and Leo [DiCaprio] is pretty intimidating – they’ve worked together before and have that relationship. I studied Martin’s work in film school, but when I first went to meet him, I admit – I had some nerves. But working with Marty was quite musical.
In my mind, the perfect set is when everybody is free enough, creatively, to steal from one another. Even better, when you steal from someone and then you give it back to them in the scene. I stole some things from Leo – he told me a joke when we first met and I stole it. That whole “fugazi” bit. He told me about it, and I said, “I’m going to mispronounce that for the fun of it.” Everybody is always talking about that scene, and I made that decision just seconds before we shot it.
What about the chanting scene? Where did that come from?
That’s one of my rituals that I do before filming. It’s a humming meditation, and when I was in the middle of it, Leo interrupted and said, “What is that you’re doing?” I told him I was just preparing for the scene and immediately he was like, “You have to do that in the scene!” So I said all right. Little did I know that when I saw the final cut and it actually became the baseline for our story.
How does it feel to have Wolf and Buyers Club both out there right now?
Great. When I first saw Wolf, I just got a whole new buzz on life. I’m a part of American filmmaking history with that one. With Dallas Buyers Club, I was attached to it for five years before it happened. And not only was it a movie that was good medicine for our community, it’s also an entertaining movie. That doesn’t happen very often.
Are you ready for the awards season craziness?
Dallas Buyers Club is still fun for me to go around and remember. And I like to call “Awards Season” my “Bonus Time,” because I love both of these movies so much that this gives me a chance to keep talking about them, which I love.
Were there any life lessons that came from making Buyers Club?
The main thing that I took, and am now practicing in my daily life, is that if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.
How was it working with Jared Leto?
I only met “Jared” after the film had wrapped. Our relationship was complex: He stayed in character the entire time we were shooting. It all sounds very weird but it wasn’t. We both showed up on set, put our heads down and did the scenes.
What can you tell us about your character in True Detectives with Woody Harrelson?
There’s a lot boiling underneath the surface with my character Rust Cohle. We started filming that right after I wrapped on Dallas Buyers. I don’t think I’ve ever played anyone who’s more honest on screen.