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A laid-back actor who stood out from Hollywood stereotypes with his down-to-earth charm and fun-loving lifestyle, Matthew McConaughey was the exact opposite of his image behind the scenes, using his strong work ethic to carve out a vibrant career marked with a number of quality performances. McConaughey made his first impression early on as an older guy who hangs out with high school kids in Richard Linklater's stoner comedy "Dazed and Confused" (1993), and went on to supporting turns in "Angels in the Outfield" (1994) and "Boys on the Side" (1995). He delivered a hailed performance as a small town deputy in John Sayles' indie drama "Lone Star" (1996), before graduating to large scale studio films like "Amistad" (1997), "Contact" (1997) and "EDtv" (1999). Also in 1999, McConaughey made headlines for his comical arrest for disturbing the peace and possession of cannabis: he was found in his home loudly playing bongos naked late in the night. While accepting the subsequent ridicule, McConaughey starred in one of his more popular films, "The Wedding Planner" (2001), and followed up with a darker turn in the serial killer thriller "Frailty" (2002). After a pair of disappointing showings with "Sahara" (2005) and "We are Marshall" (2008), McConaughey received some of the best notices of his career as "The Lincoln Lawyer" (2011), a film that began a rebound some wags dubbed "the McConnaisance," which culminated in a Best Actor Oscar for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" (2013), a memorable supporting role in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013), the lead role in Christopher Nolan's questioning science fiction drama "Interstellar" (2014), and a critically-acclaimed role as a philosophical policeman in the first season of the cable drama "True Detective" (HBO 2014- ). Having navigated the peaks and valleys of his career, McConaughey always exhibited a humility and exuberant spirit that was contagious both on and off screen.
McConaughey was born in the South Texas city of Uvalde on Nov. 4, 1969. He was the youngest son of Kay, a kindergarten teacher, and Jim, a former pro football player who ran a gas station before starting an oil pipe fitting company. The venture was a rapid success, and when McConaughey was 10 years old, the family relocated to the booming East Texas oil town of Longview. It was here that the charismatic kid grew up ingrained with that unique Texas independent spirit and solid values of honesty, respect, and hard work. As a teenager, he was serious and accomplished in school, but attacked his time off with as much gusto, spending his Friday afternoons raising beer money for the weekend party and jumping at any chance for travel-related adventures. After graduating from Longview High School in 1988 - where he was voted "Most Handsome" - McConaughey signed on for an exchange student program, spending a year living in New South Wales, Australia. His openness and natural gift of gab failed to translate overseas, so for the first time in his young life, he found himself spending a great deal of time alone, soul-searching. Both of his older brothers had gone on to join the family business, but McConaughey was cut from a different cloth; he was the hell-raising big dreamer destined to break away from the pack and who loved movies. With the idea of studying law, he returned to Texas and enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin.
For two years, frat brother McConaughey balanced partying with admirable achievements in heady courses like property law and philosophy. After a particularly grueling round of final exams at the end of his sophomore year, he happened across a slim self-help volume entitled, The Greatest Salesman in the World. McConaughey realized that he was not following his passion. One of his best friends was a film student and the future actor had been experiencing major envy for quite some time. So he changed his course and began taking drama and screenwriting classes, feeling instantly at home. At the time, Austin was enjoying a burgeoning young film scene and McConaughey easily landed roles in several commercials and music videos. One night at a bar, he met casting agent Don Phillips, who was working for local hero Richard Linklater on "Dazed and Confused" (1993). Following a lively five hour conversation that led to their expulsion from the bar, Phillips told McConaughey to stop by the production office and perhaps he could find a role in the film for him.
With his performance as Wooderson, a laid-back twenty-something townie with a penchant for high school girls and stoner wisdom, McConaughey was a certified scene-stealer in a film with plenty of competition. Linklater immediately recognized his electric screen presence and expanded the role from a few lines to a few hundred lines. McConaughey followed up with supporting roles in more local productions, including "My Boyfriend's Back" (1993), "Angels in the Outfield" (1994), and "Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (lensed 1995), in which his maniacal performance was shelved for two years until he and the film's co-star, Renee Zellweger, had become famous and there was a dollar to be made. With his optimism and sense of adventure in peak form, McConaughey left Texas for Hollywood in 1995 and gave a breakout performance as Drew Barrymore's by-the-book policeman boyfriend in "Boys on the Side" (1995). Again, his unique charisma brought him considerable notice; his straight-arrow character nuanced by a believable undercurrent of dangerous unpredictability that made the relationship seem plausible.
Plenty of directors had their eyes on the promising Hollywood newcomer, with John Sayles first in line to sign McConaughey to play a rising young Texas sheriff in the highly acclaimed drama, "Lone Star" (1996). Joel Schumacher had been searching in vain to satisfy John Grisham's requirements for a lead in "A Time to Kill" (1996). The role was based on Grisham's early years as a Southern lawyer, so he turned down all the young A-listers in favor of the virtual unknown McConaughey, who he believed best embodied the spirit of the young lawyer defending a black man accused of murder. McConaughey was suddenly transformed from character player to lead in a Hollywood blockbuster, earning respectable critical reviews in the process. He shrewdly formed his own production company, j.k.livin', and signed a deal with Warner Bros. As producer, he rolled out his first feature the following year, the surprisingly entertaining documentary about an endurance contest at a Texas car dealership called "Hands on a Hardbody" (1997). It was a pretty down-to-earth move for someone who had incited a near-media frenzy as "the next big thing" and appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, but it was becoming clear that McConaughey - who was living in a trailer park in Malibu - was a breed apart from the usual self-absorbed young stars.
McConaughey returned to the big screen opposite Jodie Foster in Robert Zemeckis' sci-fi drama, "Contact" (1997). Unfortunately, the film and McConaughey missed the mark with the ambitious project, in which he played Foster's love interest, a former seminarian now acting as a spiritual adviser to the U.S. president. He was also unconvincingly cast as an 18th-century New England lawyer in Steven Spielberg's fact-based account of the infamous slave uprising "Amistad" (1997), though the film received mostly positive reviews and brought in strong holiday season box office numbers. A more modern period piece, the 1920s-set "The Newton Boys" (1998) reunited him with Linklater and showcased McConaughey's talent to better effect, allowing his natural twang back in the speech of Willis Newton, the brains behind a real-life band of Texas bank-robbing brothers. Having co-produced and co-starred in Sandra Bullock's short "Making Sandwiches" (1997), McConaughey helmed his own, "The Rebel" (1998), before starring in Ron Howard's "EDtv" (1999), a picture which enabled him to draw on his own brush with overnight fame. His good-looking doofus Ed Pekurnay experiences a similar fate when he agrees to let a TV crew document his life for a show that unexpectedly takes off in the ratings. Hampered at the box office by its perceived similarity to the previous year's "The Truman Show," it still offered the actor a chance to carry a picture, and he managed quite well, thanks to the natural zaniness he brought to the part. He switched gears to play a Naval lieutenant helming a daring rescue of a top-secret decoding device from a German U-boat in the World War II suspense thriller, "U-571" (2000), which was a sizeable hit with audiences.
In 2002, McConaughey's devilish charm, comic talent, and good looks were finally tapped for the first of several romantic comedies. He played the love interest of Jennifer Lopez in the wildly popular "The Wedding Planner" and was the targeted subject of Kate Hudson's love-researching journalist in "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (2003), which was a huge hit, largely due to the onscreen chemistry between the likeable pair. McConaughey next served as executive producer and co-star of "Sahara," an ambitious action/comedy/romance adaptation of Clive Cussler's best-selling novel. Despite its blockbuster ticket sales in excess of $100 million dollars, the film received flak for a bloated budget that constituted financial failure. Further gossip surrounded the off-screen romance between McConaughey and his leading lady, Penelope Cruz, an actress who seemed only too happy to live with her boyfriend in his Airstream trailer. The couple would split in 2006. McConaughey's next outing, "Two for the Money" (2005), earned hardly as much ink, and quietly sank like a stone, despite the power of co-star Al Pacino and male-demographic hugging plot about a former college basketball star taken under the wing of a bookie after a career-ending injury. But obviously the female demographic was paying attention, and in 2005 People magazine named McConaughey its 20th annual "Sexiest Man Alive," calling him a "one-man endorphin rush," despite his reported disinterest in using deodorant.
Revisiting his evergreen popularity in the romantic comedy genre, in 2006 McConaughey co-starred with Sarah Jessica Parker in "Failure to Launch," in which he played a thirty-something bachelor unwilling to give up the benefits of living at home with his parents. Predictably, it was a smash with audiences, but skewered by critics. The fact-based "We are Marshall" (2006), however, seemed to hold more promise, with McConaughey portraying a football coach brought in to rebuild a school team after a tragic plane crash left the entire squad, coaching staff, and a large group of supporters dead. The tearjerker was a moderate theatrical hit that left critics divided; some feeling that McConaughey failed to dig deep into the role, and gave an energetic but ultimately superficial performance. The following year, it was announced that McConaughey had been cast to play iconic TV detective Thomas Magnum in a 2009 film adaptation of series "Magnum P.I." (CBS, 1980-88). McConaughey prepped for his impending tropical adventure by reuniting with Kate Hudson for the sunken treasure action-romance "Fool's Gold" (2008). Later that year McConaughey's j.k. livin' production company was slated to release "Surfer Dude," in which he would play the lead of a surfer undergoing an existential crisis. McConaughey would also be seen in a supporting role in the Ben Stiller comedy, "Tropic Thunder" (2008). After starring opposite Jennifer Garner in the romantic comedy, "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" (2009), he had a three-episode arc as a baseball scout on "Eastbound & Down" (HBO, 2009- ). McConaughey next played a criminal defense attorney operating his practice out of a Lincoln Town car who lands the case of a lifetime in the understated courtroom thriller "The Lincoln Lawyer" (2011).
Continuing a string of interesting characters, McConaughey was a police officer moonlighting as a contract killer who is hired to off the mother of a small-time drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) in William Friedkin's darkly comedic thriller "Killer Joe" (2011), a role that earned him an Indie Spirit Award nomination for Best Actor. McConaughey went on to play a reporter who joins his brother (Zac Efron) in investigating a murder in order to exonerate a convicted killer (John Cusack) sentenced to death in "The Paperboy" (2012), directed by Lee Daniels and co-staring Nicole Kidman. That same year, he married longtime companion, Brazilian model and TV personality Camila Alves, with whom he had three children since starting their relationship in 2007. Back on screen, he delivered a comic performance as a district attorney in a small Texas town who prosecutes a much-beloved mortician (Jack Black) accused of killing a mean-spirited widow (Shirley MacLaine) in Richard Linklater's black comedy "Bernie" (2012), which was adapted from real-life events. But his best performance of the year was undoubtedly in "Magic Mike" (2012), where he played the owner of a strip club who clashes with his star dancer (Channing Tatum) while dreaming of owning a business empire. Despite Tatum being the star, McConaughey's performance was singled out by critics and drew considerable awards buzz, leading to an Indie Spirit Award nod for Best Supporting Actor - his second nomination that year.
McConaughey's winning streak kept going with "Mud," Jeff Nichols' thoughtful and tense Twain-like tale, which found him portraying a fugitive hiding out in the wilderness with two young boys as his unlikely friends. After making the film festival rounds in 2012, the lauded movie received a limited theatrical release the following year. Also in 2013, McConaughey starred in "Dallas Buyers Club," playing AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, a Texan man who becomes surprisingly successful at procuring non-FDA-approved drugs for those in his condition. The role found the normally muscular actor losing 50 pounds to take on an emaciated appearance, and his committed performance garnered much acclaim, including a Golden Globe, an Independent Film Spirit award and an Oscar for Best Actor. Towards the end of the year, McConaughey also appeared in Martin Scorsese's drama "The Wolf of Wall Street" as cutthroat businessman Mark Hanna; the brief role was most notable for an on-set improvisation in which Hanna leads Leonardo DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort into a humming, chest-thumping routine in the middle of a crowded restaurant. The bit got its start from one of McConaughey's pre-filming warm-up exercises. McConaughey next made an unexpected detour to television, co-starring with Woody Harrelson on season one of the critically-acclaimed cable drama "True Detective" (HBO 2014- ). McConaughey's philosophy-spouting policeman Rust Cohle became one of the most talked-about characters on television during his single-season run on the show. Following an unexpected turn as a TV automobile pitchman -- memorably parodied by Jim Carrey on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC 1975- ) -- McConaughey returned to the big screen as an astronaut and family man in Christopher Nolan's philosophical science fiction film "Interstellar" (2014). His next role came in Gus Van Sant's small-scale indie "The Sea of Trees" (2015).
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Appeared in student films and local commercials in Texas
Feature acting debut, "My Boyfriend's Back"
Co-starred with Renee Zellweger in "The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (later edited and reissued in 1997)
Cast in "Boys on the Side" as Drew Barrymore's love interest, policeman Abe Lincoln
Portrayed Sheriff Buddy Deeds, suspected of killing his predecessor (Kris Kristofferson), in John Sayles' "Lone Star"
Co-starred with Bullock in her short film "Making Sandwiches"; also co-produced
Re-teamed with Linklater as one of "The Newton Boys"
Portrayed the lead in Ron Howard's "EDtv"
Starred as Lt. Andrew Tyler, executive officer to Lt. Commander Mike Dahlgrin (Bill Paxton) in "U-571"
Acted opposite Jennifer Lopez in "The Wedding Planner"
Played an ambitious young lawyer in the ensemble drama "13 Conversations About One Thing"
Co-starred with Kate Hudson in the romantic comedy "How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days"
Starred with Steve Zahn and Penélope Cruz in "Sahara"
Played a thirtysomething slacker who still lives with his parents in the romantic comedy "Failure to Launch"
Re-teamed with Kate Hudson to star in "Fool's Gold"
Co-starred with Jennifer Garner in the romantic comedy "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past"
Played title role in crime thriller "Killer Joe," directed by William Friedkin
Co-starred with Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron in Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy"
Starred as the title character in Jeff Nichols' "Mud"
Featured in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street"