“Lesser” McConaughey, or, On The Subject Of Great ActingPosted: May 21, 2015
1995. I got my first big paycheck as an actor. I think it was 150 grand. The film was Boys on the Side and we’re shooting in Tucson, AZ and I have this sweet little adobe guest house on the edge of the Saguaro National Park. The house came with a maid. My first maid. It was awesome. So, I’ve got a friend over one Friday night and we’re having a good time and I’m telling her about how happy I am with my set up . The house. The maid. Especially, the maid. I’m telling her, “she cleans the place after I go to work, washes my clothes, the dishes, puts fresh water by my bed, leaves me cooked meals sometimes, and SHE EVEN PRESSES MY JEANS!” My friend, she smiles at me, happy for my genuine excitement over this “luxury service” I’m getting, and she says, “Well…that’s great…if you like your jeans pressed.”
I kind of looked at her, kind of stuttered without saying anything, you know, that dumb ass look you can get, and it hit me…
I hate that line going down my jeans! And it was then, for the first time, that I noticed…I’ve never thought about NOT liking that starched line down the front of my jeans!! Because I’d never had a maid to iron my jeans before!! And since she did, now, for the first time in my life, I just liked it because Icould get it, I never thought about if I really wanted it there. Well, I did NOT want it there. That line… and that night I learned something.
Just because you CAN?… Nah… It’s not a good enough reason to do something. Even when it means having more, be discerning, choose it, because you WANT it, DO IT because you WANT to.
I’ve never had my jeans pressed since.
I have been a McConaughey enthusiast for awhile. Proof: I saw Sahara and The Lincoln Lawyer* in the theater.
Here is a thing I admired then and continue to admire about McConaughey:
He treated ridiculous movies with utmost seriousness.
I don’t believe he treated Sahara with any less respect than True Detective, even though Sahara is crazy.
He brought pride and his fullest effort to those movies, the same as he would to any other movie. Failure To Launch, for example.
This is the mark of a true professional who practices his craft with great honor and seriousness
(but: could it also be the mark of someone who doesn’t know when something is ridiculous?)
The director, Richard Linklater, kept inviting me back to set each night, putting me in more scenes which led to more lines all of which I happily said YES to. I was having a blast. People said I was good at it, they were writing me a check for $325 a day. I mean hell yeah, give me more scenes, I love this!! And by the end of the shoot those 3 lines had turned into over 3 weeks work and “it was Wooderson’s ’70 Chevelle we went to get Aerosmith tickets in.” Bad ass.
Well, a few years ago I was watching the film again and I noticed two scenes that I really shouldn’t have been in. In one of the scenes, I exited screen left to head somewhere, then re-entered the screen to “double check” if any of the other characters wanted to go with me. Now, in rewatching the film, (and you’ll agree if you know Wooderson), he was not a guy who would ever say, “later,” and then COME BACK to “see if you were sure you didn’t wanna come with him..” No, when Wooderson leaves, Wooderson’s gone, he doesn’t stutter step, flinch, rewind, ask twice, or solicit, right? He just “likes those high school girls cus he gets older and they stay the same age.”
My point is, I should NOT have been in THAT scene, I should have exited screen left and never come back.
Matthew McConaughey is a truly great actor.
From a description of an interview with Cary Fukunaga:
Fukunaga took one of these opportunities to share a story about directing Matthew McConaughey, a health-nut and non-smoker, in an early scene where he takes long, audible drags of a cigarette. Fukunaga describes saying, “‘don’t make it look like a middle school girl smoking for the first time.’ And McConaughey went in the opposite direction, just Cheech and Chong-ing it.”
Bo Jackson ran over the goal line, through the end zone and up the tunnel — the greatest snipers and marksmen in the world don’t aim at the target, they aim on the other side of it.
We do our best when our destinations are beyond the “measurement,” when our reach continually exceeds our grasp, when we have immortal finish lines.
When we do this, the race is never over. The journey has no port. The adventure never ends because we are always on our way. Do this, and let them tap us on the shoulder and say, “hey, you scored.” Let them tell you “You won.” Let them come tell you, “you can go home now.” Let them say “I love you too.” Let them say “thank you.”
These quotes are from his amazing commencement speech at University of Houston:
The late and great University of Texas football coach Daryl Royal was a friend of mine and a good friend to many. A lot of people looked up to him. One was a musician named “Larry.” Now at this time in his life Larry was in the prime of his country music career, had #1 hits and his life was rollin’. He had picked up a habit snortin’ “the white stuff” somewhere along the line and at one particular party after a “bathroom break,” Larry went confidently up to his mentor Daryl and he started telling Coach a story. Coach listened as he always had and when Larry finished his story and was about to walk away, Coach Royal put a gentle hand on his shoulder and very discreetly said, “Larry, you got something on your nose there bud.” Larry immediately hurried to the bathroom mirror where he saw some white powder he hadn’t cleaned off his nose. He was ashamed. He was embarrassed. As much because he felt so disrespectful to Coach Royal, and as much because he’d obviously gotten too comfortable with the drug to even hide as well as he should.
Well, the next day Larry went to coach’s house, rang the doorbell, Coach answered and he said, “Coach, I need to talk to you.” Daryl said, “sure, c’mon in.”
Larry confessed. He purged his sins to Coach. He told him how embarrassed he was, and how he’s “lost his way” in the midst of all the fame and fortune and towards the end of an hour, Larry, in tears, asked Coach, “What do you think I should do?” Now, Coach, being a man of few words, just looked at him and calmly confessed himself. He said, “Larry, I have never had any trouble turning the page in the book of my life.” Larry got sober that day and he has been for the last 40 years.
Now: I loved reading this speech. Many important reminders about life:
Mom and dad teach us things as children. Teachers, mentors, the government and laws all give us guidelines to navigate life, rules to abide by in the name of accountability.
I’m not talking about those obligations. I’m talking about the ones we make with ourselves, with our God, with our own consciousness. I’m talking about the YOU versus YOU obligations. We have to have them. Again, these are not societal laws and expectations that we acknowledge and endow for anyone other than ourselves. These are FAITH based OBLIGATIONS that we make on our own.
Not the lowered insurance rate for a good driving record, you will not be fined or put in jail if you do not gratify the obligations I speak of — no one else governs these but you.
They’re secrets with yourself, private council, personal protocols, and while nobody throws you a party when you abide by them, no one will arrest you when you break them either. Except yourself. Or, some cops who got a “disturbing the peace” call at 2:30 in the morning because you were playing bongos in your birthday suit.
Entertainment Tonight called this speech “bonkers.”
That’s not fair.
Maybe a fourteenth lesson that McConaughey only hints at in his speech is: to achieve greatness you must dance along the edge of bonkers. To do anything worthwhile you must risk appearing ridiculous. On your journey, at many points, you will appear ridiculous. The fear of appearing ridiculous stops all too many from achieving their potential.
You know these No Fear t-shirts? I don’t get em. Hell, I try to scare myself at least once a day. I get butterflies every morning before I go to work. I was nervous before I got here to speak tonight. I think fear is a good thing. Why? Because it increases our NEED to overcome that fear.
Say your obstacle is fear of rejection. You want to ask her out but you fear she may say “no.” You want to ask for that promotion but you’re scared your boss will think you’re overstepping your bounds.
Well, instead of denying these fears, declare them, say them out loud, admit them, give them the credit they deserve. Don’t get all macho and act like they’re no big deal, and don’t get paralyzed by denying they exist and therefore abandoning your need to overcome them. I mean, I’d subscribe to the belief that we’re all destined to have to do the thing we fear the most anyway.
So, you give your obstacles credit and you will one. Find the courage to overcome them or see clearly that they are not really worth prevailing over.
Here is what McConaughey looked like giving his speech.
Here is a great actor whose greatest role is himself.
* The Lincoln Lawyer spoke to a real fantasy I can’t be alone in having in Los Angeles: someone driving you everywhere in comfortable quiet. Since then Uber has come close to making that a reality.