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A Time to Shine

Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Matthew McConaughey, March/April 2011

(continued from page 1)

"I always loved to debate. I still do," McConaughey, 41, says. "I wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer at one point. And I always seem to be playing them."

Including The Lincoln Lawyer. The 2005 novel by best-selling writer Michael Connelly, and now the film version, take their title from the massive Lincoln Continental that serves as the trademark of the book's hero, fast-talking defense attorney Mickey Haller. Haller is chauffeured by a former client who is settling his debt by driving Haller to the numerous far-flung municipal, state and federal courthouses that dot the Los Angeles landscape. The character, Connelly says, was inspired by "a friend of a friend" he met at a Los Angeles Dodgers game a decade ago.

"He was a defense attorney who told me how he worked out of his car because there were so many courthouses in L.A.," Connelly recalls. "He had a client who couldn't pay his bill, so the client offered to drive him around. And while the guy drove, he worked the phones and the computer as he traveled from court date to court date. When he told me that, a lightbulb went off in my head."

Connelly had another such flash a couple of years later. As he settled into his local multiplex to see the 2008 comedy Tropic Thunder, McConaughey came on the screen, playing a fast-talking, ultra-insincere Hollywood agent.

And Connelly immediately thought, "That's the guy."

Which guy? The one who could star in a movie of The Lincoln Lawyer, playing the sharp-shooting Mickey Haller.

"He's good at portraying someone who's looking for an angle," Connelly says of McConaughey. "I've seen it in some of his other movies, too. There was something about his eyes. When I wrote the book, I created an image in my head. And when I saw him in Tropic Thunder, I said, 'He'd be good as Mickey.' And I was right."

In fact, Mickey Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer, which opens in mid-March, is just one of three films—offering extremely varied roles—which McConaughey has poised for release in 2011. It's not a comeback, exactly. But it is the first time in a while—since We Are Marshall in 2006—that McConaughey has not had his name above the title of a romantic-comedy.

"I personally don't like to go see romantic comedies," McConaughey admits with a smile. "But people do want to see them, and they seem to want to see me in them. And quite a few of them have been real successful. I like to think that they're not shallow—they're light. And it's hard work to keep them light, to keep the comedy buoyant. If you dig too deep in those, you kill them.

"In some ways, it's a lot easier to do something like The Lincoln Lawyer. The punches hit, the bullets land and the consequences are life and death. I can click into that."

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