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A Time to Shine

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

(continued from page 3)

But as the end of his sophomore year approached, McConaughey realized he was too eager to get on his with life to invest the time necessary to become a lawyer. So he began searching for something else.

"Sophomore year was when credits started sticking and counting toward your major," he says. "If you changed your mind after the start of junior year, you were wasting those hours. I had really started to come into my own, to know myself, to have opinions and do some writing. I was 20 or 21. I realized that I had two more years of college, and if I then went on to law school, I wouldn't be back in society—in the game—until I was almost 28. I thought, 'I've got stuff I want to say and do right now.' I wanted to go to school, but I wanted to get in the game.

"I talked to a friend who had gone to NYU film school. He said, 'Have you ever thought about acting?' I said no, but the storytelling side of it interested me. So I decided to go to film school."

Even as he studied film and made short documentaries, McConaughey began landing small acting roles.

"I was waiting tables, picking up $1,500 here and there from commercials." he recalls. "I did a commercial for Miller Lite and made like $6,000—and that was huge!"

His first real break came when Texas auteur Linklater—who had started a film society in Austin, where UT is located, and had made the film Slacker there—came back to town to make Dazed and Confused, a comedy that looked at the last day of school for a group of high school friends in 1976.

McConaughey met Linklater's producer Don Phillips in an Austin bar as they were getting ready to shoot and the producer suggested McConaughey to Linklater for a small role in the film: David Wooderson, a late-college-age guy who continues to chase the girls at his old high school.

"He wasn't what I had in mind for the character," Linklater says. "He was too good-looking, too clean-cut. I wanted someone creepier and scragglier."

In fact, McConaughey showed up for the audition, he remembers, dressed for a job interview—neat, shaved, shirt and tie—rather than trying to embody the character for which he was trying out.

"Rick told me, 'You're not this guy,' and I said, 'Maybe not. But I know this guy,' " McConaughey says. "To me, this character was who I thought my older brother was when he was in high school. I remember once, I was 11 and he was 17. It was 1980 and I went with my mother to pick up my brother at the high school. And before she spotted him, I saw him from the car, leaning up against the school smoking a cigarette. At that moment, he was cooler than James Dean to me. It's not who he really was, but who I thought he was from that image."

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