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A Time to Shine

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

(continued from page 5)

"After I hung up, I went out and howled at the moon. That was big. I understood what that meant."

The 1996 hit landed the still-unknown McConaughey on a raft of magazine covers, including Vanity Fair, whose cover line teased: "Why Hollywood is so hot for Matthew McConaughey." McConaughey could feel the world shift around him.

"The Friday before it came out, you could have shown my picture to 100 people and asked if they knew who I was and you'd have gotten 99 no's and one yes," he says. "And the next week it flipped in the opposite direction. I remember walking down the street in Los Angeles the weekend the movie came out and all these people were looking at me. I remember checking my fly.

"There was a tremendous amount of frequency cast on me. The shift was so dramatic that, at times, it was overwhelming. Once the movie had opened, what I did to maintain my sanity was pack a backpack and get a one-way ticket to Peru. I checked out for 19 days and just hiked anonymously, with no plan. I hiked Macchu Picchu and canoed the Amazon. I just needed to let time catch up with me."

In the subsequent 15 years, McConaughey has worked on films that range from big-budget fantasies to low-budget independent dramas. He's had a string of romantic-comedy box-office hits (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Failure to Launch being the most successful) and worked with leading ladies such as Jennifer Garner, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker (and been romantically linked with Sahara costar Penelope Cruz). He's worked with Oscar-winning directors such as Steven Spielberg (Amistad), Robert Zemeckis (Contact) and Ron Howard (EDtv), but also lent his talent to such well-regarded little indie offerings as Thirteen Conversations About One Thing and Bill Paxton's Frailty.

His free-spirited existence and active social life have made him tabloid fodder over the years. There was, for example, that 1999 incident in Austin, when police responded to a late-night noise complaint from neighbors and found McConaughey playing bongos naked in his living room. And he was named one of People magazine's "hottest bachelors" in 2006.

Some of the stories spread about him were obviously false ("One time it was reported that I had three kids with three different women; that one didn't make me nervous for a second."). Some, in fact, are true.

His older brother, Rooster, did, in fact, name one of his sons Miller Lyte McConaughey. And there is a basis to the persistent rumor that McConaughey avoids revolving doors.

"I really don't like them," he admits with a sheepish grin. "I'm not a claustrophobic guy; maybe I've just seen too many Godfather movies. And I don't like tunnels. I'm surprised there aren't more accidents in tunnels; the blind spot when you go in gives me a little vertigo."

He's come to terms with the paparazzi and their seemingly constant presence in his personal life. He addresses it by dealing with photographers on a human level, saying, "OK, take a picture—then let me get on with my life."

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