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A Time to Shine

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

(continued from page 6)

"I was tired of getting pissed off. It was legitimate but I was tired of it," he says. "I thought, well, am I ready to move to a place where they weren't?  No, not for good. Was I ready to build fences or tall walls around my house? No. So I just shook hands with it and dealt with it.

"So, say I'm taking my kids to the beach. And the photographers are there. I just talk to them and say, 'OK, go ahead and take your picture. And then move on.' How many pictures do they need of me running on the beach? So far, they've mostly respected that. But you've got to have a relationship with that kind of thing if you go out in public because that check's already been written. Sure, I feel intruded upon. But I don't feel it's unfair. I can't do anything about it unless I move on or imprison myself, and I don't want to live like that."

It's one thing to get the kind of break McConaughey received with A Time to Kill; it's another to build a career from that break and keep it moving forward, not just forward but upward. Yet McConaughey maintains that forward momentum—not an easy task.

"When you look back, you see a guy who has made a lot of right choices," William Friedkin says. "But he also has an inherent star power that few actors have. Young actors today are not long on career trajectory. They seem to be kind of one-note. But Matthew has something else. There are only a few people like that: Will Smith, say, or Tom Hanks. And, in a lot of those cases, star power trumps career choices because people want to see him in whatever he does. A guy like Matthew persists because people like him. There's a certain magic there."

For McConaughey, it's about keeping things interesting—challenging himself and finding work that feels important to do.

"After A Time to Kill, I wanted to do subjects that mattered to me, films that I thought, philosophically, I wanted to be a part of," he says. "They were good healthy stories to tell, with questions to ask. And some of the romantic comedies were pure entertainment for a Saturday night date. You know the guy and girl will end up together in the end but you hope people have a good time seeing how that happens.

"On a basic level, we can all read a script. You read The Lincoln Lawyer and you feel it's a thriller that could touch a nerve and be a hit. You read Killer Joe and you know it doesn't have the DNA to open on 3,000 screens. But it could be an arthouse cult hit. They don't all have to be blockbusters; it's not in their pedigree. Still, sometimes there are ones you think will go, 'Ka-boom!' and they don't. And the one you think won't does."

At 41, McConaughey has his own production company and a charitable foundation, both called j.k. livin (after one of the lines that served as his character's philosophy in Dazed and Confused: "Just keep livin', man-just keep livin' "). He has settled down with his partner, former model Camila Alves, with whom he has a son, 2, and a daughter, 1. Still, marriage is not in the cards in the foreseeable future.

"Marriage isn't something I'm against," he says. "My parents married each other three times—and divorced twice. I know a few older couples who have been married a long time and are happy; I've been around healthy marriages. I knew I wanted a family and I found a woman I love and felt was right for me. I thought, 'That's the woman I want to make a family with.' But marriage—it's not something we feel we need to be complete. It doesn't mean we won't do it.

"It doesn't make my mom that happy that we're not married. But it doesn't make her mad, either."

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