Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nobody questions McConaughey's acting chops these days

TORONTO -- With the mostly acclaimed "Dallas Buyers Club" headed for wide(r) release Friday, everyone is hearing about Matthew McConaughey's bravura performance as an AIDS victim-turned activist pill-pusher.
However, when the film enjoyed its world premiere during September's 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival, some may have been wondering how the actor, who went from playing David Wooderson in "Dazed and Confused" (1993) to Ron Woodroof 20 years later in "Dallas," could possibly be so convincing.
Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner in "Dallas Buyers Club."
During a festival-related interview two months ago, French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee ("The Young Victoria," "C.R.A.Z.Y.") admitted as much. "If someone told me years ago that I'd be working with handsome Matthew on a movie of this magnitude," Vallee said, "I would have had my doubts.
"He was just at a place in his life where he wanted to change perception. He wanted to go out there and show himself and show the world that he's one fine (blankety-blank) actor. He simply gave a giant performance. I never witnessed something like this on a set."
On the other hand -- and in a separate interview -- one of McConaughey's current co-stars, Jennifer Garner, claimed that the actor's fire has been burning brightly for years.
"I absolutely disagree (that) Matthew's focus has only recently changed," said Garner, who plays a committed doctor in her latest film.
"I worked with Matthew five or six years ago, and it was by all accounts a sort of romantic comedy ("Ghosts of Girlfriends Past") that was fluffy. Still, the pages of his script were as covered in notes as these pages on this screenplay. He was as prepared, he was as committed, he was as serious about what he was doing.
"Maybe the content of what he is doing has changed and maybe being a father has done that," Garner concluded. "But I will say that the Matthew that you’re seeing now is the same one that I saw five years ago and, at the time, I thought, 'Wow, this is one hell of an actor,' and I’m still so lucky to be working with him."
The sickly thin McConaughey gives a towering performance.
For his part, and despite a well-publicized (at least) 40-pound weight loss to play the very ill Woodroof, McConaughey calls his current status "a really healthy time in my career."
"I’m enjoying and loving acting more than I ever have and I’m getting an experience from my work," McConaughey said in his own brief Toronto interview. "I’ve got a really great support system in my family. Where I go to work, they come and they allow me to put the blinders on. 
"And I’ve got a wife (former Brazilian model Camila Alves) who allows me to not look in the rear view mirror. And I’m still getting time with my family. Three kids sure help the job I do, too. They sure remind you that you’re playing make believe. so let’s make ‘em believe."
McConaughey, who is currently filming the hush-hush "Interstellar" for writer and director Christopher Nolan, thinks that even his recent quick succession of movies has helped his work.
"I came off of 'Magic Mike' into 'Mud,' and I remember having a very quick turn around for this one, too," he said. "If I have a quick turn around, I have to go, 'What are my similarities?' The thing with those two is they were both dreamers. They were both sort of in the clouds and off the ground.
"This guy Ron was more of a man of action. Another outcast, that’s for sure. Another guy who is thrown into isolation," continued the busy actor, who also has "The Wolf of Wall Street" coming out next month. 
McConaughey, whom Garner said "looked more horrible (from the extreme weight loss) in person than he does on screen," concluded by explaining the secret behind the only scene in "Dallas Buyers Club" that has him appearing like his own healthy self.
"We did that on purpose," he said. "We shot that when Jean-Marc came back to New Orleans just a few months ago, and I met him at a hotel. I had put 40 pounds of weight back on, and we went outside. I just sat on a bench in front of the hotel and he sat there with a camera.
"It was just me, there was no girl (in what looks on screen like a sex venue), so I acted like we were just having fun.
 "Remember," said the sure-to-be Oscar-nominated performer, "this wasn't a studio film, and we had to shoot it all in 27 days. I (weighed) 135 the whole film. When Ron was sick, we didn’t put any color or tan on my face. When he was more healthy, we put plumpers on my backside, and I loaded up my cheeks a little bit and got some color so I looked healthier. Basically, we’d shoot healthy Ron this morning and emaciated Ron that afternoon."
For more on "Dallas Buyers Club," look for a Q & A with McConaughey's equally dazzling supporting actor, Jared Leto, tomorrow at cleveland.com/Sun News.

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