Written by Jon WilliamsAt the Academy Awards ceremony last Sunday, Matthew McConaughey took home the statue for Best Actor for his role as AIDS patient Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. The critically acclaimed film was nominated for six awards on the night and took home three, including Best Supporting Actor for Jared Leto in addition to McConaughey’s victory.
It was the first Academy Award in McConaughey’s 20+ years in acting. He got his big break when he starred as perpetual teenage wannabe David Wooderson in Richard Linklater’s cult classic Dazed and Confused. McConaughey has carried Wooderson with him ever since: the lines “all right, all right, all right” and “just keep livin’” from the conclusion of his acceptance speech, come straight from the character’s mouth, and he created the “just keep livin” non-profit foundation to impact the lives of high school students.
From there McConaughey appeared in a number of films, such as Angels in the Outfield and Boys on the Side, but it was 1996’s A Time to Kill that made him a star. In that film, based on a John Grisham bestseller, McConaughey played Mississippi lawyer Jake Brigance, who is hired to defend a man who killed two others after they were wrongly acquitted of raping his daughter. That catapulted him into an even bigger 1997, when he starred in Contact with Jodie Foster and Amistad with an ensemble cast including Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins.
This was followed by a period in which McConaughey was primarily known for starring as the male lead in romantic comedies. It started with The Wedding Planner, in which he played opposite Jennifer Lopez. Then he was in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with Kate Hudson, Failure to Launch with Sarah Jessica Parker, Fool’s Gold with Hudson again, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past with Jennifer Garner (who was also in Dallas Buyers Club). Although the romcoms were his most visible work during this period, he also managed to star in other fare, like the action film Sahara and the football drama We Are Marshall.
After Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, McConaughey took two years off, beginning to redefine himself with 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer, in which he played an attorney who is the polar opposite of A Time to Kill’s noble Brigance. Then he played yet another attorney in yet another Linklater film, the dark comedy Bernie. Since 2012, he’s been on another level, with movies like Magic Mike and Mud, to say nothing of Dallas Buyers Club and The Wolf of Wall Street, which itself was nominated for five Oscars. To top it all off, McConaughey also stars with Woody Harrelson in the hit HBO series True Detective, which airs its Season 1 finale this Sunday night.
Matthew McConaughey is a talented, fascinating actor with a long and varied career. For more of his films, SmartBrowse his name on our website.