What did Matthew McConaughey win an Oscar for? Matthew McConaughey has been a staple of Hollywood for thirty years, following his breakout role in the 1993 coming-of-age flick Dazed and Confused. In the three decades since, he’s played roles such as a serial killer whistleblower in Frailty, an astronaut out of time in Interstellar, and a maniacal tower tenant in The Dark Tower.
Known best for his southern charm, good looks, and smooth demeanor, he’s copped many award nominations in his storied career, and has a fair share of major gongs next to his name. McConaughey is an Academy Award winner, but what movie was it which gave him the most coveted award in Hollywood?
What did Matthew McConaughey win an Oscar for?
Cast your mind back to the heady days of 2014, when memes were still somewhat normal, international travel was easy, and McConaughey gave arguably the performance of his life. The Texan won his first Oscar for an excellent showing in Dallas Buyers Club, in which he portrayed Ron Woodroof.
Woodroof was an AIDS patient who founded the buyers club to help find potential medications and remedies for HIV/AIDS in a time where little money or thought was given to the crisis.
McConaughey’s picked up his Oscar statuette on March 2, 2014 when he beat out fellow nominees like Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. McConaughey’s co-star Jared Leto also picked up an Oscar the same night, with the eventual Morbius star winning the Best Supporting Actor award.
Dallas Buyers Club is available to rent on Apple TV Plus, YouTube, Amazon, and Google Play.
McConaughey was born on November 4, 1969, in Uvalde, Texas. His mother, Mary Kathleen (née McCabe), is a published author and a former kindergarten teacher. She was originally from Trenton, New Jersey.
His father, James Donald “Jim” McConaughey, was born in Mississippi in 1929 and raised in Louisiana where he ran an oil pipe supply business; he played for the Kentucky Wildcats and the Houston Cougars college football teams. Jim was selected by the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL) in the 27th round of the 1953 NFL draft.
He was released before the season began and never played an official league game in the NFL. McConaughey’s ancestry includes English, German, Irish, Scottish, and Swedish origins, with some of his Irish roots being from the Cavan/Monaghan area. He is a relative of Confederate brigadier general Dandridge McRae. He had a Methodist upbringing.
McConaughey’s parents married each other three times, having divorced each other twice. He has two older brothers, Michael and Patrick (who was adopted). Michael, nicknamed “Rooster”, is a self-made millionaire who starred in the CNBC docu-series West Texas Investors Club and the 2018 A&E reality show Rooster & Butch with Wayne (Butch) Gilliam.
McConaughey moved to Longview, Texas, in 1980 and later attended Longview High School. In 1988 he went to Australia thinking he would be attending a high school in Sydney. Instead he lived in Warnervale, New South Wales for a year while he went to Gorokan High School (he was a Rotary Youth Exchange student) and worked as an assistant for an attorney and as a bank teller for ANZ. He attended the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin), where he joined the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He began in the fall of 1989 and graduated in the spring of 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film.
His original plan changed as he had wanted to attend Southern Methodist University until one of his brothers told him that private-school tuition would have been a burden on the family’s finances. He had planned to attend law school after graduation from college but discovered he did not have any interest in becoming a lawyer.
Early 1990s to 2000: Breakthrough and rise to prominence
In the early 1990s McConaughey began working in television commercials.
In 1992, he was cast as the boyfriend in the music video for “Walkaway Joe”, a song by Trisha Yearwood featuring Don Henley. Also that year, he acted in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
Bob Balaban’s My Boyfriend’s Back premiered on August 6, 1993, where McConaughey made his first big screen appearance as ”Guy 2”. On September 24, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused premiered.
McConaughey played Wooderson in a large ensemble cast of actors who would later become stars. He was not originally cast in the film, as the role of Wooderson was originally small and meant to be cast locally for budget purposes. At the time of casting, he was a film student at the University of Texas in Austin and went out with his girlfriend to the Hyatt hotel bar.
He approached casting director Don Phillips. Phillips recalls, “The bartender says to him, ‘See that guy down there? That’s Don Phillips. He cast Sean Penn in Fast Times.’ And Matthew goes, ‘I’m gonna go down and talk to this guy.'” Phillips also recalls that Linklater didn’t like McConaughey at first “because he was too handsome”.
During production, another character named Pickford was meant to be a larger role. Due to the behavior of the actor playing Pickford with other cast members, his screen time was cut in favor of McConaughey’s character, Wooderson. Linklater recalled “There was another actor who was kind of the opposite [of McConaughey]. He wasn’t really getting along with everybody. I could tell the actors weren’t responding to him.
” Much of the Wooderson role was improvised or written on the spot. Dazed and Confused was released on September 24, 1993, in 183 theaters, grossing $918,127 on its opening weekend. It went on to make $7.9 million in North America. The film received positive reviews from critics. The film generally gets favorable reviews.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 92% approval rating. The website’s critical consensus reads: “Featuring an excellent ensemble cast, a precise feel for the 1970s, and a killer soundtrack, Dazed and Confused is a funny, affectionate, and clear-eyed look at high school life.
“In her review for The Austin Chronicle, Marjorie Baumgarten gave particular praise to Matthew McConaughey’s performance: “He is a character we’re all too familiar with in the movies but McConaughey nails this guy without a hint of condescension or whimsy, claiming this character for all time as his own”.
In 1994, McConaughey acted in Angels in the Outfield, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, and Daniel Johnston’s music video “Life in Vain”.
McConaughey acted in Herbert Ross’ Boys on the Side, which premiered on February 3, 1995. That year he also acted in a crime thriller, Brian Cox’s Scorpion Spring. John Sayles’ Lone Star (1996) is a neo-Western mystery film set in a small town in South Texas. McConaughey is in an ensemble cast that features Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, and Elizabeth Peña. McConaughey played the lawyer Jake Brigance in Joel Schumacher’s A Time to Kill which premiered July 24.
The film is based on the John Grisham courtroom crime novel of the same name. In an ensemble piece McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey share the top billing. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 67%. The critics’ consensus reads: “Overlong and superficial, A Time to Kill nonetheless succeeds on the strength of its skillful craftsmanship and top-notch performances”.
In the U.S. it reached number one during its first two weeks and grossed over $108 million domestically, and an additional $43,500,000 was made internationally. At the MTV Movie Awards, McConaughey won Best Breakthrough Performance. Larger Than Life is a road comedy film starring Bill Murray and directed by Howard Franklin; McConaughey played a supporting role.
Also that year he acted in Glory Daze. McConaughey starred in the science fiction film Contact (1997), directed by Robert Zemeckis, an adaptation of Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel of the same name; Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan wrote the story outline for the film. In the film Jodie Foster portrays the film’s protagonist. Also that year, McConaughey starred as then-lawyer Roger Sherman Baldwin in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad.
The Newton Boys, co-written and directed by Richard Linklater, was released in 1998. It is based on the true story of the Newton Gang, a family of bank robbers from Uvalde, Texas. In 1999 McConaughey acted in EDtv. Directed by Ron Howard, its an adaptation of the Quebecois film Louis 19, King of the Airwaves (Louis 19, le roi des ondes) (1994), The film was a box office bomb, grossing only $35.2 million from an $80 million production budget. In 2000 he starred in U-571, a submarine film directed by Jonathan Mostow.
2001 to 2011: Romantic comedies and professional expansion
McConaughey in 2008, participating in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon
By the early 2000s, he was being cast in romantic comedies including The Wedding Planner and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days; both were successful at the box office.
He appeared as a firefighter in a low-budget film, Tiptoes with Kate Beckinsale, in Two for the Money as a protégé to a gambling mogul, Al Pacino, and in Frailty with Bill Paxton who was also the director. McConaughey acted in the 2005 feature film Sahara; Steve Zahn and Penélope Cruz co-starred. Prior to the release of the film, he promoted it by sailing down the Amazon River and trekking to Mali. That same year, McConaughey was named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” for 2005. In 2006 he co-starred with Sarah Jessica Parker in the romantic comedy Failure to Launch and as Marshall head football coach Jack Lengyel in We Are Marshall. McConaughey also provided voice work in an ad campaign for the Peace Corps in late 2006. He replaced Owen Wilson in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder after Wilson’s suicide attempt. In 2008 McConaughey became the new spokesman for the national radio campaign, “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner”, replacing Sam Elliott.
McConaughey recognized that his “lifestyle, living on the beach, running with my shirt off, doing romantic comedies” had caused him to be typecast for certain roles, and he sought dramatic work with other themes. This shift in his choice of roles has been known as the “McConaissance” between 2011 and 2014. He said:
I got to feeling like, for a few years, I was doing something that I liked to do with romantic and action comedies. But believe me, I noticed there were other things that were not coming in. And if they were coming in, it was in an independent form with a much smaller paycheck, and nobody really wanting to get behind them … But I knew I could say no to the things I’d been doing. In saying no to those things, I knew work was going to dry up for awhile … Year and a half, still nothing. At two years, all of a sudden, in my opinion, I became a new good idea for some good directors.
2011 to 2014: Established actor
In 2012, McConaughey starred alongside Channing Tatum in Magic Mike, based on Tatum’s early life; it was directed by Steven Soderbergh. He returned to his East Texas roots, working again with director Richard Linklater on Bernie, playing district attorney Danny Buck Davidson. In June 2012, McConaughey was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
In 2013 he portrayed Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. The role of a rodeo rider who discovers he has AIDS and struggles to get treatment required him to lose nearly 50 lb (22 kg). The film earned McConaughey many acting awards, including the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Drama, and the Academy Award for Best Actor.
His co-star Jared Leto won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, making Dallas Buyers Club the first film since Mystic River (2003) to win both awards. He was featured in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street as Mark Hanna, an early boss of Jordan Belfort. During this time, McConaughey recorded a public service announcement in Austin, Texas for the LBJ Presidential Library.
In April 2014 Time magazine included McConaughey in its annual Time 100 as one of the “Most Influential People in the World”. In August 2014, the Lincoln Motor Company signed a multi-year collaboration with McConaughey for an ad campaign. The commercials, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), featured McConaughey as a storyteller driving a Lincoln’s MKC crossover.
Shortly after the commercials debuted in September 2014, they were parodied by Ellen DeGeneres, Conan O’Brien, Jim Carrey, South Park, and Saturday Night Live. Overall sales for Lincoln increased by 25 percent one month after the ads debuted. The series of commercials starring McConaughey continued for several more years; during this period he also endorsed the MKZ sedan, MKX and Nautilus crossovers and Aviator SUV.
In 2014 McConaughey received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; it is located on 6931 Hollywood Boulevard. Also in the same year, he shared star billing with Woody Harrelson in HBO’s crime drama anthology series True Detective. For his role as Rust Cohle, he won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series.
He was also nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, which he lost to Bryan Cranston and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film. With his first Oscar win and the critical acclaim received for True Detective, “McConaughey seems to be tapping into something essential, remaining himself while stretching, getting older while staying the same age.” Critic Rachel Syme dubbed his recognition and performances while taking on more complex, dramatic roles as “The McConaissance”.
McConaughey also played Cooper, a widowed father and astronaut in Christopher Nolan’s science fiction film Interstellar (2014).
2015 to present day: Career fluctuations
After finishing Gus Van Sant’s 2015 film The Sea of Trees with Ken Watanabe, in 2016, McConaughey starred in two films, Free State of Jones and Gold, and voiced leading characters in two animated films, Kubo and the Two Strings and Sing. In 2016, McConaughey was hired as creative director and celebrity spokesman for Wild Turkey’s latest campaign, to bring in more women and more international customers.
McConaughey starred as Walter Padick in the 2017 Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower, which received negative reactions from most critics. In 2018, he starred in the true life gangster drama White Boy Rick, which gained mixed reviews. In 2019, he headlined the erotic thriller Serenity, that also starred Diane Lane and Anne Hathaway.
The film was panned by both critics and audiences after its release on January 25. McConaughey next had the starring role in Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum, a comedy also featuring Zac Efron and Jonah Hill. The film was released on March 29, 2019. In late 2019 McConaughey appeared in the Guy Ritchie film The Gentlemen, playing fictional cannabis baron Mickey Pearson.
In 2020 McConaughey published a memoir, Greenlights. On February 6, 2023, it was announced that he voiced an animated version of Elvis Presley on the Netflix animated series Agent Elvis, released on March 17, 2023. Following the announced departure on 8 May 2023 of Kevin Costner from the Yellowstone series at the end of Part 2 of Season 5, the original series is to end and be followed by a series related to Yellowstone and featuring McConaughey in a new title role.
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