We’re now three years into the McConaissance, the Matthew McConaughey comeback that began with The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, and Killer Joe in 2011 and shows no signs of letting up with this week’s release of Interstellar. But McConaughey’s comeback is an odd one. He’s delivered forceful, distinctive performances in every film in which he’s appeared since getting a second chance at a career as a serious actor. But what’s often overlooked is how he reemerged as a much more interesting actor than he was when he first entered the public eye.
Those who saw Dazed And Confused—and their number wasn’t that large during its initial release—of course remembered him for his work as Wooderson, but for most of the public McConaughey was an out-of-nowhere movie star who started appearing on seemingly every magazine cover in existence around the time he starred in the John Grisham adaptation A Time To Kill. McConaughey attracted a reputation as the next Robert Redford and, for a while, he lived up to the part, serving as the handsome, reliable male lead in movies like Contact, Amistad, and U-571 before shifting into less demanding, often shirtless roles in films like Sahara and Failure To Launch. He was fine the first time around, enough to make many lament he was wasting his time make easy junk. But what no one really knew was how much talent he was wasting, or how much was left.
Here’s McConaughey explaining what’s become his catchphrase to CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos in 2011: