Back in the day — before he won an Academy Award or was rumored to be eyeing a bid to be governor of Texas — Matthew McConaughey was known as one of Hollywood’s most bankable male stars of a certain genre. He remembers it well.
“I’m the go-to guy at rom-coms. I’m living in a pad in Malibu surfing on the beach shirtless. I’m shirtless rom-com McConaughey and I’m like, ‘You damn right I am, those rom-coms are paying for these houses that I’m renting on the beach, baby. Guilty. Come on.’ I’m fully happy with that,” the 51-year-old, newly minted New York Times best-selling author recalled during a conversation with Tim McGraw on the latter’s Beyond the Influence Radio show on Apple Music Country. “At the same time, I started to feel like every rom-com script I did, I go, ‘Oh, that’s a good one. I think I can do that tomorrow morning.’ Then I was like, ‘Well, I’m glad you feel like you could do that tomorrow morning,’ but I was like, ‘I want to be scared.’ I want to look at something and go, ‘Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do with that.’ I want to dive in a pool and trust I’ll come up to the other side than take the journey and come up bloody.”
Though he didn’t single out specific titles, McConaughey’s rom-com run included 2001’s The Wedding Planner opposite Jennifer Lopez, 2003’s How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days opposite Kate Hudson, 2006’s Failure to Launch opposite Sarah Jessica Parker, 2008’s Fool’s Gold opposite Hudson and 2009’s Ghosts of Girlfriends Past opposite Jennifer Garner. His desire to “be scared” and “come up bloody” led McConaughey to a career renaissance, one he embraced but only after rejecting huge piles of money.
“They started at an $8 million offer. I said no. They started $10 million. I say no. They go to $12.5, I said, ‘No, thank you.’ They go to $14.5, I said, ‘Let me read that script again.’ Let me tell you, at $14.5 million, it was the same words as the $8 million offer, but it was a more well-written script, sir. It was a funny script. It had more. But I said no,” he detailed, while not mentioning the title of the project. “Now when I said no to that, I do believe that sort an invisible lightning bolt went across Hollywood and they go, ‘Oh, McConaughey is not bluffing. He ain’t kidding.’” Then everything stopped. Nothing came in. For another 14 to 15 months, nothing came in.”
He accepted the dry spell and even considered a new occupation — perhaps an orchestra conductor or high school football coach — but it turned out to be unnecessary, because the phone would eventually start ringing off the hook.
“As soon as I was spiritually sound with ‘I may not go back to Hollywood, I’m going to do something else maybe in my life, I didn’t need it.’ I wasn’t looking [for] like, ‘Am I ever [going to work again]?’ Ring, guess who’s [got] a new good idea for Lincoln Lawyer, for Killer Joe, for Magic Mike, for Mud, for True Detective, for Dallas Buyer’s Club?” he explained. “Because I found anonymity in those two years — I unbranded — and no one knew where I was. By not being around, they were like, ‘You know who’s a bright new idea? McConaughey for this.’ Then when they came, I jumped on it.”
McConaughey’s full conversation with McGraw, which covers fame, fatherhood, fulfillment and finding peace as a parent, can be heard here.