Special Features – Matthew McConaughey: Zero to Hero

Jackson Ball on the career resurgence of Matthew McConaughey….

Hollywood is often painted as a cruel, unforgiving place. A place where second chances are few and far-between and if you blow your ‘big break’, you are forgotten instantaneously. It sounds like quite a bleak environment to be around, so it’s always reassuring when someone comes along and breaks the trend, seizing hold of a second chance with both hands. One such person is Mr. Matthew McConaughey.

Cast your minds back to 2009; McConaughey had just released the rather abysmal rom-com Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. This shocker capped off a good decades-worth of drivel for the actor, who seemed to be singled-handed stocking and restocking DVD bargain-bins the world over. McConaughey’s main offences included barrel-scraping rom-coms (The Wedding Planner, Failure to Launch), unenjoyable ‘adventure’ films (Reign of Fire, Fool’s Gold), and a variety of other flops (Two for the Money, We Are Marshall). This streak tarnished the actor’s reputation, subjecting him to large (albeit deserved) amount of mockery from cinema-goers everywhere.

However, back in 2009, something changed; it’s as though he sat himself down, took a good, long look in the mirror and said in his husky Texan tone, “Enough is enough”.

Since then, McConaughey has been a different kind of streak, churning impressive performances one after the other. First came The Lincoln Lawyer, 2011’s sleeper hit that first showed that he could bring more than just charm to a leading man role. The film wasn’t necessarily ground-breaking in it narrative or direction, but thanks to its star (and a decent supporting cast) audiences and critics left theatres thoroughly entertained. A fluke, surely.

Well no, actually. That same year McConaughey wowed audiences again, this time taking a supporting role behind another hit-and-miss lead, Jack Black, in Richard Linklater’s Bernie. It seemed redemption was the order of the day for this dark comedy, with critics showering praise on both McConaughey and Black, a notion that would have seen unthinkable several years before.

Then came 2012, or as it was later known, The Year of McConaughey. The actor starred in not one, not two, but three successful movies, all of which were praised by critics worldwide. First came the film that really made people believe that his career turnaround was no flash in the pan, Mud. The coming-of-age drama excelled on the festival circuit, led by yet another towering performance from McConaughey. Clearly wanting to show he was a man with range, McConaughey contrasted his role in Mud masterfully with his chilling performance in Killer Joe. On top of those back-to-back dramas, he stopped things from becoming a little too serious with Magic Mike, another huge sleeper hit.

Fast forward to the present day, and Matthew McConaughey has recently crowned his comeback with what is arguably his most significant performance to date, as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. The actor’s portrayal of a homophobic AIDS sufferer has garnered him Best Actor nominations from almost every major awards body in cinema. He’s already picked up the Golden Globe and is already being tipped as one of the favourites to pick up an Academy Award to go with it, a feat that will cement one of the greatest career comebacks in Hollywood.

At this point you may be thing, ‘So? Actors’ careers have peaks and troughs all the time. McConaughey is nothing special!’. Well you might have a valid point, but just as an experiment, try to re-imagine the first time you saw Sahara, or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. What if I were to tell you then that the actor you were watching would stand a good chance at a Best Actor Academy Award, less than a decade later?…

 Agree? Disagree? As always we’d love to hear your comments… 

Jackson Ball – follow me on Twitter.