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The Rise of Matthew McConaughey

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It all began with The Lincoln Lawyer. Up until that point in Matthew McConaughey’s career, he was renowned for appearing in clichéd, tedious romantic comedies, and being the butt of several jokes in Family Guy. Then, in 2011, Brad Furman took a punt on him, and gave the Texan actor the lead role in his courtroom drama. From that moment on it’s been a steady progression, and his career renaissance has culminated in an Academy Award for his role in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club.

Let’s not beat about the bush – McConaughey has been in some dire movies. Failure to Launch, The Wedding Planner and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past are just three that come to mind (the last is particularly bad) – and there are undoubtedly many ardent fans of his who were once his most vehement of critics. Perhaps McConaughey was a victim of his own good looks – taking on roles which required little more than this. However it now seems that McConaughey has learnt not to be so self-conscious and appreciate that making yourself less pretty can be one of an actor’s finest facets, and this is where his career revival has worked out so well.

He’s proven that he can play creepy and sinister, and yet endearing and empathetic roles; and he has embraced his roots too: playing characters in films set in the deep, murky southern states of America. He has been involved with several fantastic productions recently, and has been arguably the best thing about them all. From The Paperboy to Bernie; from Magic Mike to Killer Joe: he’s on an incredible run of form. His most impressive performances yet have to be in Mud and in Nic Pizzolatto’s fabulous TV mini-series, True Detective, though his eye-catching and memorable turn in The Wolf of Wall Street is also something special, and his Oscar winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club is justly deserving of such prestigious recognition.

So what has changed in his career? How did he manage to turn so many people onside and change so many film fans’ preconceptions of his work? Simple: the cowboy hat. He dons the fashion accessory in the vast majority of his recent films, like Bernie, Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Magic Mike and now Dallas Buyers Club. It seems whenever he wears a magic cowboy hat, his performances benefit as a result. So you can take that away with you, as the mystery solved of this incredible transformation. If there’s anything else to take away from this piece, it’s that now you should have no excuses for not knowing how to spell “McConaughey”.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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