A lot of interesting people pass through the Texas Standard studios – high-profile politicians, authors, and musicians among them. But the guest who came through this week caused a bit of a stir. Native Texan, Academy Award winner, and proud Austinite Matthew McConaughey sat down with host David Brown – not to plug a movie, but to talk about why he calls Austin home.
McConaughey wore a shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Be a lot cooler if you did.” Those words, of course, were spoken by his character, Wooderson, in his breakout role in fellow Austinite Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused.” McConaughey the person is often identified strongly with McConaughey the character on screen. And that’s okay with him.
“I play characters, but at the end, it’s more me than it was before,” he says. “I’m the vessel it’s going through.”
Sometimes, the character is based on the actor himself – or it could be someone he wanted to be like. He says Wooderson has his roots in a glimpse of his older brother, Pat, snatched through a car window in Longview, Texas.
“Younger Matthew looks out the window and sees this guy who looks cooler than James Dean, leaning up against the wall in the smoking section, pulling on a cigarette…and it was Pat,” he says.
McConaughey says Pat initiated his younger brother into that world of cool. “He’s also the guy who let me drive his Z28 air induction, who had his Tancredi equalizer, Alpine receiver, Concord speakers in there. That was better than Phil Spector’s wall of sound when I heard it.”
When thinking about his favorite movie, or at least his favorite role to watch, McConaughey looks back to childhood again. The actor says he wants to take his son to see 2012’s “Mud,” a movie he also knows his late father would have loved.
“Mud’s the movie that when I would have been about 12, I could just see [my dad] go ‘hey buddy, c’mere. We’re gonna go out and see this movie, Mud. God dog, it’s a good one.'”
Texas is more than just the place McConaughey left to make his name. He says he came back to the state to raise his family, and because the pace of life here feels more natural to him.
“A mile feels like a mile, out here,” he says. “Sixty minutes feels like an hour. I like the pace. I like my relationship with time here in Texas, and specifically here in Austin.”
The laid-back, cool persona McConaughey cultivates is a good fit for his life in Austin, too. He says locals typically don’t approach him for a photo.
“If someone wants a picture, about a hundred out of a hundred times, they’re not from here,” he says. “It’s a place, it’s a home for me, in Austin and in Texas. It’s just never needed proof that I was here.”
McConaughey has made his presence known lately as part of the national debate about guns.
“We’ve got a little epidemic going on here,” he says. “And we’ve got to fix it somehow. I don’t exactly know how to fix it, but we’ve got to get the conversation going. And right now, both sides of this are so damn tribal and protective of their own that there’s no conversation.”
He attended the recent March for Our Lives and he says what people need is a dose of the kind of common sense that thrives in Texas. Since he spent time hunting and fishing as a kid, growing up with guns makes sense to him – along with developing discipline and respect for those and other weapons.
“You learned gun safety and responsibility,” he says. “Guns ought to be treated like a Samurai sword. You’re raised with it and have a reverence for this tool.”
Living back home in Texas is a strong connection to the past for McConaughey, but he’s also looking to the future. He says he’s developing two film projects of his own.
“I’ve been working on them for years to get them in script form. And if I do get to a place where it’s time to make those,” he says, “I wouldn’t give those up.”
With his unique perspective, McConaughey will tell those stories himself.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.