I love some Matthew McConaughey, and I usually find him kind of fascinating, like he has this real joy for life and talks in parables. In the latest issue of Esquire, for which Matt is the cover boy, he comes across like a poser, though. He’s like one of those guys in college who thinks he’s the first dude to backpack around Europe and you just have to try it, or you haven’t lived. Only Europe is too good for Matty, he had to go to South American to challenge himself since they have modern conveniences in Europe. It became clear to me after reading a few paragraphs that this wasn’t the McConaughey I loved, though, it was some insecure journalist’s opinion of him.
In this Esquire story, McConaughey is so hospitable and accommodating. He invites the journalist to his spend a couple days with him, to go golfing, to attend a party at his house and to stay overnight on the property in one of his Airstream trailers. Only the journalist kind of sh*ts all over everything and comes across as insecure and out of his element. He portrays McConaughey as a caricature of himself and kind of mocks him. It’s hard to portray in a few segments, because it’s the overall tone of the piece.
Here are some excerpts, and I would encourage you to read the whole thing to get a better picture of what’s going on if you’re interested:
The journalist on McConaughey’s vernacular
Over the weekend he refers to six things as “nectar” — a steak, the wine, the company of his older dog, a hat he found for his two-year-old son, the arrival of his final set of friends, and that one golf shot. Broadly speaking, nectar is good.
McConaughey on his trip to Peru
When things are going right in a golf cart, familiarity builds. And so I ask him the question that is sometimes awkward: why he took time off from making movies. I’m inquiring about the previous two years, before this most recent comeback, but McConaughey goes straight to his own question. The last two years don’t seem to be any of my business.
“I’ve done that before,” he says. “I went to Peru after A Time to Kill. I had a lot to think about. Just grabbed a bag and left. And I went up and further in, until I was about as uncomfortable and unfamiliar with things as I could be. You know why I don’t go to Europe for these trips? Because in Europe everything pretty much works, or it almost works. I mean, it’s almost what I’m used to. But Peru, Mali, Morocco? Nothing works. Nothing. So you have to give up on what you know. At least I do. And for a while it’s very uncomfortable. Extremely. I mean you’re faking the language as best you can, nodding at things you probably shouldn’t be, and you start to miss the things you know. And you need to eat.”
For the first time since we met, the truths pile themselves, emblematic but also pragmatic, hard-earned or maybe stolen from the lyrics of a pop song. I can’t tell yet. But he persists. “And I started to strip things down. I took off my hat and my ring, just this big old gold ring. I’d made it, melted down one of my dad’s old rings and mixed in some gold from I don’t know — one of my mother’s teeth I think. And this ring — big old M on it — I took it off. One morning I get up — Count of Montezuma, the whole bit, threw up, diarrhea, puked. It was a purge, man” — this word he enunciates precise as a birdcall — “and it was sick, but it was a spiritual cleanse, and after that I was high as a kite. I was able to look at all the stuff I’d stripped away and ask questions: What does that ring mean? What does my name mean? What do I make of that old American flag that’s sewn onto the hat I’ve been wearing for eighteen years? All these things that give me pride, what did they add up to?”
He was standing over a putt then, or he’d walked up onto the apron of the green, or he’d reached down to pull his ball from the hole — some golf gesture. I don’t remember; I was listening. “It all comes into balance between day nine and day thirteen,” he said.
“What happens then?”
“That’s about the point where I start to see I can survive. And all my discomfort just disappears and then I pretty much feel free to go home. I try to let the place own me. Then I can go home.”
On his partner, Camila Alves, and their new home
“Before this, I had a super home in the Hollywood Hills that I did by myself — landscaping, detailing pretty much everything. But that house was mine. And yeah, we coulda gone in there right away. Camila would have said, Fine, don’t change a thing. But I thought, I found the woman I wanna do it with, the woman I wanna make a family with, hopefully live our life out together. She needs to have 50 percent of that. I mean, it’s a lot easier for me to be at 100 percent. I’d always been 100 percent. It’s braver for me at 50 percent.”
McConaughey calls himself religious
“A friend of mine who’s a lawyer said something about me a couple of weeks ago, and it’s true. You know how that is? When a friend you’ve known a long time declares something about you and wham!” Here Matthew McConaughey snaps his fingers so loud it sounds like the cracking of a Lincoln Log. “I mean, you think, Hey, that’s true!” His voice drops. “Good friend,” he says. He speaks in many directions at once. “He said to me, Matthew, you’re into commas. Every time you think you’ve stopped, you always come out of it. Every time you think you’ve reached the end of that long dead-end street, you slip around the edge, past that stopping point, past the right angles. And I thought: Yes.” This is a word he hisses, almost every time, stretching it right into an invitation. “It’s all continuation! Even if you’re dying, that’s a kind of continuation, because you move on. And you have to change. Now, you lose something in your life, or you come into a conflict, and there’s gonna come a time that you’re gonna know: There was a reason for that. And at the end of your life, all the things you thought were periods, they turn out to be commas. There was never a full stop in any of it…”
McConaughey takes that fifth bite of rib eye, then sighs. “Listen,” he says, “I was thinking. Earlier, when I was talking about the commas, and the continuation? You might be tempted to call that ‘spiritual.’ ” He tilts his head, as if weighing the word. “But I think that description would be a dodge. I’m religious. I like that word. You can use it.”
So he’s hunched, quartered toward me, speaking softly, cheek full of rib eye, and he pretty much whispers, “Yes, you can look at the table and say you see spirituality. Fine. Friendship, love, reverence for one another” — he’s darting his eyes in various directions, so I get eye-blink camera shots: heads thrown back in laughter, glasses clinking, women striking a harmony, children climbing into the laps of their fathers. “And I can shake hands with that. Spiritual. It’s perfectly good. But what I see here is ligare.”
“Ligare.” I repeat the word to be sure I got it. I was taught by Jesuits. We’re in for some Latin here.
“It’s the root word of religion. It’s the Latin. Ligare. ‘To bind.’ ”
McConaughey starts nodding. “To bind us together again,” he says. He gently pushes away his plate. “That’s how I read it, anyway,” he says. “That’s what I’m after. I’m religious. We are religious. You can say that.”
Not everyone gets McConaughey, and not everyone thinks his way of talking isn’t some kind of affectation. That’s why McConaughey went out of his way to be accommodating, so that he would be portrayed well. Only he got someone who had already made up his mind about him. All the golf and hospitality in the world wouldn’t have made this guy write a positive profile.
Photos from Esquire