Matthew McConaughey on Simple Solitude Away from the Commotion of the Film Industry

It’s been 25 years since Matthew McConaughey made his debut in the Generation X fable, Dazed and Confused. Through all the romcoms, the McConnaisance and the much deserved Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club, the 50-year-old Texan has rarely taken a trip to the dark side… even if he really enjoys it. “Being bad is the best,” he begins. “It just is. It shouldn’t be, but getting to do bad stuff and have no repercussions… I like that.”

The ability to misbehave in his professional persona, as an actor, certainly enables him to keep things straight as far as his personal life goes. A devoted husband to Camila Alves, the couple live in Austin with their children, Levi, 11, Vida, 10, and Livingston, seven. In fact, you will struggle to find a more level-headed father, who combines in all the right proportions of love, devotion and discipline.

“Being a parent is wonderful—I love it. I had wanted to have my own family since I was young. It just took me a while to find the perfect person, and Camila is a beautiful, loving and sexy woman who makes my life so much better every day.”

What’s interesting about McConaughey is that while he’s comfortable and familiar with the prominence and profile of being one of the world’s most recognizable actors, he does also yearn for quiet time away from the furore of film sets, junkets and other press engagements. Recently, a story broke of the sumptuous solitude he was able to sample in a fully customized Airstream trailer. Located in Malibu, he purchased it around 15 years ago and has lovingly tended to a refit, a smattering of mod cons and storage for every bit of surfing kit a man with spare time desires… not that spare time is a commodity he has much of.

“Of course I like to get time in the Airstream and the kids think it’s fantastic,” he says. “It fits my mood that while we have a lot in life that ties us down and restricts us, it’s really important to throw off the shackles
as much as possible and explore what it means to be free and unleashed… to explore what’s around you.”

Sure enough, travel has always played a large part in McConaughey’s schedule, even if most of his wanderlust has film engagements as its backdrop. While that means work can often interrupt quiet family time, there is the allowance for the actor to bring his kids with him on set. “It’s nice for them to see the other side of the equation,” he says. “It helps them understand what it’s all about, and it certainly reinforces the idea that acting is just one big game of ‘let’s pretend’.

“What I do get asked a lot though is, ‘Papa, why aren’t you the good guy?’ They don’t understand the appeal of the bad guy.

“My son Levi once accidentally watched scenes of mine when he was three years old—We Are Marshall was on the TV. And he sees me and says, ‘Papa’ and there’s an explosion and he sees fire around me and its tears all over.

“I had to make him understand so I bring him to set on The Lincoln Lawyer and he’s watching me do a scene, and then I show him on the monitor. Right there, click. He gets it. So he’s running back and forth between the monitor and the set. And he gets it.”

So does McConaughey have a desire to switch to more ‘nice guy’ roles as a way of placating his kids? “Hell no! Playing darker actors opens up a whole world of opportunity I never knew existed before. Bad guys, they don’t pander to limitations, the right thing to them is the wrong thing. “Right is wrong and as someone who morally believes in always doing the right thing, teaching my children the same, it’s fun to take a vacation from the moral code, and see what that’s like. Push manners and morals to the side.”

McConaughey’s intelligent rhetoric is always delivered with a warm Texan drawl, a personal connection and a warmth so many of his contemporaries lack. And since his Oscar win six years ago, he’s lined up a sparkling roster of performances from True Detective and Interstellar to Gold, Terence Malick’s Sea of Trees and Serenity. Here’s a star who broke away from the humdrum of Failure to Launch and The Wedding Planner and reinvented his brand. And now, he’s reaping the rewards. His lakeside mansion in Austin, for instance, is a stylish, sympathetic and sprawling estate that holds the ethos of ranch life with the luxury you would expect of someone worth an estimated $100 million.

“The money side doesn’t really interest or inspire me,” McConaughey admits. “Sure, it’s nice to be comfortable, but the greater value for me is in creative fulfillment. There is no pay check in the world worth more than
that when you’ve dedicated your life to some kind of artistic pursuit.

“The same goes for family. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time wondering what life is all about—I used to sit alone, just thinking, processing; but when the children came along I realized there was no point. The past was gone and the future was… well, who knows.

“It just clicked in me what the whole point was—family, and the here and
now. Being a parent is wonderful. I love it. It is the priority over everything else.”

While the COVID-19 outbreak looks set to limit most actors’ exposure in 2020, McConaughey was on a creative break in any case, following Guy Ritchie’s gangster-led hit The Gentlemen, which came out at the end of
last year. Animated comedy Sing 2 is set for release in 2021, but outside of that, the star is looking forward to a concerted period of downtime, the chance to catch up with his children as they flourish, as well as ensuring
his physical health is back up to speed. In the past, the actor’s commitment to body transformation has been a solid topic, notably after he lost 47 lbs. in preparing for the role of Ron Woodro in Dallas Buyers Club, the story
of a desperately ill man riddled with AIDS.

“I’ve gone to extremes in the name of film-making, but away from that my priority is to maintain a sense of consistent physical and mental wellbeing that means I can carry on, fulfill my potential, be a good dad and husband, and enjoy life.

“I’m a big believer in the psychology of fitness really making a difference,
and going for runs, picking up the surf board or hitting the gym has always helped me out of situations in the past where I’ve just needed time to sit
back, think and reflect.” Not that McConaughey has any sort of conventional method when it comes to workout routines…

“People find it strange but my technique is to ensure I am always counting
when I’m working out,” he laughs. “I can’t do 10 minutes of lifts or crunches or even treadmill work. What I will do is break it down into a three-minute challenge, a four-minute segment, and another three. I am maintaining physical impact but breaking it down mentally so I don’t tail off.

“My attitude towards fitness is really the same as my attitude towards being creative and alive. On set, I need to hit it—I need characters that get me motivated and fired up, and the way I am in the gym or out in the open air is the same. I’m not one of these people who can just do some gym work, or acting, or parenting and leave it at that.

“I need the energy and the anger! I want to feel alive!”