A character he can relate to

SPOTLIGHT

Spotlight//Matthew McConaughey

March 10, 2006|By CHRIS KALTENBACH | CHRIS KALTENBACH,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

NEW YORK — New York-- --No, Matthew McConaughey assures everyone, he didn't campaign for the title of People magazine's 2005 Sexiest Man Alive. While that may be true, he sure seems comfortable enough with the honor, flashing his relaxed, seen-it-all-before grin at a roomful of reporters.

One gets the feeling that McConaughey, 36, does not ruffle easily, that he's supremely comfortable in his own skin. If it's an act, it's a good one, earning the Texas native a busy big-screen career, legions of fans - men who admire his attitude, women who admire his pecs - and the welcome opportunity to play onscreen pretty much the same person he is in real life.

Take his current role, opposite Sarah Jessica Parker in Failure to Launch. As Tripp, a carefree 35-year-old yacht broker who sees no reason to abandon the good thing that he's got living at home with Mom and Dad, McConaughey gets to act as much through his disarming grin and easygoing manner as through anything he says or does. It's a persona he's displayed onscreen as far back as his first major film appearance, as the unflappable, skirt-chasing David Wooderson in Richard Linklater's 1993 film Dazed and Confused.

"Yeah, he's a little bit of Wooderson, a hair of Wooderson," McConaughey says with a laugh, "as far as everything [being] like water off his back."

Tripp's a little like the real Matthew McConaughey, as well. Take his fear of commitment, his insistence on dropping any girl who gives him "The Look" - that is, the visual suggestion that maybe it's time to start taking things seriously.

"Tripp and I would never look at something like that, Tripp doesn't look on that as a problem," McConaughey says of such a reluctance to commit.

"Plus, he's got a [great] gig at home. He doesn't have to pay the rent, Mom's a great cook, she makes the bed, everything's set up. What's not to like?"

Asked if he'd ever consider marrying and settling down, McConaughey, a confirmed bachelor, first quotes fellow Texan Willie Nelson ("Moving is still standing still to me," although the actual song title is "Still is Still Moving to Me"), then turns reflective. At least a little.

"I'm not going to quit having adventures and traveling," he says. "Maybe someday, will I have someone who will go with me on some of those? Surely. But no, traveling and going to new places, that I don't know anyone or anything about it, and staying there long enough to feel like I could live there, feel at home - nothing fills my spirit as much as that."

Of course, comparisons go only so far. Part of Tripp's reluctance to commit comes from having had a fiancee who died, a tragedy without an apparent parallel in McConaughey's life. As for staying in the nest with Mom and Dad? Not this free spirit.

"I moved out two weeks out of high school and went to Australia for a year," he says. "I was ready to get, and did. As much as I had a good home life, I was ready ... just to go out and see what life was about."

McConaughey's let-it-ride approach to life, not to mention acting, would seem to clash with that of his co-star, a seasoned pro (she's been in show business nearly three decades) known for always making sure her i's are dotted and her t's crossed. But McConaughey, who once played himself on an episode of Parker's Sex and the City, says their styles meshed nicely.

"She's very professional, about how she wants to do it, and dialogue and things," he says. "She sticks to it, and does that wonderfully. I'm much more loose. I sometimes just like being told, `Here's the situation, go handle it.'"

The combination "worked fine," McConaughey says, even when their styles seemed to be in conflict. "Actually, some of the things where there may be an accident or a miss or a `What'd you say?' they're in the film."

McConaughey will be abandoning comedy for his next film, We Are ... Marshall, which starts shooting this month in Atlanta and Louisiana. In the fact-based film, he plays the new football coach at Marshall University, a school still reeling from the airplane crash that left 75 team members and fans dead. Among projects he's considering after that is a comedy in which the central character is a hit man who constantly gets into fights - and constantly loses. "That would be something that would be completely out there," he says. "That'll just be a blast."

But whatever future roles bring, McConaughey - full in the spirit of guys like Wooderson and Tripp - says he looks forward to seeing what's around the next corner.

"I've been blessed with a good life," he says. "I don't have it all figured out, but I sure am enjoying the trying."

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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