What You Don't Know About Matthew McConaughey

There's something in the way Matthew McConaughey commands himself that tells you there is always more to the entertainer than meets the eye. The Texan has established himself as one of Hollywood's most sincere actors over his three decades of work (via IMDb). From his breakthrough role in 1993's "Dazed and Confused" to 2014's critically acclaimed "True Detective," which drew Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, McConaughey truly justifies what it means to be a master of one's craft.

Beyond the screen, the man reflects mystifying wisdom that shines through bizarrely and brilliantly in his public addresses. He has described himself as "a folk-singing, philosopher, poet-statesman" (via People). As one would expect, the layers to McConaughey run deep. He delves into these in detail for his latest outing, "Greenlights," his 2021 journal-cum-memoir, which gives audiences a greater glimpse at the man behind the Academy Award-winning performances. Though the essence of who McConaughey truly is may elude definition through words, we take you through the different aspects of what his life is all about. 

Matthew McConaughey lived through a violent childhood

Matthew McConaughey didn't have the easiest childhood, a fact the actor has candidly opened up about in the past. The actor's parents, James and Mary McConaughey, reportedly shared a volatile relationship and, as he explained in "Greenlights" (via Us Weekly), "were twice-divorced and thrice-married to each other." McConaughey also detailed the distressing moments from his youth in the tell-all memoir, including a bloody incident where the married couple got into a violent row over James asking for more potatoes at dinner (via the Daily Mail). The altercation resulted in McConaughey's mother ending up with a broken finger; a photo reportedly printed in the book. "This is how my mom and dad loved each other," the actor wrote. 

The actor also revealed that his father was absent the day his son was born in 1969 and was estranged from his mother for eight years, but McConaughey said he "didn't ever question the love that Mom and Dad had or the love that they gave us" (via Today). Though he doesn't view his childhood experiences as abuse, he and his wife, Camila Alves McConaughey, parent their three children differently in how they "do a little more explaining." He added, "And even today, my mom goes, 'Geez, y'all talk about it too much.'" 

He had dreams of becoming a lawyer

Acting wasn't always in the cards for Matthew McConaughey. The Oscar awardee was on his way to paving a career in law when cinema happened when it did — bless our lucky stars! "I always thought I was going to be a lawyer," McConaughey revealed during a 2020 interview aired on Dan Schawbel's podcast. The University of Texas graduate said he stepped into college with dreams of becoming a defense attorney. Still, during sophomore year, a realization jolted him: "I wouldn't be able to put an imprint in the world and execute something until I was in my 30s, basically." A friend encouraged McConaughey to pursue his creative inclinations, and then three words from his father — "Don't half-*** it" — finally pushed McConaughey to get into film school at UT. 

Considering the gift of the gab that defines McConaughey when he isn't acting, one can imagine how persuasive and earnest he would've been in a courtroom. Yet, ironically, he has touched his law dreams to some extent to further his acting career — playing a lawyer in 1996 with "A Time to Kill" and then in 2011 with "The Lincoln Lawyer." During an appearance on radio shock-jock Howard Stern's podcast, McConaughey said that he was "very comfortable" playing attorney Jake Brigance in the latter film and confessed to "making it very personal in that moment." 

He was once arrested for playing the bongos ... naked

In October 1999, per an Associated Press report, Texas police arrested McConaughey — who was just 29 years old at the time — during a late-night incident for "dancing naked and playing the bongo drums." Following the arrest, police said they received a complaint of loud music coming from McConaughey's house. The "Amistad" star was arrested on multiple charges, including possession of drug-related items and resisting transfer, and was ultimately jailed for a few hours. Upon release, he said, "I don't want to rent a place there, but it was a nice stay for a night." In his 2020 memoir, "Greenlights," the actor recalled the notorious incident and appeared to clear the haze surrounding it. According to The Independent, the actor described the incident as a "jam session" where he disrobed and decided to "smoke a bowl." 

While some of his most memorable roles — as stoner school senior in "Dazed and Confused" and weed honcho in "The Gentlemen" — have required him to dally with the herbal stuff, McConaughey's adventures with marijuana go beyond the screen. He recalled on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" how co-star Snoop Dogg once switched out fake joints with real ones during the shoot of "The Beach Bum," getting him high (via YouTube). "Yo, Moondog, that wasn't prop weed. That was Snoop weed," the rapper reportedly told him.

He doesn't wear deodorant but smells great

On the list of bizarre celebrity facts, this one about Matthew McConaughey swearing off deodorant perhaps ranks near the top. The Texan hasn't sprayed on scent in decades, a nugget he let on in 2005 to People, which named him the Sexiest Man Alive. All that a man should smell like is "a man," he said he believed. McConaughey's co-star Kate Hudson, while the two filmed "Fool's Gold," reportedly tried to lay some freshener on him, but he refused. It was "a salt rock, which is some natural deodorant," he later recalled (per LadBible). For McConaughey, the mantra is "No cologne, no deodorant." And he sticks to it. 

One would think that forgoing this step in his hygiene routine would cause a literal stinker. But, surprisingly (or not), the McConaughey musk is so delicious that nobody around him has complaints about his anti-deodorant stance. He added that the women in his life have told him, "Hey, your natural smell smells, one, like a man, and, two, smells like you." Appearing on SiriusXM (via YouTube), actor Yvette Nicole Brown related a practical experiment she did on McConaughey during their "Tropic Thunder" shoot to test his theory out. She got super close to him, only to find that "he does not have an odor." "He smells like granola and good living," she said. "He has a sweet, sweet scent that is just him."

His iconic role in Dazed and Confused came to him by chance

The story behind Matthew McConaughey's iconic breakout in "Dazed and Confused" is as zany as his memorable Wooderson role was in the 1993 Richard Linklater film. Would you believe that the cult classic that gave the world those three magical McConaughey words — "All right, all right, all right" — came to the actor entirely by luck? As McConaughey put it, he happened to go "into the right bar at the right time and met the right guy." According to GQ, it was 1992 and McConaughey, with no prominent acting credits to his name yet, was dating a waitress at an area Hyatt. There, he was introduced to Don Phillips, casting director of the 1982 coming-of-age hit "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." A nightlong alcohol binge, conversations about golf, and an ultimate eviction from the bar cemented a friendship that resulted in Phillips calling McConaughey in for a script reading the next morning. It was for a new project called "Dazed and Confused." 

McConaughey appeared as a supporting character in the film, which tracked a night of high school students carousing. His now-viral audition tape required him to try out the lines Wooderson says the first time we see him in the film: "Say man, you got a joint?" A delighted McConaughey saw the tape for the first time in 2020 and reflected on how a "summer hobby" altered his career forever (via Twitter). 

He met his wife Camila Alves at a club in Los Angeles

For regular people, matches may be made in heaven. But for hunks like Matthew McConaughey, some matches are made in clubs. The "Interstellar" star, who has been married to Brazilian model Camila Alves for a decade now, met his ladylove in a rather serendipitous way in 2006. He was at Jones, a Hollywood club, the night he first locked eyes with Alves, as told to People (via YouTube). "I was making margaritas at the table, and out of the corner of my eye, this aqua green figure was floating across the frame," he recalled. "What is that?" were the first words that left McConaughey's mouth upon seeing the woman who would ultimately become his wife. Alves' Portuguese and McConaughey's Spanish bridged love that night.

A long courtship followed, with the duo eventually welcoming two children, and in 2012, the couple wed. In a particularly special moment during their nuptials, the happy couple reportedly whispered the vows into each other's ears instead of declaring them loud (per Us Weekly). While what was said remains a sacred secret between the two. McConaughey, however, did have some wise words about maintaining a successful marriage. "We have a love that we never question," he said (via People).

For his role in Dallas Buyers Club, he shed 50 pounds on a wine diet

Matthew McConaughey sized down drastically for his 2013 film "Dallas Buyers Club," which ultimately earned him the first Oscar of his career. In the Jean-Marc Vallée directorial, McConaughey stepped into the shoes of real-life entrepreneur Ron Woodroof who, in an era of stigma around the AIDS condition afflicting him, founded the famed Dallas Buyers Club to circulate treatment drugs (via Slate). For the role, McConaughey shed approximately 50 pounds in a short time. "I had my programmed meals, lost 3.5lb a week — like clockwork — and got down to my desired weight," he told the BBC. He said he eventually became "clinically aware, almost hyper," and "needed three hours less sleep a night." 

McConaughey revealed in an episode of Joe Rogan's podcast (via YouTube) that his diet at the time was a mix of fish, tapioca pudding, egg whites, and "as much wine as [he] wanted to drink." "I was not torturing myself. I was militant," he added. Though the experience led his kids to liken him to a giraffe, it taught McConaughey that "the body is more resilient than we give it credit for." His efforts translated into the Academy's Best Actor honor in 2014 (via The Guardian). 

Yes, Woody Harrelson and him are actually best friends

For the audience of the crime drama "True Detective," especially those of the critically acclaimed first season from 2014, the natural chemistry between titular leads Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson was particularly a high point. As detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, the pair road-tripped into old unsolved cases with dark themes of philosophy and religion, pumping life into their dynamic. That McConaughey and Harrelson also share a great relationship in real life makes it all the more gratifying! McConaughey once gushed about how they completed each other's humor. "We really get on a similar frequency and roll with it," he said as quoted by USA Today. It was McConaughey himself, director Cary Fukunaga told Slate, who roped Harrelson into the HBO series. 

"True Detective" is not the first time the two friends have collaborated. Outsider has noted that the duo worked together thrice previously, in "Welcome to Hollywood," "EDtv," and "Surfer Dude." Appearing on "The Ellen Show" (via YouTube), Harrelson recalled a France friendship tour he once took with McConaughey and other notable entertainers, including Bono and Sacha Baron Cohen. McConaughey often features Harrelson on his Instagram feed and once shared a sweet picture of the two neck-deep in water and all-smiles, captioning it, "brothers from nother [sic] mothers?"

He has opened up about being sexually abused

Matthew McConaughey's New York Times bestselling memoir "Greenlights" contains a wealth of raw wisdom and truths from the star's life. The actor's disclosure mentioned that he was sexually abused during his youth. Without revealing too many details, McConaughey told readers about more than one non-consensual experience he had as a teen. As quoted by Variety from his book, the star said he was "blackmailed" into his first sexual encounter at age 15. "I was certain I was going to hell for the premarital sex," he wrote. Then at 18, he said that a man molested him in the back of a van while he was unconscious. Reflecting on the latter incident, which is just one of several tragic details about Matthew McConaughey, he said, "It didn't askew anything in my mind. It didn't change the way I saw the world or the way I viewed reality or healthy sexual interactions" (via YouTube). 

Explaining the reason why he didn't delve too deeply into either event in his book, McConaughey told Tamron Hall on her show, "Ultimately, there's nothing that I feel is constructive about the details. ... I felt like those details could have just been grabbed and reported for voyeurism" (via YouTube). His understanding that whatever happened to him was wrong gave him clarity and didn't confuse him, he added. In "Greenlights," McConaughey stated, "I've never felt like a victim."

He stopped doing romcoms because he got bored of them

Once upon a time, Matthew McConaughey belonged to an elite club of actors who ruled the hearts of countless romantic-comedy fans. Post-2010, when he redefined his career in an event popularly dubbed the McConaissance, the suave star shifted to more complex roles like in "The Lincoln Lawyer," which are now considered on-brand for the versatile actor. But McConaughey from the early 2000s still holds a special status as the "21st Century's Romantic Comedy King," as crowned by Decider. "The Wedding Planner," in which he starred alongside superstar Jennifer Lopez in 2001, initially established him as a rom-com dreamboat. This was followed by "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," "Tiptoes," and "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," among others (via IMDb). "I was the go-to rom-com guy. I enjoyed making them, and they paid well," he told AARP

And then, McConaughey disappeared from the rom-com world. Apparently, he got bored (via The Guardian). McConaughey pointedly began saying no to rom-com scripts, even once turning down a $14.5 million offer, which sent "an invisible lightning bolt" through Hollywood, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He had a dry spell for about a year before the phone started ringing again — and it hasn't stopped since. 

There was talk of him running for governor of Texas

For all the intellectual acuity Matthew McConaughey seems to possess, one wouldn't put it past the actor to toy with the idea of stepping into politics. Sure enough, McConaughey has gone public with his intentions of considering a run for the Governor of Texas more than once. In 2020, he appeared on "The Hugh Hewitt Show," where the host asked whether he would throw his hat into the ring for Governor. "Look, politics seems to be a broken business to me right now. And when politics redefines its purpose, I could be a hell of a lot more interested," McConaughey replied (via Southern Living). More recently, in what ignited massive discussions online, McConaughey in 2021 said (via The Guardian), "I'm looking into now again, what is my leadership role? Because I do think I have some things to teach and share, and what is my role?" 

Months after the proposition, the actor said that though politics was "a humbling and inspiring path to ponder," he would not be taking it right now (via Twitter). In a rare public reflection of his political stance, McConaughey described himself as "aggressively centrist." Nevertheless, in the aftermath of a fatal shooting in his hometown of Uvalde in 2022, the actor met with 30 political heads across Democratic and Republican sides, even visiting the White House and Capitol Hill to push for gun reform.

His philanthropic scope is vast, from students to rescue animals

Matthew McConaughey isn't just acting his way through life. The entertainer and activist philanthropist's profile is forever active, prominently with his Just Keep Livin' foundation, which started in 2008. The organization is named after a philosophy conjured after the death of his father in 1993 and which has since been immortalized in his breakout film "Dazed and Confused." The scope of the foundation extends to 40 schools in the United States, motivating students "to make positive life choices," the nonprofit organization has stated. But, that's not all — McConaughey and his wife Camila Alves organized "We're Texas," a virtual fundraiser concert that raised almost $8 million to help those affected by the 2021 winter storm in Texas (via Deadline). The Hollywood Reporter consequently named the actor Philanthropist of the Year in 2021. 

His social service endeavors have proven McConaughey isn't just an on-screen hero. In 2005, when the brutal Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, McConaughey helped at a local animal hospital, telling Garden & Gun how he "got a bunch of boats and went in there" for a rescue mission. His family has also taken in several rescue and adoption dogs, per One Green Planet, spreading happy woofs all around! 

He was considered for the iconic role of Jack Dawson in Titanic

To imagine anyone other than Leonardo DiCaprio as the suave, working-class hero Jack Dawson in "Titanic" would be impossible today. But a host of A-list names — from Johnny Depp to Christian Bale, per Suggest — were considered for the iconic role in James Cameron's  hit1997 film. Among them was ace actor Matthew McConaughey, rising to prominence after his memorable breakout role in "Dazed and Confused." On an episode of actor Rob Lowe's podcast, McConaughey narrated how he went through auditions for the "Titanic" character that ultimately went to DiCaprio. "So I went and read with Kate Winslet" — who played female protagonist Rose — "and it was not one of the auditions — they filmed it so it was like into screen test time," he recalled, adding that the post-test reaction seemed positive. "I really thought it was going to happen. It did not." He further stamped out rumors that he had turned the part down. 

Winslet testified to McConaughey's audition on an episode of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" (via YouTube) and said trying out with McConaughey was "fantastic." Director Cameron also once alluded to McConaughey reading for Jack — but that was before DiCaprio showed up on the scene for an interview. "I looked around the room and every woman in the building was in the meeting ... I thought maybe I better cast this guy," Cameron said (via CinemaBlend).

On odd days, he is also known as Professor McConaughey

In 2019, Matthew McConaughey added another feather to his cap by clinching a teaching position at the University of Texas, his alma mater. According to a release from the university, the Academy awardee joined the film faculty at the Moody College of Communication in Austin. "It's the class I wish I would have had when I was in film school," McConaughey said. "Working in the classroom with these students gives me a chance to prepare them." The actor first returned to college about two decades after graduating in 1993 as a visiting professor before his place was made recently official. The curriculum on the college's website lists several of McConaughey's films, including "White Boy Rick" and "Mud." 

The structure of his classes is such that students study the process of converting the first script into the final film, per People. Though lessons are centered around his works, Professor McConaughey isn't too thrilled when his titles pop up in class. "I usually keep scrolling when I cross a movie of mine," he said. Expectedly, the ever-sagacious star even slips in life advice once in a while between lectures. "Don't worry. You don't have to know what you want to do," is what he tells students. Per mySA.com, which accessed McConaughey's offer letter, he reportedly earns $12,000 for every independent course he teaches at UT.