CROSSING OVER: Matthew McConaughey as Detective Rustin Rus Cohle with Woody Harrelson as Detective Martin Hart in Nic Pizzolattos crime drama, True Detective, on M-Net Series Showcase.

Those Adonis features made Matthew McConaughey a director's favourite for rom-coms. While he's an easy sell at the box office, a decade playing such chocolatey suave characters was a vacuous experience. That might explain his absence between 2009 and 2011. Up for an Oscar for his depiction of Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club, the star has been making waves with his small screen unveiling in Nic Pizzolatto's crime drama, True Detective, writes Debashine Thangevelo.


DANGEROUSLY sexy and charming. Those traits come easily to Matthew McConaughey, especially with the curly locks, square jaw and deep dimples.

In Hollywood, those features are considered a gold mine but, on the flip side, a dime a dozen as every other waiter-cum-aspiring-actor will confirm in the Mecca of all things camera and paparazzi-related. That’s where lucky breaks come into play.

For McConaughey, TV com- mercials proved to be his best move as they offered a way into film, resulting in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. He went on to do Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and other arbitrary films before he struck gold (stardom) with A Time to Kill. It is still one of my favourite movies of his.

His versatility outshone those distracting pretty-boy looks and the critics noticed, too.

He went on to flex his acting muscles in the action, adventure and drama genres. With his profile raised, he became an easy target for Hollywood filmmakers, who poached him for their rom-coms.

Admittedly, those movies (The Wedding Planner, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, Failure to Launch and Ghost of Girlfriends Past) were cute and schmaltzy. But the ennui of watching McConaughey doing the same old thing eventually got to fans… and the actor.

I was done for when I watched an insipid excuse of a beach bum movie, Surfer, Dude, and was ready to write him off for his increasingly frustrating lack of judgement.

In a chat with Time Out London magazine, he said: “I’m not going to carry on doing the same thing over and over. I was reading romantic comedies. And I liked them. But I wanted to do something that scares me a little bit.

“The first move was saying ‘no’ to scripts. That was six months of ‘no’ and then a year of nothing. And something happened. I gained anonymity and suddenly it became a good idea for William Friedkin (director) to call about Killer Joe or Steven Soderbergh about Magic Mike.”

And so the tide of tedium was replaced by a tsunami of intrigue and excitement as the 44-year-old broke free of the rom-com shackles.

Not only has he earned much respect for tackling more serious and profound roles, he is the talk of Hollywood for his matchless performance as Ron Woodroof in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club. That Oscar is almost within his grasp. After all, he did go com- pletely method to fill the shoes of his HIV-positive character.

And the hype isn’t about to subside – he has also created quite a stir with his foray into television with True Detective.

Cast opposite movie heavyweight Woody Harrelson, McConaughey plays Detective Rustin “Rust” Cohle. The crime drama unfolds with the two giving their statements on the murder of Dora Lange, a prostitute, 17 years earlier when they were Louisiana State CID partners. This trip down memory lane sheds light on their volatile partnership and personal lives.

In an interview with Collider. com, McConaughey spoke about finally gravitating towards the small screen: “It’s a different time in television. There’s not that feeling of, if you’re having a successful film career and somebody brings up something on television (then you wouldn’t even consider it). When I got this, we didn’t know where it was going to be. All I knew is that I read the first two episodes and was in.

“I was just, at the time, looking for quality. So it wasn’t something where I said, ‘I’m in, but wait a minute, it’s TV’. The transition is much more seamless, in reality and perception, more now than ever.”

With the storyline arcing over 17 years, McConaughey expanded on his character’s transformation: “It was clear in the writing. One of the great things about this is that the identities of the men, at these times, were very clear. I didn’t have to do a lot of creative wandering in my head.

“One of my favourite things I got to do with Cohle was go: ‘Who is he in ’95?’ Here’s a guy coming back on to a case, just barely hanging on to the rails. He needs a case to keep his sh*t together, literally. In 2012, he’s off the rails. He’s cashed in. He’s fallen prey to his own beliefs. Every day he’s alive is another day of penance.”

The characters are intricately woven and the chemistry between McConaughey and Harrelson, stemming from their off-screen friendship, only serves to make the series an even more compelling watch as it ventures into dark, unsettling and sadistic terrain.

Serious about choosing charac- ters that push the envelope, and with the industry clearly heeding his wishes, McConaughey’s deci- sion has set him on a course of incalculable success.

His projects this year are indicative of this. Who knows, it might even pay off with an Oscar. Fingers crossed!


• True Detective starts on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) on Friday night at 9.30pm.