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Matthew McConaughey: Commerce And Vanity

Host Ophira Eisenberg chats with Matthew McConaughey on <em>Ask Me Another</em> at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas.
Jessica Mims for NPR
Host Ophira Eisenberg chats with Matthew McConaughey on Ask Me Another at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas.

He's an Oscar winning actor, a University of Texas alum-turned-professor, and the unofficial (yet also kinda official) face of Austin, Texas. He's Matthew McConaughey. In an interview at Austin's Paramount Theatre, with Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another, McConaughey discusses his undying devotion to his city, what it means to be crowned the "Minister of Culture" by UT, his dicey history with bongos, and the origins of his famous catchphrase, "All right, all right, all right!"

While McConaughey has been acting for 27 years, it was his recent run of projects — including Dallas Buyers Club, True Detective, Magic Mike and The Wolf of Wall Street — that reflected how he successfully "rebranded" himself in Hollywood and jump-started the "McConaissance."

A Bevo fan and a true Texan, Eisenberg challenges McConaughey to a game of college mascots.

Interview Highlights

On being Austin's Minister of Culture:

"Living in Austin, I wanted to invest in the town that I'm living in; invest in the town that me and my family call home — invest in the university that I graduated from. And Austin — the city of Austin — as we all know, we're going through a bit of an adolescence right now. Which is great: it's changing, it's growing. So how do we preserve the core? How do we preserve our DNA or everything we love about this great city, but still embrace progress?"

On his short-lived career as a hand model:

"I think I was a sophomore, maybe a junior in college, looking for a little extra cash. I always bit my nails. And this agent goes, 'You know, you have really great looking hands.' And I was like, 'Oh wow, thanks.' She goes, 'Maybe you could make a little money off of that. There's a hand modeling job I could send you out to go audition, but you have to let those nails grow a little quicker.' So she gave me two weeks. And I haven't chewed my nails since! Commerce and vanity! I quit chewing my nails. I got the hand modeling job, made like 300 bucks. That's the only {hand modeling job} I ever got, but I'm still available."

On the origins of his signature catch-phrase on the first day on set of Dazed And Confused:

McConaughey's first onscreen role was as party-boy David Wooderson in Richard Linklater's 1993 film, Dazed and Confused.

"I start telling myself in my head, 'Who is my man? Who is Wooderson? What am I about?' And I go, 'Alright, I'm about my car... there's one.' I said, 'I'm about rock and roll... there's two.' I said, 'I'm about getting high... there's three.' And as soon as I say that to myself in my head, I hear 'Action!' And I tell myself, 'The fourth thing Wooderson is about is picking up chicks.' I got three out of four: 'All right, all right, all right.'''

"People always ask, 'Hey, do you get tired of people saying that?" I say, 'Hell no man. That's the first three words I ever said [in film].'"

On his playing the bongos a little too loudly- and the proper way to address it

In 1999, police were called on McConaughey after playing the bongos a little too loudly in his birthday suit. He told host Ophira Eisenberg about a lesser-known bongo incident that happened when he first moved to Hollywood:

"[When I moved into my first home out in Hollywood], a great producer, Bob Ezrin — who produced Pink Floyd and Kiss and a lot of those albums — [lived next door]."

McConaughey said he was playing the bongos loudly, when suddenly, "this big ham came flying over the wall." It was a gift from his neighbor, who also wrote a polite note asking McConaughey to keep it down.

"It was the nicest shut the f--- up letter I ever heard in my life. And the next day, I took the ham back with a bottle of wine and he and I have been friends ever since."

Heard on Matthew McConaughey: Commerce And Vanity.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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