Try to imagine this: you're driving down the highway and look over to see a familiar face driving a pickup truck. As he passes you, you notice that the truck is towing a custom Airstream trailer and that the familiar face of the driver is smiling back at you. This happened to people all over the country as Matthew McConaughey, star of the new film, "Sahara," undertook his own promotional tour for the film.
Born and raised in Texas, McConaughey spent a year in Australia after high school before returning to the states to attend the University of Texas to pursue a legal career. However he later changed his major to film and began appearing and directing various student films. A chance meeting with director Richard Linklater led to him being cast in "Dazed and Confused." The next year he appeared with fellow Texan Renne Zellweger in the low budget sequel, "Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre." His fortunes took a turn upward when director John Sayles cast him in "Lone Star." That led to his breakout role in the film adaptation of John Grisham's novel, "A Time to Kill." His next film projects teamed him with Oscar winning directors Robert Zemeckis ("Contact"), Steven Spielberg ("Amistad") and Ron Howard ("EDtv"). He has also starred in the submarine drama "U-571" and the romantic comedies "The Wedding Planner" and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." So what brings the man hailed as "the next Paul Newman" to Kansas City pulling a trailer? McConaughey sat down and filled me in:
Mike Smith: OK, what's with the trailer?
Mathhew McConaughey: I spoke with my production company partner and he suggested energizing the promotional campaign by going on the road. I thought, "that sounds great." I could just make a round trip around the states. We talked about it for a few minutes and then that night I woke up at three in the morning with a vision of the Airstream being wrapped in a billboard. So the next morning I called Paramount and said, "Hey, I've got an idea." I told them about the Airstream and they laughed. So I called them back the next day and reminded them that I was serious. So we got that done and they started working with me on that. And then, like any road trip, I asked what our time limit was and we came up with six weeks. So I decided I'd cover America. Not go to Canada, not go to Mexico. And then we found the first dot on the map, which happened to be Daytona since I was the grand marshall of the race. Then it was just common sense to head north. Daytona to Orlando. Orlando to Macon, Georgia to Atlanta to Nashville. Up through Tennessee to Virginia. To Maryland...Baltimore, College Park. Philadelphia. New Jersey. New York. Detroit. Chicago. Kansas City. From here we'll go to Denver and then stop at a few more places on the way to Los Angeles for the film's premiere where I'll get out of this (motions toward the camper) and walk the red carpet.
MS: Have you ever done a cross country trip before?
MM: I've done many of them before. Not with my Airstream though. Last year I drove from Los Angeles to Florida and back through Kansas City and Colorado on a 40 day trip. But that was just for my own pleasure...just my dog and I. So this was really a merge. Merging my lifestyle with making a living. Minus the dog. It's been great. I've stopped at four or five military bases, several colleges and premiered the film. I've gone to truck stops and passed out hats and t-shirts. I've met lots of people that, at first, drive up behind me and then see the camper. And the biggest kick seems to be that I'm driving. Which is surprisingly half the questions. Not why we're pulling this thing around but why I'M the one pulling it.
MS: You're listed on "Sahara" as an Executive Producer. We've talked to actors in the past who have that credit and it's usually an "in name" only credit. I take it it's different in your case.
MM: Well, like anything, people scramble for credit. Books, records, films. Whatever job is done. Especially if it turns out to be worth a damn. (laughs) This one started for me seven years ago when I went to Clive Cussler (author of a series of adventure books, including "Sahara") lobbying to get the part of Dirk Pitt. I visited him at his home in Telluride, Colorado. And then I went and saw him two more times after that in Phoenix, Arizona. And I finally got his approval about the same time the script came together which was the same time the financing came together. So I've been involved with it for a long time. So inherently, there was leg work and other work that was being done by myself that merits the Executive Producer credit. I mean, as an actor for hire, my job is to do some pre-production work for myself. Then my job is to show up and give the best performance I can. Then it's over. Is it my obligation to go on the road to sell the film. No. But it's a win/win usually. So other then that, that's it. But as an Executive Producer there was a lot of pre-production work along with the leg work I was doing to get the part. Getting the script ready. Finding a director. I met with Breck Eisner, who was interested. I had to see his work and have a couple of long sit downs with him. It was important that we were prepared to tell the same story. Is it an action/adventure with comedy or is it an adventure/comedy with action? Well, it's an action/adventure with comedy so we had to talk sense of humor. Talk about Dirk and Al. It's a buddy picture so where's the humor? Where does it come from. Is it sit-com/episodic events in each scene or is it "let's meet some interesting characters" and see how they react to similar situations. And we both agreed it's the latter. And of course the possibility that this is hopefully a franchise picture and we're going to do more, it's one of the books that Clive Cussler has written. And whether you've read the books or not, you have to have the feeling that you're a fly on the wall getting to watch THIS adventure that we're on. Not that we've just met for the first time and we're saying goodbye at the end of the film but that we've been on twenty or so before this and we'll be on twenty or so after this. So we had to work up a familiarity. Same with casting. In the books there's Dirk, there's Al (Steve Zahn) and there's the Admiral (William H. Macy). So casting is real important and we had to get Clive Cussler's approval for that. I've been a big fan of Steve Zahns' for a long time. So Clive and I agreed on Steve and we wrote him a letter, sent him a script. He loved it and he was on board. I mean, would I be out here selling this if I was just the actor? Maybe, maybe not. But I definitely wanted to do as much as I could as an executive (producer). I'm finishing the job.
MS: You're first major impact was in a character role in "Dazed and Confused." Have you ever thought of playing more charater roles rather then leads?
MM: Yeah. I mean for me it's not one or the other. In "Reign of Fire," that was a real character role. My character in "Larger Then Life" was a character role. I love doing that kind of stuff. And I like playing a character where I say, "I know that dude."
MS: Are there going to be more Dirk Pitt films?
MM: Let's hope so, man. Let's hope so. The thing is we need people to go see this one. I mean the film opens on April 8th. A Friday. And this is what's so wild about the movies. It opens at noon that day and by midnight on Friday, April the 8th, basically we'll know if we're making another one or not. (the film opened as the number one film of the weekend with a gross of almost $19 million). So, as I said, I'm doing everything I can now and on that night I'll sit back with a cocktail and see what happens.
MS: So what kind of road tunes are you listening to?
MM: Do you know James McMurtry (son of author Larry McMurtry)? I've listened to him all morning. I've got some Dennis Brown, the guy Bob Marley said has the best reggae voice ever. And of course some Willie Nelson.
Fittingly, like Willie Nelson sang, it was time for McConaughey to get back "on the road again." Off to Denver, LA and hopefully more Dirk Pitt adventures.
Other interviews by Mike Smith:|
The Hillanbrand Brothers
The Great Luke Ski
"The Matthew McConaughey Interview by Mike Smith" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith. Our sincere thanks to Matthew McConaughey for participating in this interview series, we hope "Sahara" is a success! Any graphics from the movie are used for illustrative and promotional purposes only and are the property of the copyright holder. All remaining graphics are the creation of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Crazed Fanboy™ dotcom and Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova