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When Matthew McConaughey was done with romantic comedies, he was really finito.
In his new book, Greenlights, the actor who cruised to stardom making films including 2001’s The Wedding Planner, 2003’s How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and 2006’s Failure to Launch said he hit a wall with the film genre and no amount of money — specifically $14.5 million for two months’ work — was going to change his mind.
“I was a successful actor, a celebrity, a movie star,” he wrote. “I didn’t have to worry about putting food on the table or paying rent, but my career path and the characters and films I was getting offered and doing were not satisfying me anymore. Bored with the rom-com roles and the worlds they inhabited, I’d been going to bed with an itchy butt, waking up with a stinky finger for long enough.”
McConaughey said he was “never too bothered by the consistent critical write-offs of me and my work. I enjoyed making romantic comedies, and their paychecks rented the houses on the beach I ran shirtless on.” Besides, he enjoyed giving “people a 90-minute romantic getaway from the stress of their lives where they didn’t have to think about anything, just watch the boy chase the girl, fall down, then get up and finally get her. I had taken the baton from Hugh Grant, and I ran with it.”
However, by 2008 he had grown as a person. His life had become “full,” “wild,” “dangerous” and ”lively” — and by then he was sharing it with future wife, Camila, and their first of three children. He “laughed louder, cried harder, loved bigger, loathed deeper and felt more as the man in my life than in the characters I was playing in the movies,” he wrote.
In short, the roles didn’t challenge him — and he was willing to risk the paychecks for more fulfilling ones. “It was time to make a change, to pivot, to make a new commitment,” he wrote. “This time, with more than ever to live for, it was time to quit leaving crumbs” and see “what I could live without.”
McConaughey recalled calling his money manager, to see how long he could go without working, if need be. He was in a good spot, so he told his manager to start looking for dramas, no more rom-coms.
He called it a “risky bet,” noting that in Hollywood, if you pass on too many projects, they “quit asking.” And if you step too far “out of your lane,” the “industry could turn its back on you... There’s plenty of people to take your seat.”
McConaughey “cried” and “prayed” with Camila over it, but agreed to do it and stay the course. One year later, he had gotten “dozens” more rom-com offers, which he read out of respect but passed on. And he gave up a lot of money in doing so.
“Well, I got a $5 million offer for two months’ work on one,” he wrote. “I read it. I passed. Then they offered $8 million. Nope. Then they offered $10 million. No, thank you. Then $12.5 million. Not this time, but...thanks. Then $14.5 million.”
Even though the script was better, “I declined the offer” of $14.5 million. “If I couldn’t do what I wanted, I wasn’t going to do what I didn’t, no matter the price.”
“F**k the bucks,” became his motto, he wrote. Two years later after swearing off rom-coms— as he and his growing family settled into their new home in Austin — he was offered the defense attorney role in 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer. That was followed by Killer Joe, Bernie, The Paperboy, Mud and Magic Mike.
“I was remembered by being forgotten,” he said. “I had un-branded.”
Just three years later, he won the Best Actor Oscar and Golden Globe for 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club. The following year, he was nominated for a Globe and Emmy for TV’s True Detective.
Greenlights is out now — and McConaughey is doing a virtual book tour being interviewed by one of his rom-com co-stars, Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon, Ethan Hawke and more.
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