Matthew McConaughey stars in the independent drama/comedy, Bernie, directed by Richard Linklater and co-starring Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine. The movie marks the third film McConaughey and Linklater have done together (Dazed and Confused and The Newton Boys being the other two), and during the press day for the Millennium Entertainment release, McConaughey talked about tackling the role of a lawyer, reuniting with Linklater, and working with his mom on Bernie.
On playing a lot of lawyers and being in pre-law prior to his acting career taking off:
Matthew McConaughey: "That’s where I was heading. I luckily ran into a friend of ours, Don Phillips, in a bar who introduced me to [Richard Linklater]. Thought I’d do it for a few months on a movie, and quit being a lawyer and move on to do something else."
On how Bernie fits into his j. k. livin' philosophy:
Matthew McConaughey: "Well, one, Rick’s really the only director I’ve worked with that can go, 'Hey McConaughey, I’ve got a role in this next film I’m going to do and I think you might be right for it.' He’s kind of said versions of that. Newton Boys, we talked about more. Dazed and then this he kind of brought up. I always know that’s somebody I can go, 'Yeah, let me read it,' but it’s pretty much a yeah; we’ll work something out. The process of getting to the day of shooting is really fun for Rick and I. It’s a really fun process. There’s nothing formal about it all. However many hours it takes us, it doesn’t take us that long. And it’ll just be he and I one-on-one and I always look forward to that. So that’s a part of the j.k. livin’ philosophy right there. He’s a good friend, a guy I like to work with, really talented director, somebody that I’m going to do the work, I’m going to be serious about it and like to have fun, but always have fun working with Rick as well."
On how Richard Linklater described Bernie to him:
Matthew McConaughey: "When he pitched the story and when I read it, I was pretty much on tone. I thought it was the funniest thing on paper that I’d read that ever had his hand on it. I thought it was very, very funny. There’s an innocence that Rick [has], I always say there’s a bit of a charm that [he gives] to a place and a people. [He] did it in Dazed. [...]There’s something charming about this movie and there’s something innocent about it. What’s the word? Attractive in that way, in that innocent, charming way. So I never read this and thought, 'Oh boy, that goes really…' So I know it came from him after he pitched it to me for 15 minutes in his truck.
When I read it, I felt on the page with the tone and I really thought much more funny than I ever thought it was dark. I liked that it was dark comedy, but I was laughing more."
On getting his mom a part in the movie and working with her:
Matthew McConaughey: "In Newton Boys, [Richard] hired my oldest brother Rooster and put us in a scene together. So mom’s going, she tells me she went to audition, or met him. She goes, 'And Rick said he thinks I’m just right for it.' So a couple weeks go by and I go, 'So did you get the part?' She’s like, 'Well, I mean, Rick said I was just right.' I go, 'No, no, no. That’s what a director could say when they like it in the room but did he say you’ve got the part?' She goes, 'No, no, he didn’t.' I said, 'You may be getting a callback. You better get ready to get interviewed some more.'
So I get her pumped up and I was serious with her, but I’m jacking with her to make sure. So she starts working, I work with her one night. She’s walking around at any given time for a week saying her, 'Well, mayyyybe.' I’m working with her and stuff and telling her, 'Don’t worry about the lines. Just relax. This is who you are. Be yourself and that’s what Rick is probably going to like the most too.' I don’t remember exactly how it went down but he finally just said yes, gave her the formal yes, and everything went notched up. In other words, we had succeeded.
Then she’s in the movie. That’s great. Then, we’ve got a scene where I’m in the café one day and old cat here, sneaky cat, who’s sitting next to me in the scene? He puts my mom in the scene right there next to me. There were all kind of different townies and all kind of different gossips. I had no idea - so, she was sitting there. So he’s got my brother and I in one film, The Newton Boys, now he’s got mom and I. I don't think he’ll have too much luck getting the middle brother."
On looking for a real change of pace from the lovable romantic comedy lead:
Matthew McConaughey: "Sort of a little change, just a different chapter, same book. I’ll probably do some more of those again. They’re fun in a very different kind of way. It actually ended up, the five films I’ve done, this’ll be the second in a row, they’re all independents. So the material was much more attractive, the budgets were much lower but working on them was just so much fun."
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Bernie hits theaters on April 27, 2012.