Alright. Alright. Alright. Those were the first three words Matthew McConaughey spoke on film. The film – Dazed and Confused. The character – David Wooderson. The inspiration – Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors. Today – forty-seven acting awards later – including the 2013 Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Dallas Buyers Club) – that phrase is synonymous with McConaughey.
“He’s not right for the role” was the director’s first impression of McConaughey at his audition. He was too clean-cut, too ‘pretty’ for the role. McConaughey responded – “I know him! I know David Wooderson! He’s an east Texas kid just like me. I’ve known David Woodersons my entire life.” McConaughey won the role along with the instructions to let his hair grow and don’t shave. Who better to tell the story behind alright, alright, alright then Matthew McConaughey himself in this interview?
Matthew McConaughey was born in Uvalde, Texas in 1969. His mother was a teacher and published author, originally from New Jersey. His father was born in Mississippi but grew up in Louisiana before moving to Texas. Matthew has two brothers and a sister. After graduating from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Radio, Television, Film, he canceled his plans to attend law school. However, he would go on to become a famous lawyer – on at least two occasions.
McConaughey played attorney Jake Tyler Brigance in the critically acclaimed 1996 film adaptation of the John Grisham novel, A Time to Kill. achieving leading man status and earning him MTV Award for Best Breakthrough Performance.
In 2011, McConaughey would again play an attorney in the role of Mickey Haller in the film The Lincoln Lawyer. Haller is an attorney who works out of a chauffeur driven Lincoln Town Car. While the film did not receive the same critical acclaim as his first attorney’s role, McConaughey was lauded by the book’s author for his ‘spot on’ interpretation of the book’s leading character. The role would also lead to a very lucrative commercial series a few years later.
There’s no doubt that McConaughey’s acting career is extensive and rich with success – as evidenced by his IMDb profile. However, this piece is not about the actor – rather, it is about the man – the fearless brand that is Matthew McConaughey.
The early years of McConaughey’s career were filled with fame, fans, and fortune. Matthew had become known as a sure-fire winner at the box office by playing key roles in romantic comedies. McConaughey had become as much a sex symbol as he was an actor. His likable persona, his personal escapades (such as being arrested for playing the conga drums naked), and his film’s financial success virtually guaranteed more of the same roles.
That is not the path that Matthew McConaughey wanted for his career – he wanted more serious roles. Rather than take roles which were ‘more of the same’, he took a stand. With the support of his wife, McConaughey told his agent to begin saying no – no to more of the romantic comedy roles. It turns out that his agent was quite good at it as the offers dried up. Nothing – except for fear, anxiety, and concern for the actor. But he remained committed to his life’s goals – his vision for his career.
Eventually his commitment began to pay off. McConaughey was cast in the lead for The Lincoln Lawyer. He then won roles in lower-budget films like Killer Joe and Magic Mike. Within two years, McConaughey had won his first academy award for Dallas Buyers Club. More serious roles began to come his way – movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and Gold. More doors would open as well.
Remember his role in The Lincoln Lawyer? McConaughey has been a life-long fan of Lincoln automobiles, so he seemed like the perfect match for Lincoln Motors. That company signed him to a multi-year deal wherein McConaughey would be a storyteller in Lincoln ads in both broadcast and digital formats. It was evident that Lincoln wanted the man, not just the actor. McConaughey’s qualities matched those of the Lincoln. Sales for Lincoln MKC, the vehicle McConaughey endorsed, were reported to have increased by 25% within three months of the campaign’s start.
More recently, in 2016, McConaughey joined forces with Wild Turkey Bourbon – becoming the distillery’s creative director. Again, the product was in perfect sync with the man. This time, McConaughey took an even more active role with his sponsor. He spent two years collaborating with master distiller Eddie Russell to combine McConaughey’s Texas roots with Wild Turkey’s Kentucky heritage. This year, Wild Turkey has introduced its Longbranch brand – a bourbon filtered with Texas mesquite and oak charcoals.
As with all fearless brands, there is a tremendous amount to be learned from Matthew McConaughey.
If forced to use a single word to describe this man – and the key to his success as a person – it’s authenticity. Every aspect of McConaughey’s life – both personal and professional – is a genuine reflection of the core of the man. He was successful in the role of David Wooderson because he ‘knew’ the person. McConaughey has immersed himself into every role he’s played – studying, learning, and adapting his talents to most effectively portray his character.
In his acceptance speech at the 2013 Academy Awards, McConaughey thanked his mother for demanding that he and his siblings learn to respect themselves so that they would be able to respect others. He also mentions three constant pursuits in his life:
- Someone to look up to – for McConaughey it’s God
- Someone to look forward to – his family
- Someone to chase – a hero, himself in 10 years
McConaughey gave the commencement address at the University of Houston where he outlined his 13 Truths about life. Listed by themselves, without context, these 13 truths may seem meaningless. However, I do so here in the hopes that you will invest the time to watch and listen to McConaughey’s full speech (click here) or by reading the transcript posted here by Time.com.
- Life isn’t easy or fair
- “Unbelievable” is the stupidest word in the dictionary
- Happiness is different than joy
- Define your own success
- Process of elimination is the first step to our identity
- Don’t leave crumbs – and the beauty of delayed gratification
- Dissect your successes – gratitude reciprocates
- Make voluntary contributions
- Move from ‘can’ to ‘want’
- A roof is a man-made thing
- Turn the page
- Give your obstacles credit
- So, how do we know when we cross the truth?
Matthew McConaughey is so much more than an actor. He’s an authentic, caring, successful, respectful, likable human being and fearless brand. I again encourage you to listen to, or read, his 2015 commencement speech. The wisdom and insights it delivers can only help all of us to become more authentic, joy-filled, successful, humans – assisting each of us in becoming a fearless brand.