One hot movie, One hot actor

Daniel Davis

There is nothing like hunting down one of America’s hottest actors in a VIP van in 23 degree weather.

As I traveled with several other journalists, minds raced and ideas were exchanged in hopes of impressing the “movie star” they were all about to meet.

As my fellow peers debated with one another on what they should ask, I sat quietly, waiting to interact with one of Hollywood’s top-notch actors. As we slithered through a mobile home trailer park, I surveyed the tranquil grounds outside, wondering where Matthew McConaughey’s mammoth-sized (since everything is bigger in Texas) “Sahara” trailer might be located.

Upon arrival, I analyzed my environment and the orange-hued mini-trailer that lay before me. From what I could garner, the celebrity I would be meeting resided in this miniscule, painted, mobile home that rested immobile in front of me.

McConaughey decided stationing himself in the last row of mobile homes in Timberland Campground, N.J., would be an excellent place to hold an interview, hence I traveled.

This Texan was bundled up in enough clothes for two men. He resembled a man waking at 6 a.m. on the first day of hunting season. As he emerged from his “home,” accompanied by a red plastic cup full of beer, McConaughey stood gazing around and obviously was admiring the swarm of journalists awaiting his arrival.

As he sat next to me, I could not help but detect a cologne resembling alcohol. McConaughey proceeded to enjoy the complimentary hors d’oeuvres his public relations team had generously provided for the event.

Q: Matthew, I had the opportunity to speak with some brothers from the fraternity you were involved with in college. They wanted me to ask if you could still recite the code of the frat?

McConaughey: Yeah, sure I can, in four different languages. It’s been a long time, but I’m pretty well-versed and wouldn’t have a difficult time doing so if need be.

Q: McConaughey, are you hoping that you’ll be able to develop a franchise character with the role you play in “Sahara?”

McConaughey: I hope so, yes. My original plans in taking the role were to make Dirk a franchise character I could build several movies off. It’s up to the public though. It has to be popular enough. Popularity plays a huge role in determining a franchise character. We finished this about a year ago and it’s coming out what, April 8? We’ll see what happens in the box office and go off that. We’ll work off what the numbers provide. They’ll be the ultimate determinant if we make him a franchise character.

Q: Does it worry you that movies nowadays have to mainly be blockbusters in order to become franchises? Do you worry that this may not be a blockbuster movie and then if you make the next one, it definitely won’t be a blockbuster since the first was not?

McConaughey: We hope this movie will be a blockbuster, but the only way to tell will be the first week’s results in the box office. Our job is make a solid impression, and it’s difficult. You have new great movies coming out every week and our job is to make sure ours is not only the best that week, but good enough to make a long-lasting impression and want people to come see a sequel. We want people to see Sahara, and then see it again. I’m on this six week road-trip advertising the movie trying to get the word out about this movie. That should do a good job of getting the word out, but the best and biggest advertisement for the movie is the movie itself. Once you see it, hopefully you’re going to want to see it again.

Q: How did this six week road-trip come about? Were you recommended by Paramount to do it or did you just decided, “Hey, this is something I want to do?”

McConaughey: I joked about doing this with my buddy, Gus, about going on a road-trip, promoting the movie throughout the country, trying to get people to go see it. Anyway, we were talking at night, hanging out, and I said, “Hey, I should travel, it’d be great for the movie.” So I called “Sahara” the next day and told them, “I have a trailer. I want you guys to paint it up, and I’m going to go cross-country and advertise the movie.” I knew they thought I was kidding, so I called them the next day and told them again, and they said, “Oh, you’re serious? Yeah, we’ll get on that, Matt.” I know it was hard to believe, but after that call, I started working on locations and points I wanted to visit in America. I would need to strategically hit places where big events would be taking place, and the first event I wanted to hit was the Daytona 500. I wanted to make sure I got to see the event and promote the movie at the same time. So it was tough, but eventually, we mapped out a six week trip that covered key places in the United States where I wanted to be and get the word out about “Sahara.”

Q: What was the best stop or stop that made the most impact on you?

McConaughey: It was definitely the military base I stopped at. You see all these soldiers and realize, “Hey, there’s a war going on, people are dying, guys are getting killed.” I can’t tell you what it feels like seeing guys my age with arms blown off, no legs, amputated body parts, it’s really sobering. Meeting all those guys, all these soldiers fighting for your country, with such high spirits, it’s pretty intense.

It’s a great reminder of what’s going on, though. It reminds you there is a war, and people are fighting for it, your age. I don’t consider myself that old, but I see these athletic guys, guys I probably could’ve played baseball with, and they have a hook for an arm, and you try and shake his hand but you use the wrong hand and realize he has a hook; it’s so sobering. You’re just emotionally…shocked, shocked by what’s going on in the world. But it’s great, they have such high spirits. I hung out with them and chilled. They’re a great group of guys and fun to talk to. I definitely had a great experience with them and it really made me think a lot.

Q: You worked seven years on “Sahara.” Why?

McConaughey: There was a lot of research for the role and I’ve been searching for that franchise character. I want that action-type franchise guy, like Indiana Jones, and I think this guy is it. He’s full of action and fun and just nuts. This explorer [Dirk] is an adventurous character and I really hope the best for the movie because I would like to make several more with him. Do you really want a franchise guy out of the character used in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days?” Is that the kind of guy I want to build off?

Q: I heard they were making a sequel to that movie. Is that true and are you going to be in it?

McConaughey: I guess they are making another one of those. I forget the title, but I guess I’ll be asked to do it again, and yeah, I’d love to. It was a good time. Hey, who knows, maybe I’ll end up a franchise guy with that movie. But I do have a movie coming out with Penelope [Cruz] soon with “The Loop.” It’s a love misfit story of a couple and their parrot and they track back the history of the parrot to get “out of the loop.” It’s a really corny, good story.

Q: Who was the funniest individual you have ever worked with?

McConaughey: Definitely Woody Harrelson. He’s hilarious; he’s like a little kid. I love working with him, he’s so funny.

Q: What was it like working with Steve Zahn? And did you have any nicknames for him on the set?

McConaughey: I called him “Mr. Clean.” You see me doing all these stunts, fighting all the bad guys, rolling around in the dirt, getting crazy, and there’s Steve, doing nothing. Where is he during the action scenes? Look for him, he’s never doing anything while I’m trying to save myself from all the gunfire and other crazy happenings. Steve Zahn is great to work with, I really enjoy it, he’s a funny guy and made me laugh though. We had some good times on the set.