Matthew McConaughey has won what many who remember his days as the ’90s rom-com king would have believed impossible – an Academy Award. The actor, who has demonstrated incredible range over his career as he has starred as lawyers, adventurers and bad boys in general, said in his acceptance speech last night that he sees his future self as his hero, and his admission has garnered both praise and criticism the world over.
The thing of it is, why should he not see himself as his own hero? The man has worked incredibly hard for this last role in particular, and who could forget the fairly frightening images of the strapping Texan rail-thin, looking gaunt and, quite frankly, near death? It takes a long time to change an impression, and McConaughey has left anyone who has seen his movies the impression that he is a bit of a devil who likes playing a lothario in movies, even if that lothario has changed his ways by the end of the film. That all changed with Dallas Buyers’ Club, where he played real-life Texan Ron Woodroof, who died from AIDS several years ago, and the transformation the actor went through to tap into that part of himself to channel such an incredible performance is undoubtedly a life-changer.
For a man who has lived a comfortable existence playing these good looking men who ultimately get the girl in the end, McConaughey no doubt endured incredible sacrifice in taking on this role. In a very well publicized move, the man dropped over 40 pounds to take on the sunken-cheeked appearance of an AIDS patient in the last few weeks of his life, and the sacrifice to his family had to have been tough. This is a man who, by his own admission, enjoys going outside to play with his children and who enjoys a wide range of outdoor pursuits at the beach. Dropping that sort of weight – essentially a fifth of his mass – would have left him incredibly weak and unable to do much except take in just enough food to keep his body going. His children are still preschoolers, for the most part: Levi is 5, Vida is 3 and baby Livingston is likely approaching a year old. Children of that age are not exactly laid back and embrace sitting still, so much of the household responsibilities – nannies and caregivers alike aside – would be in wife Camila Alves McConaughey’s hands.
The emotional shock of seeing McConaughey as anything other than his grinning, muscular self was a stunner for the world when pictures of him first surfaced in the opening days of shooting Dallas Buyers’ Club; as his wife, Camila would have watched her husband slowly wither away, in much the same way as many other spouses have done when their spouses are gravely ill. However, what sort of imprint has this left on his children? How has he explained this to his two oldest, who were no doubt wondering why their father was dropping pounds rapidly? While McConaughey sees his future self as his hero, this move likely did not seem so heroic to his children, who had to deal with their father having considerably less energy and endurance as he no doubt usually has. However, in dropping the weight, he made the very heroic move to bring the story about someone’s efforts to fight AIDS on his terms to society.
However, McConaughey has indeed come a long way since his Dazed and Confused days. Putting your past behind you takes a lot of hard work, as many people already know. There are undoubtedly films in McConaughey’s past that he shudders to think about – Fool’s Gold, anyone? – and to come out with such a dramatic performance in a film that has gained such significant accolades likely has the handsome actor smiling and thinking that he will no longer be ridiculed for being the rom-com king.
It takes a lot of hard work to put past mistakes and career missteps safely where they belong in the past, but it is even harder to embrace being happy about how far the journey has gone. McConaughey has caught a bit of flak for calling his future self his own hero, but why should he not embrace that? What message does that give society about how important growth and belief in oneself is? In saying he views his future self as his own hero, McConaughey is saying to every person with big dreams that there is someone better to aspire to – a future version of themselves that is always seeking to be better than they are currently.
By Christina St-Jean