Just Keep Livin'
Men's Journal|January - February 2021
In the new year, Matthew McConaughey is looking beyond the pandemic—and movies—toward a much bigger picture. Could politics be his next frame?
JESSE WILL
THE OTHER NIGHT, Matthew McConaughey dragged a couple of Djembe drums out. Pulled out some congas, too. “Didn’t have anything the next day until, like, noon,” says the actor. “Went late, another cocktail, sure.” After the Magic Mike actor beat the drums—and the quarantine blues—for a bit, he says, he dialed up the volume of his speakers—“concert size,” emphasis on the Z—played some tunes, and danced until sweat soaked the floor.

“Got my cardi-ooo, heh, heh, heh…I woke up the next morning with my hands completely swollen. I’m on a proper-tee where I ain’t waking the neighbors…and I’m pretty sure no one called the cops.”

So…you are not alone, reader. McConaughey is also going through it, dancing through the darkness, trying to make the best of a pandemic year when just keep livin’ —the actor’s most treasured piece of advice, seems of fresh, literal import. As in…try not to die.

And that is just what the actor is doing, posting up with his multigenerational family — three kids, his wife, Camilla, and his 88-year-old mother, Kay, on an eight-acre spread on a hilltop outside of Austin, Texas. Tonight, he’s on the other end of a Zoom call, fingers stretching a rubber band, legs kicked up, eyes peering through a pair of clear frames. Scheming, sipping his Longbranch whiskey, intonating.

Tonight the 51-year-old Oscar winner is celebrating a first: He’s now the author of a New York Times No. 1 best-seller. For those who want to get on the McConaughey leveler, find his frequency—well, Greenlights is your guide. The Texas-bred actor’s autobiography combines memoir, aphorisms, poems, and advice, all culled from journals that date back as far as age 14.

You’ll find the pillars of McConaughey myth, from a retelling of the actor’s infamous naked 1999 bongo-ing arrest, to his career reinvention with films like Dallas Buyers Club during the “McConnaissance”—a phrase the actor admits in the book to inventing and seeding in interviews.

But the most revealing stories in the book date from before McConaughey was a star. There’s the night at age 12 his mother waved a chef’s knife at his father, and the two tussled until they made love on the kitchen floor; the time he saw his brother Mike swing a two by-four at his dad’s head; the morning his father died while having sex with his mother, while Matthew filmed Dazed and Confused, his first picture. It’s raw, bracing stuff.

“I always saw them as beautiful stories of how hard my mom and dad loved—the physicality of how they communicated—although on paper, the facts might make people cover their mouth. Or think I need psychiatric help,” McConaughey says.

At Camilla’s urging, McConaughey took a trunk of his old journals out to the West Texas desert, and re-read them while writing the book in isolation.

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