Longview's most famous leading man may have made a name for himself as Southern gentleman eye candy for the chick flick crowd, but he's not just a piece of meat, damn it. Thanks to a Texas drawl that's so thick that you could pour it on a stack of flapjacks, Matthew McConaughey has played more than his share of good ol' boys on the big screen. However, they aren't all the same beer chugging, tobacco spitting, extremely long-R speaking Texans that Hollywood loves to create out of thin air. He's managed to create an interesting range of Lone Star citizens -- from likable and familiar to cold and calculating leading up to his buzzworthy take on local legend Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club, which opens today.
1. David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused
There is no telling what would happen to us if we failed to include this small town sage on a list of McConaughey's greatest Texas roles or just his roles in general. This is the character who taught us how to spell "L-I-V-I-N." His breakout role in director Richard Linklater's iconic film as the aging stoner sage is still talked about to this day for a very good reason: He nailed it. The surprising part is that he wasn't cast for his good looks.Linklater said at first, he couldn't see McConaughey as the character
because he was too good looking to be David Wooderson, but as soon as he saw "his eyes turned into little quarter slots" and heard him ask for a joint, he knew he found his Wooderson.
2. Willis Newton in The Newton Boys
McConaughey's second go-around with Linklater probably isn't nearly as memorable as his other two, but he still did a marvelous job of carrying this film about a group of infamous bank robbing brothers from Cottonwood who work their way up to pulling off one of the biggest train robberies in history. He may be playing a bank robbing bastard who tries to take the easy path in life, but he does it with the same playfulness and bravado that he brought to David Wooderson, and it worked surprisingly well.
3. Buddy Deeds in Lone Star
Technically, McConaughey only had three scenes in John Sayles' Oscar nominated screenplay about a small town Texas sheriff played by Chris Cooper, who has to dig up his legendary father's past when a skeleton reopens a cold case after spending most of his life trying to keep it buried from himself. McConaughey's only appearances in the film take place in flashback scenes, but those scenes electrify the film as Cooper's character learns more about his daddy than he would like to.
4. Danny Buck in Bernie
It may be one of his most cartoonish takes on a Texan, but it's kind of hard not to take it down that path when you're already dealing withthe story of an East Texas town
living in total denial about the murder of a wealthy widow and the friendly assistant funeral home director who pulled the trigger and got all of the town's sympathy in the process. By elimination, that makes Buck the sanest character in the bunch, but Linklater still gave McConaughey the chance to play up the attorney general as the bat totin' lawman who has the theme toThe Good, The Bad and The Ugly
as the ringtone on his phone.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
5. "Killer Joe" Cooper in Killer Joe
The true test of an actor's versatility is whether or not they can use their natural talent to turn them into something wholly other. The same bravado and suaveness that made McConaughey a leading man make him something utterly evil and completely devoid of sympathy and soul in this extremely dark William Friedman movie about a hit man hired to kill a mother so her son can collect the insurance and pay off a drug lord. This very, very dark character offers a strange mix of David Wooderson and Willis Newton -- if one spent time in a mental institution and the other had an extremely flexible moral core.