'There was a maniacal side to that guy -- a poet-capitalist."… (Richard DeArathanha / Los…)
"Magic Mike" charmed the pants off audiences, and its star, Matthew McConaughey, collected some of the best notices of his career as stripper elder statesman Dallas. Reviews of the revue found Britain's the Guardian comparing his performance to Oscar-winning turns as an MC by Gig Young ("They Shoot Horses, Don't They?") and Joel Grey ("Cabaret"), and a breathless — perhaps panting — tribute in the Washington Post called him the best thing about the movie.
But the tanned and ripped stud who drove audiences and some critics into fits of lust is not the man who sits down at a table at L'Ermitage. This porn-'stached McConaughey is frighteningly thin, having dropped 38 pounds to next play a real-life AIDS sufferer who pioneered the alternative medicine industry in the upcoming "The Dallas Buyers Club." Though he has tried to turn it into a "spiritual fast," the physical change is a serious challenge — "The days are just longer … you realize how much of the day you're thinking about food." It almost makes the grind of "Magic Mike" seem a bump in the road.
"That's one of those great dares you get," he drawls of director Steven Soderbergh's suggestion that, as the club owner in the film, he too should shake his money maker in the movie. "Right after he said that, my heart starts racing, as any man's would: 'There's no way, no way!' But then the voice in my head says, 'You kidding me? If you don't, dude, you're gonna regret it.' And I went, 'Yeah … absolutely' on the phone. Then it was like, 'Oh .... How am I going to do this?' It was one of those fun fears: 'I'm nervous, I'm scared of it, but I know I can get there.'
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"If I had a year to rehearse that thing — if we were shooting it today, I'd still be rehearsing it."
Though the film brought in more than $100 million (and was made on a meager $7-million budget), McConaughey laments that the public and media tended to focus on certain specific details exposed in the film, such as the wide — or not so wide — world of thongs, sometimes missing the finer points of the story.
"The box office means enough people saw it and got more out of it than just women going for the low-hanging fruit — it's a good line for this movie — but Soderbergh really got that South Florida area," he says. "Kids who have kind of lost their way, looking for direction; this is one of those stopovers that could become a stay. It's become a stay for a guy like Dallas. That's the part a lot of male audience members, if they went to see it, got: 'I've been there. I've been down the dead-end street.'"
Dallas, however, has made this dead-end street his kingdom.
"Steven called me and pitched the project — I was on my knees, laughing on the floor. He said, 'This guy's kind of connected with the UFOs, man.' It immediately blew the lid off. Dallas is not really of this world. He is a legend in his own mind. He is the messiah of the male revue universe. He wants to simulcast not just globally but cosmically. At the same time, where is he grounded? Capitalism. Hard-core capitalist. And P.T. Barnum.
"It was some Jim Morrison, some Alex DeLarge from 'Clockwork Orange.' There was a maniacal side to that guy — a poet-capitalist; a soothsaying, silver-tongued, lightning rod."
Taking the bull by the horns, McConaughey danced into Dallas' over-the-top shoes.
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"The first scene we shot was where I'm teaching the kid [Alex Pettyfer] how to dance. I loved that. I remember talking with costumes: They're going to the gym; we talked about traditional grays and tennis shoes. I was like, 'No, no, you know what? Let's think more choreographer, Baryshnikov, Richard Simmons. So it's got to be skin-tight stuff and yellow and ballet slippers.'"
It was all part of what the actor happily calls an extremely comfortable collaboration fostered by the director.
"Loved coming to work. It's a great atmosphere for actors and the crew he has together — his heads of department are really good, but he also empowers them. I've never had such great interactions pre-production with set decorators, costume designers … 'Do you think he'd have a statue of himself on the piano?' I'm like, 'Yeah! Dallas is the kind of guy who'd have a picture of himself over the mantel.' And then all of a sudden somebody says, 'Maybe with a python?' And I'm, 'Yeaaaahhh!' And then, boom, photo session!"