Matthew McConaughey was raised in Longview, Texas, the son of Mary Kathleen McCabe, a substitute teacher and James Donald McConaughey, a former American football player for the Green Bay Packers. He excelled in sports as a high school student and was voted "Most Handsome" by his senior class. After graduating, McConaughey spent some time working in Australia before returning to the United States to attend the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated in 1993 with a degree in film production.
Having met producer and casting director Don Phillips, who introduced him to director Richard Linklater, McConaughey was cast in ‘Dazed and Confused’ (1993) straight out of university.
After ‘Dazed and Confused’, he took on a number of supporting roles in films of varying quality, until being given his first leading role in Joel Schumacher's adaptation of John Grisham's ‘A Time to Kill’ (1996), apparently beating out Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer and Woody Harrelson to secure the role. Although the film met with mixed reviews, Matthew escaped the critical mauling relatively unscathed.
His appearance on the cover of the August 1996 issue of Vanity Fair secured his status as 'The Next Big Thing', but he failed to capitalise upon this momentum, a fact which has characterised his career path. A string of small, largely unseen films followed before he landed a starring role as a property lawyer in ‘Amistad’ (1997), Steven Spielberg's slave epic. Robert Zemeckis’ ‘Contact’ (1997) followed, before he again collaborated with Linklater in 1998 on ‘The Newton Boys’ (1998) alongside Ethan Hawke.
By the time he was cast in the lead role of Ron Howard's ‘EdTV’ (1999), he had receded somewhat from the public eye, with many critics noting that, despite his talent and good looks, he seemed to have trouble finding roles that would do him justice. The film itself was a commercial and critical success, correcting some of the downward turns his career path had taken. However, he did not help his public image as reports of eccentric private behaviour, including drugs allegations and arrest for naked bongo playing caused eyebrows to be raised.
The taut World War II thriller ‘U-571’ (2000) was his next major project, followed by the lightweight romantic comedy ‘The Wedding Planner’ (2001) opposite Jennifer Lopez, which returned him to public prominence. Subsequent performances have met with more critical than commercial success, for example ‘Thirteen Conversations About One Thing’ (2001) and as a serial killer in Bill Paxton’s ‘Frailty’ (2001). But he has not shied away from the familiar role as lead hunk, co-starring alongside Kate Hudson in the romantic comedy ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ (2003).
He then took on a challenging role in the small budget ‘Tiptoes’ (2003), playing a normal sized fireman in a family of dwarfs opposite Gary Oldman and Kate Beckinsale. The movie was largely praised for its courage in confronting a difficult and sensitive issue. This was followed by the big-budget ‘Sahara’ (2005) alongside Steve Zahn, William H. Macy and Penelope Cruz, where he played an intrepid adventurer seeking a lost ship’s cargo.
McConaughey then played protégé to Al Pacino’s mentor figure in ‘Two For The Money’ (2006), a film about sports gambling. This was a largely unchallenging role, the slick pace and script carried by Pacino in an altogether familiar role [see ‘Devil’s Advocate’ (1997) and ‘Any Given Sunday’ (1999)] and McConaughey as a fast talking, fast thinking betting prodigy. Another romantic comedy role opposite Sarah Jessica Parker kept him in the spotlight in ‘Failure to Launch’ (2006).
‘We Are Marshall’ (2006) was an inspirational, against-the-odds movie about the rebuilding of a university football team which lost almost all its members to a plane crash in 1970. McConaughey played a new coach who had to battle to keep the football team programme going. Teaming up with big names once more (Donald Sutherland, Kate Hudson, Ray Winstone), McConaughey echoed his role in ‘Sahara’ with ‘Fool’s Gold’ (2006), a high spirited adventure film with a romantic twist.
2008 saw McConaughey play a desperado personal agent to Ben Stiller’s mega film star in the hilarious post-modern spoof movie, ‘Tropic Thunder’ (2008). Although this was a supporting role, his character provided extra humour to an already magnificent comedy, with his screen time with Tom Cruise especially side-splitting. ‘Surfer, Dude’ (2008) gave McConaughey more hunk cred as evident in the title, bringing to mind his friend Matt Damon’s impression of a shirtless McConaughey on David Letterman. However, ‘Surfer, Dude’ brought up more socially relevant issues than many people gave it credit for.
He has recently enjoyed a career renaissance, anchored by impressive performances in films such as 'Magic Mike' (2012), 'Dallas Buyers Club' (2013) (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor, 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' (2013) and 'Interstellar' (2014).