After years percolating, the film “Dallas Buyer’s Club” -- about a redneck Texan who contracted HIV in the 1980s and began importing experimental foreign remedies in the early days of the AIDS epidemic -- is moving ahead this fall, actor Matthew McConaughey says.
After traveling to the Cannes Film Festival last month to promote two films in which he appears -- Jeff Nichols’ “Mud” and Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” -- McConaughey is now in the midst of publicity for the Steven Soderbergh male stripper movie “Magic Mike,” opening June 29.
“Dallas Buyers” has been gestating for years -- Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling were said to be involved at various points, along with directors Mark Forster and Gosling's "Lars and the Real Girl" helmer, Craig Gillespie. Producers came and went. But McConaughey, who’s been involved for a while -- rights to the project with him attached were on sale at Cannes in 2011 -- says he’s currently working on the script with Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee (“C.R.A.Z.Y.”) and trying to drop pounds to take on the role of Ron Woodroof, an electrical contractor who developed a reputation as the nerviest cowboy in the AIDS underground.
A 1992 Dallas Morning News story followed Woodroof as he smuggled 500,000 pills across the border from Mexico into Laredo in the trunk of a rented Lincoln Continental -- one of hundreds of such trips he made. His actions put him on a collision course with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which was bent on keeping the drugs out of the country. McConaughey described Woodroof as "a homophobe redneck cowboy" who ends up "with a transsexual assistant" in his pill business.
“It was very tough to get the money for that one, being the subject material and it’s a period piece,” McConaughey said. “We’ve been really, really close for a long time. We’ve been going back to getting a number that Jean-Marc felt like he could make it for and still give us the right creative license to tell it the way we need to. Sometimes they just happen. There’s momentum right now. Some things I’ve got going on are helping whoever’s financing, going, ‘Oh that’s a better idea now’ … We’re out-enduring some people because we’re staying on it.” He did not give specifics on the budget.
With McConaughey focused on “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” he says he won’t be re-teaming with Daniels for his next film, “The Butler,” about White House butler Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents over three decades. McConaughey was to play the role of John F. Kennedy, which would have required him to trade his Texas drawl for Kennedy’s Boston accent.
“ 'The Butler,' it’s not going to happen for me,” he said. “It was going to take some good hard work on my part for sure -- and it was more than an accent. I’ve done accents before. And you can see you can tell when it’s just coming out from the neck up. When you see it done well, they walk different, they sit different -- it’s coming out of their feet. There was a lot of work that I was looking forward to putting in on that. But for certain true reasons, it’s not going to happen.”
McConaughey said his decision to not do “The Butler” was not related to the mixed reception Daniels' “The Paperboy” received at Cannes. “No, not at all, I had a wonderful time working with Lee,” McConaughey said. “Lee’s become a good friend of mine.”
-- Julie Makinen
Matthew McConaughey accepts an award Spike TV's "Guys Choice Awards" at Sony Pictures Studios on Saturday. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images