But a few years ago—about the time Ghosts of Girlfriends Past came out, in which the then 39-year-old deploys his considerable talents to persuade the chick from Party of Five to embrace love—McConaughey checked in with himself and decided it was time for a change. He doesn’t want to denigrate the movies that made him rich and famous. “I was enjoying myself,” he says. “My relationship with acting was fine. But like in any relationship, you need to shake things up. It didn’t mean what we’d been doing was less than. I just wanted a charge. Like, ‘Let’s throw a spark into this.’” There is a note on a crumpled piece of paper on the table here in his Airstream, something he scribbled down and only recently pulled out of some old pants, that speaks to his dissatisfaction. I wish, it says, I enjoyed watching my movies as much as I enjoyed making them.
He decided to “go in the shadows” for a while, saying no to things that wouldn’t “evolve” him as an actor. “I got much more selfish,” he says. “I’m a fan of the word selfish. Self. Ish,” he repeats, drawing it out. “When I say I have gotten a lot more self-ish, I mean I am less concerned with what people think of me. I’m not worried about how I’m perceived. Selfish has always gotten a bad rap. You should do for you. I wanted new experiences.”
And in Details:
“I’m just as thankful now as I ever was, but I’m choosing to be more selfish. I remember feeling not sure about what I wanted to do and feeling — I’m not sure despondent is the right word, but a feeling like things are plateauing. I wanted more evolution. I want to feel ascension in the grade. Because I was feeling a lot of ascension in my personal life, qualitative evolution. I wanted to close the gap between who I am and the life I’m living and my work life. So I think I got really selfish.”
“Part of it is just growing up and part of it is I’m very turned on and excited about all kind of things. Probably more things now than I used to be. I work hard to maintain the good things in my life that I’ve built – friendships, work, family, my own time. Sometimes you’ve got to go,’ah man, I haven’t seen my brother in three months’. But it feels really great when you can think:’Boy, all my relationships are good, people that I love are good, and my relationship with them is good. My career, I’m dialled, it feels good. Health is good.’ But to maintain that, when things change, you’ve got to be nimble at times.”
If his earliest career plan was to be a criminal defence lawyer, fighting for others, his eventual plan has come full circle to fighting for himself. “I’d say I have more of a selfish desire now when it comes to work,” he admits. It has been a long time coming.