Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey TIME 100
Peter Hapak for TIME

The most surprising actor in Hollywood

Matthew McConaughey had a very rural upbringing, didn’t see a lot of movies or watch much TV, wasn’t a child actor or star of the school play, and actor or artist sure wasn’t a career-day option in the East Texas he grew up in. What he was doing, however, was observing everyone around him, a character himself among crazy, colorful characters. Matthew loves people—simple as that. His goal is to connect, to translate, to listen, to be heard, to ascend one more step in this work in progress called life.

By the time I met him during casting sessions for Dazed and Confused in 1992, it was clear he had characters in him he wanted to express. Tellingly, he was the only radio-TV-film major in his college fraternity’s history. On his first night of shooting (where the “All right, all right, all right” took flight), the entire production caught a groove and went to a new level. That’s what Matthew does. He’s the guy on the court who elevates the rest of the team. Look at The Wolf of Wall Street—that chest-thumping thing Leo DiCaprio’s character runs with, that’s a little thing Matthew actually does. There are stars that suck up all the energy in the room—Matthew maximizes the energy and shares it.

Another line that grew out of his character in Dazed was “Just keep livin’.” He was very specific about it not having a g. Life’s a verb, he said, and all these years later, it’s clear he’s in this thing for the long run.

Linklater is a director and screenwriter

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