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Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey on The Role He Was Born to Play in ‘The Beach Bum’

Beach Bum McConaughey Snoop Dogg
Photo Credit: NEON and Vice

In 1995, Harmony Korine crashed onto the scene penning the script for Kids, far from something for kids to enjoy. His directorial debut Gummo is decidedly starring kids again but hardly a movie for a rainy school day. He divided critics in 2013 Spring Breakers while completely isolating a majority of its titular audience expecting a party that spilled booze from the projector booth.

Now he’s back with yet another divisive project, The Beach Bum also being floated around jokingly as the Chronicles of McConaughey. While there is a rift in the reception following its SXSW premiere — of which I sit in a neutral but excited camp — it is certainly Korine’s most accessible project to date and would be the perfect movie for its stoned ensemble to watch.

Speaking with Korine on the SXSW red carpet, he said he intended the movie to play like weed smoke with a narrative that “zigs and zags” following Moondog’s exploits played to perfection by Matthew McConaughey. That doesn’t mean Korine went for all style over substance.

“I was really more thinking about the movie in terms of the character,” Korine said talking about living in Florida. “These [guys] living on houseboats out in Key West and come and try to make a film that is funny but also about the world.”

That’s a difficult balancing act for a stoner comedy. It could fall in the camp with Up in Smoke as nothing but a good time living in counter-culture, or something more along the lines of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas which also features a main character driven by drugs that interfere with his writing. Enter McConaughey as Moondog, a poet and widower whose DNA is likely made of weed. After losing his estranged wife Minnie (Isla Fisher), he must publish a new manuscript in order to inherit the $50 million that Minnie left in her will for him

With a penchant for a good time with weed and girls, chased by more smoke in neon, Moondog weaves through the world one blunt and bong at a time without a care in the world as a modern telling of The Odyssey unfolds. More than any McConaughey role, this is perhaps the role he was born to play.

“That’s kind of the best compliment an actor can get,” McConaughey smiled. “Because every character we play is some part of us. It’s kinda like one of those 1980s equalizers. I had to bring down my conscientiousness. I had to bring down my sense of responsibility. Bring down my sense of logic and turn up all the rhyme and the music out of me and put that on the line and dance in that arena.”

Moondog will assuredly be compared with his role in Dazed and Confused but McConaughey updated me on what Wooderson is probably up to today, saying he probably somewhere hanging out with twin girls in front of a late night community radio station.

“Moondog is ruthless in the way that he demands life and people entertain him,” he recounted. “He leaves them. He’s dancing to what turns him on at all times. Moondog’s a rebel in a sewer and to be in that mindset [it took a lot of endurance.]”

It’s that understanding of the difference between a stoner like Wooderson and Moondog that makes the Oscar winner’s performance work so well. Moondog and McConaughey are one yet exist in entirely different arenas. The success lies in the physicality brought to the table. He’s the smoke that weaves the story together, and at the same time, is tethered to the world by Minnie and Fisher’s performance in the first act.

“She’s definitely somebody who’s way more grounded in reality,” Fisher said in comparison to Moondog and some of the unhinged characters she’s previously played.

As much as McConaughey carries the story through his performance, enough couldn’t be said of Korine’s direction on set. The exact genesis of the script may never be completely known since Korine said he didn’t start working on the idea until a couple of years ago, meanwhile Jimmy Buffett who both has a bit part and wrote a song with Snoop Dog (who also stars) said that Korine approached him about the story over a decade ago as his daughter is friends with Korine. Though, Korine admitted that the seeds of the movie may have been dreamt some time ago.

One thing is absolutely certain, though: Korine made The Beach Bum to be and have a good time. Everyone talked about the fun on set (though, the amount of “extracurricular” activity on set has been downplayed and overplayed depending on who you ask) but Martin Lawrence who’s featured in one of the film’s most memorable sequences with Moondog said it best about how to watch it: “Just have a good time with it. Have fun.”

If nothing else can be said of Korine’s latest work, it’s definitely a good time. Whether it’s up to Moondog’s level of entertainment with the world is another matter. No one has as much fun as Moondog.


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