Saturday, March 26, 2005

Matthew McConaughey: Revisits Sahara with CeeP (Q & A)

That screener I was heading to at Mann's Chinese was for the forthcoming feature Sahara starring Matthew McConaughey, Penélope Cruz and Steve Zahn (with William H. Macy, Delroy Lindo and Glynn E. Turman); the next day I went over to the Four Seasons for the press event and got a little face time with the film's cast; thought I'd post excerpts from the roundtable with McConaughey here...the film, directed by Breck Eisner and based on the novels written by Clive Cussler opens wide in the U.S. on April 8th...

Q: Talk about this Trailer you've been taking around the country to promote Sahara.

Matthew McConaughey: Yeah, it's my Airstream, 28 footer. I came up with this idea of wrapping up everything in the trailer and doing a grassroots, sort of, Rock 'n Roll door-to-door Sahara campaign across the United States -- it's mine, I'm driving the truck...6,000 miles in 32 days...just myself and my business partner.

Q: Why, with such a big movie and the promotional backing that that would entail?

Matthew: It was a big movie, true but I figured on a couple of things: 1.) I liked the movie, we'd made a good one and that feels good. I wouldn't be out selling it like this if it weren't. 2.) I'm the Executive Producer on it, my production company J.K. Livin' [is attached] to it. That gives me a lot of pride, a lot of honor to have that on there; that means something -- the first major motion picture that J.K. Livin' is on. So, I'm still on the clock. As the boss of me, I'm still on the clock and I've got some work to do to finish this thing off, so on the 8th of April when it opens, I can sit back, have my cocktail and say "man, there ain't nothing else I could've done." You know? For the last seven years, from getting the part, we all got together and filled out the script, we got the cast, we went over to Morocco and worked our butts off -- we had fun doing it -- Breck put together a great movie. We were happy with it, now we've got to finish it and sell it. We're coming out April 8th, Paramount's doing their job...come the 8th, we let it ride. [laughs]

Q: How was it working with such a young director, Breck Eisner was 27 when this went into production.

Matthew: Never really thought about age. I'm 35 but I don't really recognize 26-27, when someone asks me about back then I'm like, that was yesterday [laughs] No, the main thing was that the guy's talented. You sit down and you see if you're 'meeting minds' on what the tone of the story is. What the sense of humor is -- that was a very important thing to me, what the sense of the story is. I've found that if you can find somebody that you're working with, even in relationships, if you have a similar sense of humor or even if you don't but they recognize it and go: "that's not mine, but it's funny." That means a lot, especially in a movie like Sahara where the tone, the sense of humor and how seriously it it takes itself/ does not take itself is incredibly important -- if it takes itself too seriously, you'd be like..."come on, dude - that's bullshit." You just try to meet minds along the way and come up with some great of the cool things about making a film and collaborating is that great ideas come from all over the joint, they come from 3 in the morning from a PA, I learned that early on.

Q: Did you see a franchise a la James Bond/ Indiana Jones when you first looked at the script?

Matthew: That was the hope. That was the idea, not a hope to see a franchise but we saw a franchise...I think there's like 16 or so books already written and I'd been looking for a franchise character for 10 years and they were either too, you know, one character in an action/adventure franchise is either just about [getting the ] ass, you know and there's nothing else. Or there's the character that's always nice, clean and tight but never got his hands dirty. Dirk Pitt does both. He's a guy that takes these adventures, chases the unknown, chases down the commas in the history books -- I loved the adventure of going off to foreign, exotic lands and working it out. Getting myself in situations and seeing how well I could work out of them. Sometimes, especially when you don't speak the language, [communication] gets down to charades.

Q: What kind of scrapes did you get in while shooting in Africa?

Matthew: I got in quite a few. When you're walking a 14 mile hike each day to the next village, and it's the wet season but it hasn't rained in like 5 days and then one night you're sitting in your tent and it rains all night. The waters rise. You get up the next day and you walk your 5 miles until all of a sudden you get to, what used to be the day before just a creek, [what] is now a river of water about 50 yards wide. And as you're walking along you're looking at all the crocodiles and as you keep walking you still see the crocodiles and all of a sudden the road turns and goes right across that water and you stop. You're with your guide, who's a local, and he stops. You don't say a word but you both know exactly what the other one's thinking. So you wait there. You don't say a word -- and you know it's the only place that you can cross over to the other side of the river, you're not going to make it at any other point -- so you wait. Then, a woman from the village -- whose people's sacred [religious] animus is the crocodile -- walks out, she's got fruit on her head and she strolls out into the water. And all of a sudden, you [too] slowly start walking through it. I mean you're out there in the water and it's up to your neck and you're looking at crocs in the eyeball just 10-15 yards away: it's quite a look at your guide and go "what was that all about?"... If I would've been eaten, the news would've never made it back, nobody would've knew for a while because this was a place where there were no telephones, no electricity.You'd still be looking for me. but, I figure, if you're going to go in that kind of way, man , it's already written -- part of the food chain.

Q: What about the stunts, you do any of them yourself?

Matthew: All of them that I could. I got a great stunt man, Mark Nordby who does the stuff that I would call "foolish" -- I don't like getting lit on fire, he can do that. But most of them, that a fun part of making a movie like this for me. I like sports, I'm a decent athlete, so the stunts become "the athletic event of the day." You want 1.) to pull them off so when [the audience] sees the film, it sells. They go, "Yeah, Dirk Pitt did that" and 2.) to do all that without breaking a leg.

Q: What was your sport?

Matthew: Man, golf is really my sport but growing up I played whatever season with whatever ball. Whatever it was, I played it, from soccer to baseball to football to basketball. But I'm really getting back into baseball, I'm really excited about baseball right now.

Q: I spoke with Richard Linklater back when Before Sunset got released and he said he's planning on working with some of his old friends -- you getting together with him any time soon? He's on a roll, yo.

Matthew: I hope so. He is rolling -- he finish Bad News Bears yet?

Q: I think it's coming out this summer.

Matthew: He did the thing with Robert Downey, Jr and Woody [Harrelson] -- another animated thing [A Scanner Darkly]...We're always talking about things, he's got a comedy that's sort of a biography on Billy Carter -- President Jimmy Carter's brother -- that could be pretty carny...he's one of those guys where we don't say that much but we get each other and whatever it is he gets about me (as an actor), he doesn't have to tell me because what I get about him (as a director) I don't really have to share with's kind of cool.

Q: You got a favorite movie or role you've played like the one in Dazed and Confused or Palmer Joss in Contact? Any one in particular that sticks out in your mind?

Matthew: I'll be honest, I think this is the most fun I've had. And when I say "fun," I don't mean like "ahh, it's just all so easy." It was fun because I felt like I got to be more "me" in Sahara and just get into [shooting] it, he's a "J.K. Livin," dude, Dirk Pitt. When I say "J.K. Livin," I mean "just keep," he's saying "Yeah to life" at every single turn and if he gets in a hairy situation -- even if he knows that the situation's inevitable, even if he's fucked, he's probably going to laugh first...he's the kind of guy who can be like "I've lost my mind and I don't seem to miss it." That's just the way he'd look at it.

Q: You into history, anything like that?

Matthew: Not near as much as Dirk Pitt. I'd say I read more now than I ever did before I was 18 -- we couldn't watch TV when I was growing up in my place or really read because if there was daylight you had to be out doing something. So, I read a lot more now...I mean, I saw two movies before I was 16 -- Orca and King Kong. King Kong is still one of my favorites -- it introduced me to Jessica Lange. (starts singing) "We wear short-shorts." [laughs]...

...I've often noted that sometimes people take films way more seriously than they were intended to be, the latter became blaringly evident while I was watching Sahara at Mann's and talking to other journalists during down-time in the Four Seasons' hospitality suite...Like Sgt. Hulka in Stripes, I'd like to say: "Lighten up, Francis -- not every film holds the answers to life's burning enigmas." That said, I think Sahara will earn its keep on the back end, financially -- I've seen worse, much worse, faire come out of this town. (if this were the 80s it would do even better but the times have a-changed, yo) There's lots of action to be seen and the cast are clearly having fun but bear this in mind: it is a definitive popcorn movie, an adventurous escape, if you would. If you walk into the theater with that attitude, you'll find the funny plus, the director of photography wasn't no slouch either...FYI, I've a feature on Matthew's co-star, Penélope Cruz coming out in a small, I'll post a link to it on the sidebar when it hits the streets...if you plan on seeing Sahara, do yourself a favor and find out what a Tuareg really is...and no, they're not new-model Volkswagens....Laters...


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