Matthew McConnaughey joined me on Tuesday for an encore interview about “Greenlights,” his best-selling book. Our first swing at an interview is below the audio and transcript of yesterday’s. Great fun, and we can all use that. And a future governor of Texas?
HH: Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. So pleased to welcome back for an encore interview the author of Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey. In fact, he’s now Matthew Gone and Come Back Againaughey. I am so glad that you agreed to this, Matthew. The first one botched up so badly on the audio, we were able to transcribe it and show it, but it didn’t really make the mark I wanted it to make. But Greenlights at the top of the New York Times bestselling list is doing pretty well without it.
MM: Yeah, well, electrickery, no one can explain it. Audio, visual, if we can get them both going, we’re lucky sometimes. But no, my pleasure to come back on and chat with you again. And what do we got? Yeah, the book’s doing well, and been having a great time on the tour and the road talking, listening to people how it translated, how they related to it. And the reception’s been excellent.
HH: Well, it’s grabbing a lot of people. You know, in the radio business, I know my demo, which is 35-64, smart, hard-working, employed. Your demo’s basically everybody. In fact, this is my second chance to embarrass my daughter. I wrongly said her favorite movie was Dazed And Confused when it’s 10 Days, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.
MM: How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.
HH: (laughing) You know, you’ve got every person out there in America from 18 to 70. And I don’t know how you do that. What do you put that down to?
MM: Wow, you know, I didn’t have a specific demographic that I was sort of chasing. I just sort of, you know, and I said this to you, I believe, in our first longer conversation. Here’s something I noticed in the writing of the book. The more subjective and more personal I got, the more I would look at it and go, you know what, I think it just became more relatable to more people. So on this tour, I’m hearing people from all ages, sexes, everything else, about how they’re personally relating to stories in the book. And they’re all relating to different things, a scenario, a story that I’ve been in where they go that didn’t exactly happen to me like that, but something similar happened, and here’s how I handled it, or oh, how you handled it, I’m going to try that next time, or oh, I see where you failed, McConaughey, and you explain why. And you know what, understanding why I failed in the same way has helped me, or someone goes I really loved the poems, or someone says I loved the prayers, or someone says I loved the bumper stickers. So it’s, thankfully, relating and translating to quite a few, to all demographics right now.
HH: Now the advantage of doing a second interview is that you know, I read it right before the interview, make my notes and my outline. Now, I got to marinate in it for 10 days, and I have a theory on why it’s so well-received by so many different people. It is almost wholly devoid of grievance. And I’m so tired of grievance, Matthew. You’re just not mad at anybody except one moment with your mom. Were you aware of that when you were writing this?
MM: You know, I mean, I’ve got my grievances, but I’ve learned to move on from it. If I can’t be constructive with them, I’ve learned to move on. I mean, even the deal with my mom, we had a grievance for eight years, but I knew that was going to have, that we were going to mend our fences and come back together. I just didn’t know when, and it took eight years.
HH: Is it…
MM: I didn’t quit loving her during that time. I didn’t quit caring for her. We were just estranged, and our relationship was. But yeah, I don’t, I don’t, I’m not, I don’t know the value, what’s the value of holding onto a grudge or a grievance. I don’t see what’s constructive about it. I mean, you know, yeah, there’s plenty of times to keep your enemies closer than your friends, and it’s good to know, but you don’t have to, you know, waste your time. And I tell that story about Hollywood, the joke in Hollywood that I got when I realized seven years in Hollywood, it’s not personal. It’s business. Well, that allowed me to forgive all kinds of grievances in people that wouldn’t answer my phone call when my movies weren’t doing as well. But they were also people that I was very close friends with when my movies were doing well. I didn’t take that personally, either.
HH: I wrote that. It’s Page 189. “It’s not personal, it’s just business. You have to get the joke, and the joke is nothing is personal.” And I wanted to probe you on that. Did you not get a role that you really wished you’d gotten, I mean, that you still think about to this day?
MM: No, Hugh. I’ve got to be honest, I’m pretty fortunate in everything that I passed on. I have no regret on anything I passed on. There was a movie that I did love, that I was offered, that I said no to, but I loved the movie, and that was L.A. Confidential.
MM: Curtis Hanson, director. It was a great movie. And that came to me right after I got famous with A Time To Kill. And so I write about in the book, after that weekend A Time To Kill opened, all of a sudden, I was being offered everything where two days before A Time To Kill opened, I wasn’t getting offered much of anything. And so I had, in my, maybe in the affluence of scripts that were coming my way, I remember reading that one thinking it’s really good, but I just don’t have to do it. But then I saw the movie, and I was like ooh, that was a really good one.
HH: Well, I’d be amazed if someone in your position doesn’t have at least one that you wish you could get back. I wanted to ask you about friends in Hollywood. If it’s all business, you mentioned I think at least twice that Woody Harrelson, for instance, is your friend.
HH: Now if everything is business and nothing is personal, how seriously do you take not just Woody Harrelson, but any Hollywood friendship? I mean, do they get to the level of a Texas friendship?
MM: Well, sure. And what I mean by, I mean the game in the business of Hollywood, meaning the dealings in Hollywood. As I said, you know, the people that I hung out with and spent quality time with that were heads of studios who all of a sudden maybe three years later when my movies aren’t doing as well don’t return my phone calls. So that, I go okay, that’s business. But none of those were like good friends like Woody. Now look, it is, I’m not devoid of saying, I’m not saying don’t take anything personal. I have relationships that are very personal. My friendship with Woody is very personal. He and I, we’re much more personal than business. So I do have very personal relationships. I’m just really talking about the business of Hollywood and things that go on in life, careers, jobs, hirings, firings, when you get what you want, when you don’t, people, the things people do that are not our close friends. I found it good to go you know what, I’m going to tab it up to that just being business or where that person is in their life. I’m not going to put it on me.
HH: Did any friend ever bury the hilt in your back, you know, six inches in? Did anyone ever do that to you that was a friend up until that moment?
MM: No. No, you know what, I’ve never, never been stabbed in the back, never been stolen from. Never have I had a friend, now mind you, I don’t, you know, I don’t have a thousand good friends. I have quite a few, but I can count them on both hands. So I don’t let just anybody into my circle. I have a lot of acquaintances. I have a whole lot of people in Hollywood that we don’t talk, I don’t have their phone number, but damn, it’s good to see you when we do. So I’ve never really put myself in a position, maybe, nor had friend in my inner circle that picked my pocket or stabbed me in the back…
HH: That is…
MM: …or told stories out of school.
HH: That’s rare, Matthew. I am curious if you said to Camila, “Love, I’ve just got to get away for three to five weeks, and I’ve got to go to the Isle of Skye and stay at the Three Chimneys, which is one of my favorite places on Earth, or maybe to Mali, or whatever, and I’m not going to take Rooster, I’m not going to take Pat, I’m going to take X.” Who’s that, Matthew?
MM: Ooh. Right now, I’d take Levi, my oldest son.
MM: And he and I did a 14-day trip to Patagonia a couple years ago, and he’s a good athlete, and he’s a great travel companion. Now, he’s 12, so we’re starting to get into that stage where we can kind of do things as buddies and father and son. So right now, I would say I’m taking Levi, because I’m really, he’s coming into that learning what it is to be a young man, learning how responsibility today can give him freedom tomorrow, kind of learning how the world works, innuendo, what to take literally, what not to take literally. So I’d like to go on that trip with him.
HH: Well, that is, that is terrific, but if you’re going to leave the boy at home because you just need some friend time, who’s it going to be?
MM: Who’s is going to be then? Well, you said one earlier who’s always a great travel partner, and that’s Mr. Woody Harrelson. Look, every, if I spent three weeks on that isle with Woody, I’d come back ten years younger.
MM: You’re with Woody, you get younger when you’re around Woody. I get younger. The amount of laughter just, you see the days and the weeks and the years just going off your calendar. You’re going backwards, and you get younger around that man.
HH: What are the qualities of friendship? I’ve been reading about this a lot, Matthew, and part of it is your book, Greenlights. It’s got a lot of friends in it. But, and I’ve been reading about it since Montagne in college. What is, what are the qualities of it for you?
MM: Well, for me, my best friends are ones that, you know, my life takes me around the world. I’m married and have three kids, so I can’t like maintain the same friendships in the same way that I used to, meaning if I want to take that trip to the isle with Woody, I can’t just say tonight, oh, great idea. Hugh had a great idea, I’m going to put on my backpack, see you, I’m leaving tomorrow morning. I have things I have to tend to. Now my good friends understand that, and a lot of them are married and have children, so obviously they understand. But I mean, one of the great traits is running back into my good friends who I haven’t seen in a while, and you just pick right back up where you left off. You don’t have to sit down and go into that deep dive of wait a minute, let’s, how have you been, you know? What have you, you know, you just pick it right back up. The other thing, I think, that my greatest friends do for me, and I try to do for mine, is promote the best, and more of the best and truest in them. My good friends know me well. And if I’m being true to myself, they’ll put gas on my fire. If I’m off track a little bit and I’m kind of, they’ll back off and go this is a wild, you’re sure you’re in for this? Is this not going against your grain of who you actually are? And then, we discuss it. But they look out for me, and if they believe it’s true, they, you know, they water that garden that I have. And I try to do the same for them, try to promote what I know makes them more themselves.
HH: You know, Matthew McConaughey, that’s a bit different. I live in D.C., and I breathe in D.C. And friendship is contingent in the Beltway. And you’re saying it’s not contingent in Hollywood when it’s real.
MM: No, what’s, I don’t think it’s contingent anywhere when it’s real. It’s contingent in Hollywood, as I said earlier. Well, you know, people are heat seekers. You know, the people have got to, you know, they need a product that’s in demand to make money and make their overhead so they don’t get fired from their job. I get it. And I’ve reconnected with some of those friends that were, that maybe didn’t return those phone calls or didn’t, you know, back then. And I don’t hold a grudge against them, but I mean, a real friendship is not contingent on what side of your aisle is or what your denomination is, or what your star meter in Hollywood is.
HH: Well, I agree with that.
MM: They’re called acquaintances.
HH: I just think in D.C, it’s rarer than extinct species.
MM: I agree.
HH: Let me talk to you about one narrow category. Sonny Bunch is the movie critic for my radio show, and he’s a great critic, writes for the Bulwark. And he’s very good at his craft. And I had another guy for ten years, Emmett of the Unblinking Eye, good at his craft. You have to read this stuff as someone who’s in it. Is there anybody in the business of film criticism who you admire for their craft?
MM: Yeah, I like Joe Morgenstern with the Wall Street Journal. He has liked some of my work. He has likes some of my movies. He has not liked some, and not liked me in some. But all the, when he doesn’t like it, he’s constructive about it, meaning I read, I’ll read bad criticisms, and I can tell in the first line that oh, this person had it in for me before they even saw the movie.
MM: They had already started this bad review before they saw the movie. So you know what? That’s not really a criticism. That’s that person’s hang up. But when I can read somebody that has a good criticism, and Joe does, I think, a constructive criticism, and here’s why I didn’t like the movie, or here’s why Matthew’s performance didn’t translate for me. I always learn something from it.
HH: And is it something that you do? Will you study reviews from serious people after a film comes out in order to improve your craft, because they’re good at theirs?
MM: Yes. Yes, I have done this. Look, obviously it’s more fun to read a good review, and obviously when you do your work, and I feel like I did it well and I read a good review, I think those people are smarter (laughing).
MM: But, in a way, eight years ago, and I had my publicist gather every bad review that’s ever been written on my performances, which is almost 50 at the time.
HH: That’s not in the book.
MM: And it was thick.
MM: No, it’s not. I didn’t put it in there. Maybe it can be in the next one. I went away and read every single one. And kind of learned more from the bad reviews, in a way, than I did from the good ones. You know, people that were maybe critics that didn’t like a performance, a bad review that were actually fans of mine and were let down with a performance I did, but actually spoke to why. Some of them I agreed with. Some of them I didn’t, but each one I appreciated when they were again constructive and a person explained why and what they didn’t get from it. And then, that’s their own subjective call, and I can agree or disagree, but I can sure appreciate that their hand went to the page, and the pen to write the critique in a constructively, in a constructive, critical way.
HH: Now that is very mature. People are going to take that and run with it. Let me switch subjects on you. I want to go back to Dazed And Confused, because five days into shooting Wooderson, you get a phone call, and your dad has died. You write your knees buckled, and at the end of the grieving process and the Irish funeral, you write, “I resolved to become less impressed and more involved.”
HH: I just would like you to explain to people who maybe haven’t had to do that, I have, what it is like to lose the dad you love, and what do you have to do to get your bearings.
MM: Yeah, well, I didn’t think in my 21-year old mind in addition to being the son of my, I didn’t think my dad could die. I couldn’t even consider it. He’s 62 years young. He was the Abominable Snowman. Nothing could kill him. I mean, the guy’s never taken an aspirin in his life. He was a bear of a man, and a huge heart, lots of energy. Well, he had a heart attack, and his heart couldn’t pump enough blood to his body.
HH: He had a great going away. I mean, you describe it, people can read it for the surprise.
MM: Yeah, as good of a way as you can hope to ever leave this life, my dad experienced.
MM: I’ll leave that for the book read. But it was an incredible way that he went. And actually, he called his shot and actually told us, Hugh, told us boys, me and my two brothers, boys, when I go, I’m going to be making love to your mother.
MM: And he did. But so he goes, and you know, after all the late nights in the kitchen and crying and talking about who he was with my brothers and my mom, and then they said you know, it’s been five days, get back to your job, Dazed And Confused, go finish what you started, it’s what Dad would want you to do, that’s when that hit me. Be less impressed, more involved, meaning the man, the values and the strength and the courage of the man my father was to me was now physically gone. Well, I noticed immediately, oh, in some ways, Matthew, you’ve been relying on the fact that he’s got your back, that he’s above government, that he’s above the law. If you stumble, he will always be there to pick you up. And all of a sudden, that thing you rely on, Matthew, is gone. So okay, all these little things that he’s been teaching you how to be a man that you’ve been kind of half-ass practicing but not really committing to, well, you’d better get committed to it now. And when I realized that, because I had to get committed to it, because he was no longer there as my crutch to rely on, that’s when I became less impressed, more involved, meaning all the mortal things in life that I revered, I don’t know, fame, people, money, success, they came down from reverence. They held onto my respect, but they came down to eye level, and I was looking them in the eye.
MM: All the things that I was patronizing in my life, condescending, oh, sloughing off is not worthy of me, rose up to eye level. And I remember writing to myself the world is flat. I see further and wider and more clearly, and my chin raised. My heart raised. And I stepped forward from that day on with much more courage as a young man.
HH: Excellent part of the book. But I want to close by talking about, I’ve got three things left. After I interviewed the first time, Paul Begala sent me a note saying you know, go Texas, Matthew is a great friend of Texas, etc. Now I do a bunch of events with Paul, and I love to do them, because it makes me look smarter and funnier.
HH: And because I’m arguing with him, because I’m on stage with him in a pro and con in front of investors and stuff like that, they think I’m right, because they know he’s wrong. But they still think I’m funny, etc. If you esteem him so much, and you’re kind of center-right in the view of people, you could be governor of Texas. Are you ever going to run for anything?
MM: I don’t know. I mean, that wouldn’t be up to me. It would be up to the people more than it would me. I would say this. Look, politics seems to be a broken business to me right now. And when politics redefines its purpose, I could be a hell of a lot more interested.
HH: You know, it’s fascinating to me. It’s a fascinating concept. Like Arnold did in California, some people get one shot. Now you’re the brand ambassador for Lincoln and Wild Turkey. If you were the brand ambassador for the U.S. for President-Elect Biden, I’m just curious what could you recommend that both Republican and Democrats could get behind?
MM: Well, you know me. I’ve talked to you about it before. I’m, I want to get behind personal values to rebind our social contracts with each other as Americans, as people again.
MM: No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, or as I said earlier, denomination, we have broken those social contracts. We don’t trust each other, and that leads to us not trust in ourselves, which if that becomes, if that becomes epidemic, then we’ve got anarchy. So I’m all for the individual, and I think it’s for to make collective change that the individual needs to look in the mirror and say how can I be a little bit better today? How can I, how can this selfish decision I want to make for myself correlate and also be the decision that’s best for the most amount of people? There is a place where that decision lives all the time. It’s hard to get to, but there is a place to make the decision that’s best for ourself, but also be considerate of what that decision is for the most amount of people. Look,…
HH: So when…
MM: Coming out of the election right now, we’ve got to stabilize. This country’s got to stabilize first before we start to say okay, here’s how we’re marching out of this together forward.
HH: 100% agree. When Arnold ran, did you have a reaction to that? Did you think, hmm, that’s a good idea, bad idea, or maybe I should do that someday?
MM: No, I didn’t have any, I remember my only reaction was like with Jesse Ventura in Minnesota, I was like different people from the entertainment industry, you know, Clint Eastwood had already been, I think, mayor before.
MM: But it was like, you know, I remember thinking this, you know, people going oh, the Terminator is going to be president, or the Terminator is going to be the governor. And that was, I saw the power of, you know, fame that, you know, and I mean, that’s already a question. And this is not speaking to how much I agreed or disagreed with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s politics or not. But you look at President-Elect, that we just had, or President Trump, look, people, a lot of people that I know on the far left were in denial after he had become the president. And I remember saying well look, regardless of his politics, in the very first, just the first question, what do we say in America is successful? What do we give credit and respect? Well, the top two things are money and fame. And I said guys, just on a very base level, Trump has those, so I don’t know why we should be so surprised that he got elected. Now then came, you know, policies and the politics of the last four years, which have become, you know, you know more about him than just when he first came in as someone who was on TV and also had a lot of money. But yeah, I remember when Arnold came out, and seeing Ventura up there, I was like oh, there’s different people in the entertainment zeitgeist that are getting into politics. You know, I still question how much you can really get done in politics, and I don’t know if politics is my avenue to get what maybe I am best equipped to get done.
HH: Well, Texas is an interesting playing field. Penultimate question, you like a wager. Do you follow Barstool Sports at all?
MM: I don’t follow it, but I’ve been on there talking a few times.
HH: So you wager on intangibles. I always wager on the Browns, which is kind of stupid.
HH: But you always wager on intangibles. How do you, you talk about that Brett Favre at home when his dad just died. What, how do you even figure out which intangibles to figure on?
MM: Well, I mean, I’m always, that’s what I’m most interested in. I’m not as interested in the headlines. I like going into the story and picking out a few things, a few one-liners that maybe really open up a secret to the subject that are usually on page three or four. So I look past the headline of any wager pretty quickly and try to go, say, oh, what are these intangibles – psychological intangibles, you know, star player, who’s the person involved? What’s their real purpose? Do they believe in what they’re doing? Are they acting like one, or are they really being one? So also, you know, if you’re looking at teams and careers, life or football games, boy, to go be around a practice to see how people, intangibles, you watch a sideline on a game. Look at the players how they’re comingling, the ones that are on the second string that aren’t even on the field. Is their head in the game? Do they believe in the purpose of the entire team even though they’re not on the field in the first string? That’s what I’m watching.
HH: Have you been watching, have you been watching Baker at all?
MM: Not very much. I haven’t watched much football at all. How’s he…
HH: He’s got what you just talked about. He’s got that in spades. Last question, can you expand, you just referenced it, and you drop it, and you never come back. 78 stitches on your forehead by a veterinarian, it sounds like an episode from Yellowstone. What’s what all about?
MM: So we’re in Navarre Beach, Florida. I think it’s around 1985. I’m out riding jet skis in the bay in the afternoon. I wreck on my jet ski, go down. As I come up, my nephew was riding behind me racing. He, boom, skips off my head.
MM: I’m knocked out. The next thing I know, I’m getting sort of dragged up by two men, one of them my dad, and the other one is the guy who ran the jet ski sort of facility there. They’re walking me out of the bay. And there’s all these people on the bay looking at me with horrified looks on their faces. Now I’m obviously in shock, because I’m like hey, everybody, no, I’m okay, I’m okay.
MM: Well, my dad, who was a real sort of hey, if you’re hurt, just rub it kind of guy, was really kind of hustling me to the car, taking whatever was wrong with me more seriously than I was. And I remember this. We’re in the car, and we had one of those, right after, you know, one of those late afternoon Florida monsoons where it rains hard for about 20 minutes?
MM: It starts raining really hard. And I’m riding shotgun, and sitting there just chatting away with him, and he’s kind of got a, he’s got a concerned look on his face. I reach up to the vanity mirror to have a look at my head, and he, I’ll never forget this. This hand reaches across and grabs my hand and stops me from looking at the mirror. And it was my dad. And it hit me right there and oh, if my dad wasn’t want me to see it, it must be bad. And right about that time, this big lump went up in the back of my neck, and it started to hurt, and I started crying, and Dad pressed the pedal to the metal and was doing 90 miles an hour down this two-lane highway in Navarre Beach, Florida. He pulls in this place right off the highway, hops out, comes in, go in there and says, guy comes out and he says are you the doctor? He goes yeah. Just sew him up. And he goes, but sir, I’m a veterinarian. I’ve never, I don’t sew humans. I sew animals. He goes I don’t care. Sew him up. And that veterinarian sewed up my forehead so well, one of the best sew jobs I’ve ever seen. You can barely even see the scar.
HH: I can’t see it. I’m looking at your picture. I cannot see it.
MM: It’s up in my top right, it goes from the center of my forehead back to the right above my ear, high on the crown of my head into my hairline.
MM: 78 stitches.
HH: Well, that’s a record.
MM: By a vet.
HH: On that note, congrats. Greenlights is a huge success, Matthew McConaughey. Keep coming, if you want a triple play on the Hugh Hewitt Show, just call me, because it’s been great fun, and continued success to you.
MM: I have. Appreciate it, Hugh. Enjoyed the talk.
HH: Be well.
MM: You, too.
End of interview.
Video of McConnaughey 1.0 from last week: