09/11/2013 09:09 am ET Updated Sep 11, 2013

Matthew McConaughey On 'Dallas Buyers Club,' Jared Leto, Awards Recognition & 'Wolf Of Wall Street'


Matthew McConaughey wants it known that he did not coin the word "McConaissance" (a combination of his last name and the word "renaissance") to describe the run of terrific performances that he's given of late. Now, in a prior interview between us, McConaughey did point out that the word existed (and that he liked the turn of phrase), but let the record show that "McConaissance" wasn't his creation. Really, though, this is all just semantics: The truth is, no better word sums up what McConaughey's been doing since he put the rom-coms aside and focused on meaty roles in "Magic Mike," "Killer Joe," "Mud" and, perhaps his meatiest yet, "Dallas Buyers Club."

Set in 1986 and based on a true story, McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club," an ornery cuss and rodeo cowboy who, after years of unprotected sex with women and drug use, is diagnosed with HIV and, later, AIDS. (McConaughey lost 50 pounds to play the role.) Given 30 days to live by his doctors, Woodroof uses every means possible to purchase black market medication, drugs that, for the most part, had not been approved for use in the United States. Supply in hand, Woodroof -- along with a transgender woman named Rayon (played by an excellent Jared Leto) -- start an underground pharmacy for fellow AIDS patients.

I met McConaughey at his hotel room, where he admitted to being out until 5:00 a.m. that same morning for the film's premiere party here at the Toronto International Film Festival. (He still looked more refreshed and chipper than I did.) McConaughey is a good conversationalist -- and will lean in close when he's trying to make a point. He comes off like a guy who is totally aware that he's on a wave of critical success right now, and he's enjoying every last bit of it. That's good, too, since the ride should continue with Martin Scorsese's upcoming film, "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Matthew McConaughey: What did we talk about last, "Mud"?

We talked about "Mud" at Sundance. And the McConnaissance.
Did you write that I said that about myself? [Laughs] Because somebody else said it and I repeated them and I read that you said, "As McConaughey calls it 'his own McConnaissance.'" I was like, "I didn't say I was on a McConnaissance!"

You alerted me that that word exists, but I have since co-opted because it's a great word.
It is. And it's got a good meter to it.

You're officially on the record now saying that you did not make that up.
I didn't, but whoever did ... it's got the right amount of syllables in it. It comes off the tongue.

"Dallas Buyers Club" surprised me in that Ron's not always likable. He can be an ornery cuss.
Hell, yeah.

Is that what you like about playing him?
One of the things. There were two sort of original storylines that I liked about this, among other things. You're dealing with HIV; the guy gets HIV. But one, it's from a heterosexual's point of view. Hadn't seen that.

That also surprised me. I didn't know the story.
Right. Well, I didn't know his story before I had read it, but that was one. And the other was: He's a son of a bitch, man. And he's a badass and a bigot and a two-bit cowboy, gambling, hell-raising womanizer who gets HIV as a heterosexual. But then, it would have been false to have that third act turn where he has the, "Daaaa! Woe be my ways from the past to what was I; now I see the light."

And we were like, "Uh-uh." No violin strings, no sentiment bullshit. That's not true. We stick to this guy as the anarchist. We stick to this guy who's got a seventh grade education who got HIV with 30 days to live and became a damn scientist of HIV. But keep him the businessman. Keep him wanting to be Scarface. Keep him self-serving. And we said the message will come.

You see a lot of movies twist that aspect and ruin the movie.
And we've seen that! We know what's going to happen with that. But we said, "Not a message movie." And I said if I stick to Ron being that guy who's a businessman, who is self-serving -- the message, the crusade or the activist will be revealed. But he can't have that, "Oh! I'm the guy. Let me wave the flag. Let me march to Washington." Uh-uh, uh-uh, uh-uh.

You famously lost 50 pounds for this role. Now that I've seen the movie, I hope that doesn't become the only narrative of who you're playing. I hope people who haven't seen the movie realize there's more to it than that.
And I also. I was conscious of that going into it, because I had read or heard about the headlines. "Oh, 50 pounds." So, is that important? Did it have to do with my performance? Absolutely. But, what I'm hoping and what seems to be true so far -- what you said -- is you see the movie, that's out of the way real quickly.

Jared Leto ...

He cleans house with this role.
Doesn't he?

He does.
[Laughs] He's kind of good looking in that one scene.

I briefly spoke to him last night, I was out too late.
Oh, I got to bed at 5:00 a.m.

You deserve it. You're having a nice week.
Yeah, I'm having a real nice week, man. My wife came in for the premiere. She showed up right there at the beginning of it, so we stayed a little while longer and celebrated and enjoyed ourselves. Yeah, Leto, here's a guy who hadn't acted in what was it, three or four years?

It's been a while.
I was like, "Great role," but, boy, this is a role that somebody can turn into a caricature -- can really overdo it. And he came in the first day, and he had his guy. And I don't know if "underplayed" is the right word, but he didn't do all the things that were available to do with that. And he didn't. And then I remember the director gave him some directions, and he just had this little subtle calibration that he put over the whole thing. And I was like, Oh, this looks promising. We're in good hands. Someone could read that and go -- and especially someone who hadn't worked in so many years -- coming in and going, "I've really got to make this count!"

You put a lot into this performance, especially with the weight loss. Would you be disappointed if it's not recognized this awards season?
Dude, yeah. Well, let me say this -- I learned this: I enjoy the process of the making, and I've become much less result-oriented. Not just in making movies, but in my life as well. Now, I do this, I hear people throwing that word around. I'm like, "Great." Would I be happy if that would? Yeah! Man, I want to do excellent work. This is my career. I'm trying to lower my handicap as an actor. I'm enjoying it more and I'm getting more of an experience out of the work I'm doing. And if that translates and someone says, "You know what? We like this because we think it's excellent work," all right, yeah!

I mean, if it's not mentioned, will I take a little hickey? I don't know. Because I haven't been able to sublimate and put myself there in the future to see what I would feel. I don't know; I'd have to tell you at the time if something happened or not. But it's not something I'm thinking about, but I am noticing it's being brought up. And I'm like, hey, if anything, that's good vernacular. My head's down and I'm going for experiences right now. And I'm enjoying the work and I luckily got a family that follows me where I go. I'm not really coming up to look and say "So what's the view? What's the landscape? What's the forecast?"

Do you ever do that? Did you ever stop to see what people thought of "Mud"?
Well, yeah. I mean, "Mud" is one of my favorite movies of all time. I mean, I love that movie. I think it's a great American classic film. Yeah, I mean people liked "Mud." "Mud" did well. And anyone who doesn't like "Mud," I like hearing their argument, because I think "Mud" just really works on all kinds of levels. But I don't have a periscope up and going, "Well now let me look the way the land lays." I'm glad I got three more coming out. I want to be sitting here next year and going, "I got four more coming out." You know what I mean? I've been real fortunate that I've been having some real good characters I've been able to play, and "Dallas Buyers" is a character-driven story, but it turned out to be an entertaining movie.

Did you happen to read "The Wolf of Wall Street" book?

I'm halfway into it right now.
Yeah? Is it just wild?

It's very brash. A lot of exclamation points. But the stories are wild.
Well, no, I didn't read the book. And I came in, I only worked about five days on that. But I was teed up with a -- it was an incredible, I mean, the character ... [Laughing]

Why are you laughing?
Well, because, you know, you read, you get characters. And it happened to me in "Dazed and Confused." It's a character that's got three scenes and in one of the scenes he says, "That's what I love about those high school girls, man. I get older, but they stay the same age." There's certain lines like that where you go "Aw, pfft, who is this guy?" There's certain launch pad lines.

So "The Wolf of Wall Street" has that kind of line?
Yeah, it had a line in there that just sent me flying. And I went, "Oh, my God. Well, if he says that and he means it, well then ..."

Yeah, he's in the first chapter of the book. There's cocaine involved.
That's in the ballpark of where we're going. And his logic is tremendous.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

2013 Toronto International Film Festival