Matthew McConaughey: Academy Award Win

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Greenlights" by Matthew McConaughey. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Did Matthew McConaughey win an Academy Award? What movie did he win for and why was it so significant?

Up until he starred in Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey was known for playing rom-com leads. So when he won an Academy Award, it marked a huge shift in his career and priorities.

Read more about Matthew McConaughey’s Academy Award win below.

McConaughey’s Academy Award Win and True Detective

It was during this period that HBO’s True Detective came along. Matthew loved playing detective Rustin Cohle, whose striking inner life—Cohle was both a fierce seeker of truth and a thoroughgoing nihilist—excited him. The series aired on HBO during the movie awards season, which worked out well as it raised his profile just as he was seeking attention for his role in Dallas Buyers Club.

He went on to do well during that awards season, sweeping the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit, and Screen Actors Guild awards for best actor for his portrayal of Ron Woodroff. The only thing left was the Academy Award. He deliberately didn’t plan a speech, fearing that this would be bad karma. But as it turns out, Matthew McConaughey’s Academy Award win was in the cards.

When he won the Oscar for Best Actor, it seemed a validation of all the risky and difficult career choices that he had made in recent years. It was also confirmation that, in fulfillment of his father’s and Camila’s orders about his filmmaking career, he most certainly wasn’t half-assing it.

Being Matthew McConaughey

In the wake of his Academy Award win, Matthew made many more movies, including Interstellar, Free State of Jones, and Gold. But even though these fulfilled him creatively, something apparently wasn’t translating to the public, because the movies weren’t financial successes. He didn’t know if the reason lay with him, the stories, the distributors, pure luck, or something else. 

The uncertainty over his post-Oscar box office returns made him even more committed to his craft. He began bringing an increasing level of intensity and absorption to the fictional characters whose lives he inhabited on the screen. Then, one day, he realized that these characters had come to feel more vital to him than the story that was his real life. He had become a true actor-artist, finding consequence, danger, and excitement in his art. It was an exhilarating discovery.

But it also made him realize that it was time, yet again, for a change. It was time to turn his life into his favorite movie, to write his own script and direct his own story. It was time to catch the hero that he had always been chasing: his future self. It was time to live his legacy now, to quit acting like Matthew McConaughey and simply be Matthew McConaughey.

Matthew McConaughey: Academy Award Win

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Matthew McConaughey's "Greenlights" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Greenlights summary:

  • How "greenlights" help you confirm if you're on the right path
  • How McConaughey switched college choices because of family finances
  • Why family is at the center of everything for McConaughey, no matter what's happening in his career

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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