McConaughey’s stellar performance as Woodroof has already won him a Best Actor Golden Globe Award, and he now has a shot at winning Oscar gold. The road to these well-deserved accolades has been a long one, as the actor says that he tried to get Dallas Buyers Club made for years, with financing and finding the perfect director being the central issues. But McConaughey was ready for a challenge. After a string of roles in romantic comedies and big-budget action films, he wanted acting jobs that would test his skills to the limit — and a star saying “no” to a Hollywood paycheck can be very risky.
“Dallas Buyers Club got made by putting on the blinders and just doing it,” says McConaughey. “Eight days before we were about to shoot, the director calls me and says, ‘We don’t have the financing. [I] don’t think we can make this movie on this budget. We’re supposed to shoot in New Orleans next Tuesday, but I’ll be there ready to shoot if you will.’ And I said, ‘I’ll be there.’ So we just said, ‘Let’s go.’ And the rest of the financing sort of caught up with us. The motivation was there and this movie was going to get made.”
There’s only one word for shooting pace of Dallas Buyers Club: fast. The film was shot in less than a month. “There was never any place to kick my feet up and take a rest,” McConaughey recalls. “We went into that first day, and honestly it was 27 days later and they’d say, ‘We’re wrapped. We’re done,’ [and] I was already going, ‘OK, what’s the next scene?’ [But] I would rather shoot fast like we did. I mean it was hell-bent for leather. Like I said no grip department, and the movie looks wonderful for a guy with a handheld and not a damn light in sight. It was a heavy-duty, independent, guerilla filmmaking experience.”
Portraying Woodroof made an impact on McConaughey before the film was in preproduction, as Dallas Buyers Club is a heavily character-driven piece that involved a ton of work five months before the shoot. “I can tell you a changing moment for me was getting Ron Woodroof’s diary from his family,” reports McConaughey. “What that did was give me Ron’s monologue. And for me, if I get the monologue for a character then I can have the dialogue, so to speak…. Once I got his diary it was like I got a little insight into who we are and who we portray ourselves to be.”
It’s been a long haul for Dallas Buyers Club, as a film featuring strong subject matter, like AIDS, can seem a bit morbid. But bringing Woodroof’s story to the big screen was important to the director and actors, as it shows strength of a man who refuses to give up on himself. After its release in 2013, Dallas Buyers Club is now an indie darling that has received rave reviews. “Whether you were there or whether you give a damn or not, [the film] is a good piece of entertainment,” says McConaughey.