By this time next week Matthew McConaughey might have an Oscar. That’ll likely sound strange if you still think of him as David Wooderson, the ambiguously aged keg party enthusiast from Dazed and Confused, or as a naked conga drummer. (Let the record state that MM still plays, he’s just more careful about closing his windows these days.) Over the last 18 months, McConaughey has delivered the best work of his career, earning a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award and proving that it’s never too late to expect the unexpected–even from a guy whose personal mantra is just to keep on livin’.
McConaughey took nearly three years off–and after The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, who wouldn’t want to reassess?–before beginning a career renaissance with moves towards smaller, smarter parts and fewer big budget features. Agent Jim Toth (Reese Witherspoon‘s husband) helped fight to get McConaughey roles like the charmingly sinister Dallas in Magic Mike, which led to his career making turn as Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club, and soon enough Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar. Wait a minute, who is this new dramatic powerhouse and what has he done with the ageless party boy who runs shirtless with Lance Armstrong?! He’s still there; to help with the transition, McConaughey even took at least three roles in which he was required to wear a cowboy hat.
In honor of one of the coolest dudes in Hollywood’s big year, let’s take a look at some of the strategic career moves that helped transform him for stoner frat bro to award season juggernaut. You can still enjoy the magic of McConaughey and Kate Hudson in How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days (and even Fool’s Gold) but at least promise us you’ll check out Mud, OK?