Matthew McConaughey and Jeff Bridges Talk the Challenges of Making Acting Look Easy

Matthew McConaughey and Jeff Bridges sat down for a chat for Variety’s Actors on Actors.” For more, tune in with the fifth season premieres on Jan. 3 on PBS SoCal. 

Matthew McConaughey: Jeff Bridges. How are you, man? I feel like I met you — or at least we’ve hung out many times. But then if I look at my calendar of 47 years, this is our first time.

Jeff Bridges: But don’t you find that with actors? I don’t know what is it — a club, a fraternity, a sorority, or whatever you want to call it. Not all actors, but most, you just link up because you have so much in common.

McConaughey: Maybe we were brothers from another mother somewhere, another life.

And I do feel that there is a fraternity with actors. But you, in particular and specifically, I felt like, “I know that guy, I met him.” I’ve also grown up watching your movies, all the way back to “Against All Odds” and “King Kong.” Probably part of the reason I felt a kindred spirit to you is I played a character early in my career — first film — a guy named David Wooderson in “Dazed and Confused.”

Art Streiber for Variety

Bridges: Yeah, “Dazed and Confused.”

McConaughey: The Dude goes with you. Some people come up to me and say the first part of my “Dazed” line, and I’ll say the second half back. And those are my favorite fans. And people will come up, obviously, to you, quote the Dude and stuff like that all the time. How does that feel?

Bridges: Oh, well, I love that, man! I’m such a fan of that movie. What a good movie. Whether I was in it or not, it would probably be one of my favorite movies. So any kind of recognition from that movie, I never get tired of it. Shit, I have a band, man, we’re called the Abiders!

McConaughey: So not only are you putting up with it, you’re going, “Let’s turn it up!”

Bridges: I had my Beatles moment, man. We went to a Lebowski Fest, and we showed up and played. That’s my Beatles moment, playing to a sea of Dudes and bowling pins, you know?

McConaughey: I was damn sure that was going to be your answer — that you were just going to go, “Oh, I love it!” But that wouldn’t be everybody’s answer, you know? There are some people that go, “I’m tired of them asking me to play my greatest hits.”

Bridges: It’s such a good movie. Those guys. This is the kind of thing I admire in acting or directing — where you don’t see the effort; it’s just like falling off a log. It’s bold. Your performance in “Gold” is quite bold, but it seems like it’s no big deal, you know?

McConaughey: Tell me about that, making it look easy. Because you make it look really easy. I’ve heard people tell me, “McConaughey, you make it look easy. You look like you rolled out of bed, didn’t prepare, and just walked on set.” And I know that I can’t do that. I know it takes a whole lot of work for me to make it look easy.

Bridges: One of my rules — the way I approach most stuff — is I like to be prepared, man. I like to know my lines. I’m doing this movie “Iron Man,” you know, with Downey? And Jon Favreau is directing. Marvel’s first superhero movie, and the script’s not right.

We worked on it for a couple of weeks, got it kind of polished up pretty good. We’re going to go to work the next day, and we get a call from the Marvel guys, who say, “No, this won’t fly, what you guys have written here.” So it turned out that many times we’d show up for the day’s work not knowing what we were going to shoot. All the guys are in the studio tapping their foot, looking at the watch, and we’re in my trailer trying to figure out our lines. And it’s driving me crazy, until I made this little adjustment in my head. And that adjustment was, “Jeff, just relax. You’re in a $200 student film. Have fun, just relax.” And I loved the movie! It was great. But it took me a while. I was pissed because … you talk about preparation? That effortlessness often takes a lot of effort, you know?

McConaughey: I had this idea that I need to go back like I did in my first film, where I just knew my man, and I would show up and just play the circumstances — improvise. So I said, “I’m not going to read the script. Just tell me the character, tell me the situation, and I’ll show up, and I’ll just react and do what I would do. So I show up on set, we’re about to do the scene, and I said, “You know what? Since I know my man, let me just have a peek at these sides real quick.” I pick it up: four-page monologue … in Spanish.

Bridges: Oh god.

McConaughey: And I said, “Can you give me 12 minutes?” For whatever reason I thought that’s enough time to learn four pages of dialogue in Spanish and not piss off the crew. It was not enough time to learn it in Spanish. I remember that day going, “Whoa, McConaughey, no — to relax, you don’t not prepare; to relax, you go learn it, so you can get there and throw it away.”

Click here for the full video.

More Film

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content