Matthew McConaughey Recalls Learning His Father Passed While Filming 'Dazed And Confused'

Rose Burke

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  • Matthew McConaughey steals the show when filming Dazed and Confused despite having a small role.
  • Castmembers had already formed a bond by the time McConaughey got on set and didn't really click with him at first.
  • McConaughey learned of his father's death while working on the film, but was asleep when his mom tried to get in touch.

It has been 27 years since the cult classic film Dazed and Confused was released and it still remains a fan favorite all these years later. For many, this film is a reminder of days from their youths when being wreckless was a daily pursuit. Even those in the cast have memories on set where they got so high and drunk they had trouble filming scenes.

For many of them, this movie represents the launching point of their careers. After its release, actors like Ben Affleck, Adam Goldberg, and Milla Jovovich went on to find fame, however, there is one clear breakout star of this film.

While it's hard to imagine a time when Matthew McConaughey wasn't a household name, he was fairly unknown when he walked on the set of Dazed and Confused. Since then, he has become a massive movie star who has been quite open about his personal life over the years, especially about his father's death. According to writer Melissa Maerz's new book "Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused," McConaughey learned of his father's passing just a few days into shooting the film.

Matthew McConaughey Didn't Fit In

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While it's hard to imagine McConaughey not "fitting in" at any point in his life, according to his co-stars, that's exactly how things were when he arrived on set to portray party boy David Wooderson. At the time, the rest of the cast had already spent a significant amount of time together, forming unbreakable bonds.

Joey Lauren Adams, who played senior cheerleader Simone Kerr, recalled her first impression of McConaughey on set saying:

"I didn’t know what to think of Matthew. He wasn’t staying at the hotel, so I didn’t get to know him that well. The whole cast was there for two months and got really close, like family. And Matthew didn’t feel like a part of that to me."

Adams wasn't the only one who didn't see McConaughey as part of the gang. Adam Goldberg, who played the geeky Mike Newhouse, thought the new actor was nothing more than a bartender on a power trip, saying:

"He directed me in the last scene we shot together, like he was telling us what to do. I was just like, 'Oh, I’ll let this local have his little power trip.'"
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Eventually, McConaughey found his in. The movie was filmed in Austin, and as a Texas local, he knew where all the young people were hanging out. He was 23-years-old at the time but was still working on an undergraduate degree. Like his character, he was often spending time with a younger crowd.

Cole Hauser, who portrayed football player Benny O'Donnell, recalls how McConaughey got them all out of their hotel rooms to river tubing:

"Matthew was like, 'C’mon guys, get out of your hotel room, let me take you down to the river.' You’d have these tubes, and you’d just throw a big cooler of beer in the middle, and you’d just float. It’s muggy and nasty in Austin during the summer, so to have a cool spring with a beer in your hand and beautiful girls cruising by? It was heaven on earth."

It's no wonder the cast often described their time filming as a summer camp!

McConaughey's Mom Calls

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Dazed and Confused takes place over the span of roughly 24-hours, so half of the movie takes place at night. This meant that actors would often be filming in the evenings and sleeping throughout the day. It was during one of these sleep sessions that McConaughey's mother called with heartbreaking news.

The cast discusses what that day was like in the book, "Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused" as well as the moments that followed. Few people know that McConaughey had been on set for just a few days when it happened.

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Monnie Wills, McConaughey's good friend, remembers the day vividly:

"Matthew was shooting nights, sleeping during the day. His mom tried to call us and we didn’t answer the phone because it was early. We might even have turned the ringers off. His girlfriend Toni came to the house and came to my room because she couldn’t bring herself to tell Matthew what had happened. She was in tears. I could barely get it out of her. She said, 'I can’t be the one to tell him.' So I went down and said, 'Matthew, something’s happened. You need to call your mom.'”

As anyone could imagine, the actor was jarred by the news. In dealing with his grief (in true McConaughey fashion) he took a friend to a strip club just to have some company. The friend hilariously describes sitting across from an emotional McConaughey watching naked women dance around them as "weird." It was likely a great distraction for the actor at the moment though!

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"Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused" by Melissa Maerz | Image source: Amazon

Jason London, who played the rebellious football player Randall "Pink" Floyd, remembers meeting Jim McConaughey and described as "your typical John Wayne Texas cowboy." He also mentioned that he kept tanks and rocket launchers at home as if he was preparing for the world to end. Fortunately, it hasn't just yet.

The funeral was "an Irish wake" where everyone was telling stories and "roasting the snot out of him" according to McConaughey. One of these stories was how exactly his father passed.

"My dad died making love to my mother. Six-thirty on a Monday morning. My dad had always told me and my two brothers, 'Boy, when I go, I’m going to be making love to your mother,' and he did. Talk about a badass! The guy called his shot about how he was leaving this earth and did it."

Apparently, McConaughey's mom went into further detail at the service, informing everyone that her late husband "did get to finish" before he died. (Good to know!) It's clear that anyone who knew the man felt that he went out exactly how he wanted to, and very few people can say that.

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Despite the fact that directors were willing to work with him on a new schedule, McConaughey was back on set the very next day. He was just 23-years-old but was able to maintain a positive perspective on the situation. While his father never got to see the film or how his son's career progressed, McConaughey was satisfied that his dad was around to see the direction his life was taking.

"It was very cool that I had already started the film when my dad passed away. He got to be alive for what ended up being what I do with my career. There’s grace in that for me."

You can buy "Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused" now on Amazon and get a whole lot more insight into all of the craziness that went on behind the scenes of this epic film!

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