Posted: Thursday September 29, 2005 11:41AM; Updated: Thursday September 29, 2005 2:23PM
Last week, SI writer Richard Deitsch interviewed actor Matthew McConaughey for the magazine's Q&A. The actor, a diehard Texas fan, plays an ex-college football star-turned sports handicapper in Two for the Money, which opens Oct. 7.
SI: If I'm a gambling man, do I bet on Texas to finally beat OU? McConaughey: Yes, you do. It's time. OU is a team that is trying to stop us from doing what we believe we can do, and that's being the best. This year we'll get past them.
SI: As a proud Texas alum, state your case for Longhorns quarterback Vince Young as the Heisman Trophy winner? McConaughey: You want to talk about dynamic players? Besides his physical attributes and how it looks as if he's gained four yards and then you find out he's gained 18, the main thing with him is his will. You saw it in the Rose Bowl and against Ohio State. When there's an unsuccessful play -- incompletion, interception, fumble -- his head starts to rise, and not in a cocky way. He believes. There's a difference in thinking you are a champion and knowing that you are. And the guy knows he is.
SI: Before Texas played Michigan in the Rose Bowl, you grabbed Vince in the tunnel and offered some final words. What were they? McConaughey: I said It's a perfect time. It's a perfect time.
SI: Longhorns coach Mack Brown said Texas has adopted you as the team's pseudo-celebrity. Among your honors, where does this rank? McConaughey: Well, I tell you what: I'm a Longhorn. I'm a celebrity. I'm a McConaughey. I went to school there. I've become friends with him. I met a lot of the kids and it was great to talk to them. When I go down there I always think it had just been two years ago when I graduated. But it was 15. I've been there as much as I can and tried to stay in touch with them as much as possible and I love hearing how things are going. Because I was there when times weren't as good and we weren't winning as much.
SI: Where did you watch the UT-Ohio State game? McConaughey: I was in Austin at a great sports bar, the Fox and Hound, with about 500 Texas fans.
SI: You want USC, don't you? McConaughey: That's the ideal. USC is an awesome team. The one thing I hope for them -- Matt Leinhart -- is that they stay healthy. I hope we both go undefeated because it would be great to play each other undefeated. Everybody healthy. Everybody at the top of their game.
SI: Your team has a much harder road, though? McConaughey: What I am hoping and seeing is you can either think you'll be a national champion, or you actually believe you'll be a national champion. Vincent Young is a guy who is a champion and actually believes it, and you are starting to see the team start to really believe. The Ohio State win was such a huge game, especially to win there. You see people starting to believe. The system believes. You don't get by OU if you are so worried about OU. The thing about OU is: Yeah, OU is a great team, but they are in our way. The Red Sox didn't get by the Yankees until they quit worrying about the Yankees. The Sacramento Kings didn't get by the Lakers because they were always worried about getting by the Lakers. The last five years, hey, that's been the rhythm. OU has just had our number. They just plain-out beat us.
SI: How does a kid from Texas become a Washington Redskins fan? McConaughey: I'll tell you how. I grew up in Texas. Born in Uvalde and raised in Longview, which is two hours east of Dallas. So when you are six years old why do you start liking a team? Well, when your favorite food is hamburger and they have a linebacker, No. 55, named Chris Hanberger. And then you find yourself up late watching Westerns and rooting for the Indians instead of the Cowboys. So you become a Redskin fan. Then you have people like John Riggins who becomes your favorite running back. Everybody in town loved Tony Dorsett, so you have to stand up for Riggins. I was at the last game at RFK, the first game at Fed Ex and the first game at Jack Kent Cooke.
SI: Do you gamble on football? McConaughey: I've gone to Vegas and had some good weekends there. I play around a little bit. I don't like to play if I can't watch the game.
SI: What's the most you've won? McConaughey: I don't play that big. I never got into quad digits. Probably 15 years ago when I didn't have as much money as I have now, my brother loved this Raiders game on a Monday night, so we flew to Vegas and watched it. He loaned me money and said it was a lock. And it was.
SI: How much does Al Pacino know about football? McConaughey: We didn't talk much football, but I think I know more about football than he does.
SI: Should sports betting be legal? McConaughey: Hell, I don't know if it should be legal or not. I'm not the hugest fan of casinos in certain places. I don't think it's the most constructive thing for people who don't have money. A lot of the people who buy lottery tickets are the people who can't afford the dollar. But you want that big win. I don't have a real opinion if it should be legal or not. You can go to Vegas and it is a great place to do that for a couple of days. I know some people who have quit their jobs because they thought this would be there livelihood.
I don't know many people who ended up doing that for a livelihood very long, but that buzz when they were in the know and could tell the future. That's it. And when you win, you knew it. You saw the future. It was so clear. You lose? It must have been a conspiracy.
SI: What kind of research did you do for the role? McConaughey: We watched a lot of shows. You get all different kinds of salesmen. You got the science guy who has his system that comes out of the computer rankings. You got the guy who screams. You got the guy who says 'Four gold stars turn into five gold star turns into six gold stars turn into a diamond. I found out stuff when I called all kinds of different services. You would hear somebody at the same 900 number say 'We got Philadelphia minus 6. It's a lock. My five star pick of the week.' You call the same number back and get a different guy and Philadelphia is playing Atlanta and you get Atlanta is the lock. They want to make money on the juice, in the middle. I heard all different types of salesman and what I basically ended up finding out was from my guy, Brandon Lane/John Anthony, he didn't want to be a salesman. He said: You want to know what my sales pitch is? I went 82 percent last week. There's my sales pitch.
SI: You can play any athlete in a feature film: Choose one? McConaughey: A football player or golfer. But there will be a great story about Lance Armstrong sometime and there's going to be a great story about Brett Favre sometime. Those guys are still living their story. And we are watching the living legend of Roger Clemens.
SI: You love golf. What's your handicap these days? McConaughey: I'm a 12. I played high school golf and I have been down to a 4 before. I just have not had the time the last three years, because I have been working . But I look forward to working on my game. It's always right there under the surface.
SI: Best athletic feat? McConaughey: I've had four holes in one.
SI: At legit courses? McConaughey: Hell, yeah they were legit. I'm not talking about a par 3 course. I mean, they were par-three but they were legit courses. My first two holes in one were 11 days apart. Then I had one on an Australian course in Sydney in a night golf game. A 148-yarder with a nine iron. Then I had another one in Houston, a 156-yarder, in a tournament. An eight iron that one-hopped, spun back, and boom, disappeared.