What do you want to be when you grow up?
Answers ranged from music producers to firemen to soldiers to doctors. Of course, a number weren’t sure what career path they’d pursue.
“It’s OK not to know,” McConaughey said. “I didn’t.”
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That, precisely, is why McConaughey started his foundation a decade ago. He wanted to impact high school students, steer them on the right track before it might be too late at a critical juncture in their life.
Fast forward 10 years and the foundation is going strong, thanks to partnerships with organizations such as the Texas Rangers. The Rangers and McConaughey’s foundation are entering their eighth year as partners, and have impacted a number of students.
“This is the bridge to independence. This is the years where you now become an adult so to speak,” said McConaughey, the Academy Award-winning actor from Texas. “I didn’t know if it would completely work, I believed it would, but it’s resonated. We have alumni coming back 10 years later going, ‘I remember when I was in this curriculum and I was off track.’ Now I just graduated from a Division I college and I didn’t even know if I was going to graduate high school. That means it’s working.”
McConaughey opened the event at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy by addressing the Sam Houston students separately. One of their teachers who helped initiate the just keep livin’ curriculum at Sam Houston, Ms. Rebecca Pfleger, passed away in January.
McConaughey used that as an avenue for the students to open up about the struggles and obstacles that come in one’s life.
“A lot of our program is seeing the bright side of things, but also not to just brush over the hardships,” McConaughey said. “Why is this part of my life tough?
“This whole class is dealing with that. What makes sense? That [life] isn’t fair, so we talked about how that’s hard, but also talked about what you can get from that. Can you respect your life every day a little more because of that, which tragedy can help us with sometimes.”
McConaughey went on to talk to the entire group and shared his story of how he made it in Hollywood. It wasn’t easy, of course, and it’s arguably harder to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry.
McConaughey recalled a nervous conversation he had with his father about forgoing law school to pursue film.
“I called my dad and said, ‘I want to go to film school,’” McConaughey said. “There was a five-second pause. He said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, don’t half ass it. Go do it and do it well.’”
McConaughey has done it well, becoming one of the biggest movie stars. But McConaughey made it clear he earned his status over the years, nothing has been given to him.
But, yes, it feels good to be known as one of the best, McConaughey said smiling.
“It does feel good,” McConaughey said. “Part of it has been right place, right time, but also know I’ve worked hard. I’ve been very fortunate, but I can measure where I’ve gotten better.”
McConaughey told the group that it took him 15 years to “figure it out” as far as making it in the movie business.
The most entertaining part of the day came during the question-and-answer session. Among the more notable questions McConaughey fielded --
▪ One high school student asked why “The Dark Tower” wasn’t good, drawing laughter from the room. McConaughey said arts is subjective, unlike sports where the winner is determined by the results of a game.
“The 100-yard dash, the first one across the finish line is the winner. It’s clear,” McConaughey said. “Art is not like that. It’s open to interpretation. I’ve never done anything that was unanimously, ‘We love it.’”
▪ On being famous, McConaughey said “it feels good,” joking back-stage passes are nice. He shared a story about how before his first major role in “A Time to Kill,” he’d walk by 400 people in Santa Monica and only four noticed him.
“One dude liked my shoes, and three girls thought I was cute,” McConaughey said, smiling.
After that, though, it changed to where 396 out of 400 noticed him. It’s been that way since.
▪ Asked his favorite movie, McConaughey said the 2012 film “Mud.”
▪ McConaughey talked about his first major role in “A Time to Kill,” saying the final scene of his closing argument required just one take. Said McConaughey: “Some of the best scenes were one take.”
▪ McConaughey said there’s only one person he’s worked with that he didn’t like. He refused to say who, although said he and Woody Harrelson are close friends and is among his favorites to work with.
▪ McConaughey described his next film, “The Beach Bum,” as a wild comedy, and another to be released later this year, “Bush,” as a mafia comedy.
▪ McConaughey has made headlines in the sports world as Texas’ “Minister of Culture.” He called college football his favorite sport to watch, and golf his favorite to play. In his golfing heyday, McConaughey said he was a four-handicap and also has four hole-in-ones in his life.
▪ McConaughey said he’s been chosen to introduce the Class 6A, Division II state football champion Longview Lobos on the state capitol steps on today.
▪ McConaughey would like to see his just keep livin’ program continue to grow in the next decade to include all 50 states, and possibly expand internationally. He said the foundation has implemented a successful program at 32 of 33 schools. “That’s a pretty good batting average,” he said.