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REIGN OF FIRE - Q&A with Matthew McConaughey


How did you decide on the look for Van Zan in REIGN OF FIRE?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Actually the idea came to me in a dream. Every other character I played in a movie had some sort of a biography to look at. But playing a dragon slayer in 2025 meant that there was no research I could do. It was all about imagination. And I dreamed about the look. I woke with a picture in my mind of a guy with a bald head who looked like a bullet. Then I grew the beard for eight months. To get in shape I went to my ranch for two months. I ran behind a truck. I worked out with weights. I was running four miles a day and started boxing, which I maintained in Dublin at a gym. I also wrestled with cows at the ranch. It was a blast. We have about 70 cows and I'd throw my shoulder into them. They don't bite too much. I'd try to get them in headlocks and stuff like that. It was fun and doing it got me in shape.

Once you had the shaved head, beard and muscles did it create any kind of reaction when people saw you for the first time?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I had a few interesting reactions. It scared quite a few people. A few people didn't like it at all. A woman who was very close to me wouldn't talk to me for a couple of days because she thought I was evil looking. My mother asked what happened to those beautiful locks. I was lucky when I shaved my head that I had a decent shape to it. After that it was just a matter of getting some sun on the top of it.

What about the incredible tattoos that you have in the movie? Did they make you think about having a tattoo for real?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: The tattoos were an idea that I came up with and worked on with a guy in a Dublin tattoo parlour. The tattoos are actually two dragons that wrap round my shoulder and come down to my navel. It was something very tribal that I was going for. They were painted on every morning and it took about two hours. Yes it has tempted me to get a tattoo. I decided that I'd see if I still wanted one a year later. I do and I have it in mind but it's a secret. My scars are my tattoos. I have 78 stitches on my head where my nephew ran over me with a jet ski and cut me open pretty well when I was 14. I have another scar on top of my foot from a dog fight when I was a kid. I have another on my backside but I better not tell the story of how I got that.

What damage did you do to yourself and Christian Bale in the very realistic fight scene in REIGN OF FIRE?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I didn't do much damage to myself. I had some bumps and bruises. The head butt on Christian was real. It was accidental and happened in the heat of the moment and put a nice egg on Christian's forehead. Good on him though for staying in there and finishing the scene. I was saying 'cut' because I was worried. But he kept on going. The fun was trying to make the fight look as real as possible. Our knuckles and knees were bloodied.

Have you now set yourself up as an action hero to take over from the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: They have done a good job of setting the standard for action heroes. There are younger guys coming up now. This was my first try at action. It's fun because you get to be an athlete and to throw things around. I had a blast. I'd love to dive back into it again.

Your father seems to have been a big influence on your life?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Yes. He passed away in August of 1992 when I was about to turn 22. Pop set very simple rules - don't lie and don't say I can't. The only time we ever got the disciplined hand of our father was if we lied and you know what...we deserved that. When he walked down the hallway you would hear his bones cracking. He said if we wanted to play football - he had been a line backer - we could but that we should remember that we could hear his legs and back. His big things were respect for elders and for women. It is something that has been ingrained in me. He said if you don't lie you don't leave crumbs.

What was the reaction of your parents when you told them you wanted to become an actor?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I was headed towards law school at the University of Texas and I was fretting over this phone call to my parents. This was one of the great moments. There was a four second pause when I told my dad and then he said...'Don't half ass it.' That was it. He was behind me 100 per cent.

What's your career philosophy?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: Do things that you give a damn about. Be the lean horse for the long ride. I figure I am in the third round of a 15 round fight.

QUESTION: When you were filming REIGN OF FIRE in Ireland did you have any time to relax and sample the local customs?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I did discover the delights of Guinness but I had to watch it because I had to stay in shape and a few pints will put it on your belly. My favourite thing about Ireland was the people. I love music and I would play drums with a few bands in bars. I enjoyed just sitting in a pub and hearing stories and having a laugh. 'You there, you with the hair on!' That's still my favourite way of getting someone's attention in a bar.

It's been said that you have plans to make a children's movie. What can you tell about that?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: I'm keeping it pretty well under wraps. But I can tell you that it's a fairy tale with magic reality and it is about a little boy who is a fisherman. It's about his dreams. There are a couple of really nice morals to the tale. I'm going to be writer/producer/director on that but right now I've got to get the thing written.

Question and answer text copyright Buena Vista International