The actor dissects his character, gambling and the movie's 43 day shoot

It is every actor's dream to work with great actors. Those actor's who have helped define and shape cinema for decades. Matthew McConaughey got this chance when he was cast opposite Al Pacino in D.J. Caruso's gambling saga, Two For the Money. As Brandon Lang, McConaughey plays a young "sports adviser" who is taken under the wing of Walter Abrams (Al Pacino). Everything is great at first because Brandon is winning and making everyone a lot of money. Suddenly, he starts a slide that eventually turns into a complete freefall.

Two For the Money is a very tightly constructed character study, and when Matthew McConaughey sat down to discuss both his role and the film, it was apparent that working on this movie, he, like his character Brandon Lang, had truly gained something from his experience in that world.

In terms of Brandon's rise and fall, do you see any parallels to that and Hollywood?

Matthew McConaughey: No, I didn't. I was asked that question earlier and I never even thought about it until today. What I saw was a guy who was a winner and all of the sudden starts losing. That's where the drama was for this character for me. What do you do if you're a winner? Not that you think you can win, you are a winner. And you all of the sudden are not winning. What do you do? You go back to the world where it all made sense when you were winning. And of all sudden you find out that that world wasn't real. That was all an illusion. Uh-oh, you go to people that have kind of become your family, and you find out that that rug has kind of been pulled out from under you too. To top that off, you don't only need to win to get somebody's money back, you need to win to survive and help your family survive, because some of the people that lost the money took it real personal, and went to make threats on your family.

What is Brandon addicted to?

Matthew McConaughey: Brandon's not addicted to anything. He's actually the only one in the story who's not addicted. Maybe there's some other people, but... he's not. That's partially where a lot of the drama comes from, too. He's in a world with some addicted people. And a business where people get addicted but he's not addicted. And all the success he gets, I don't personally see him getting corrupted by the addiction. He's a winner. He's winning. I wanted to root for the guy to keep winning. Is he addicted to winning? I never thought about it like that, but he's addicted enough to do whatever he can to keep winning. And that's a healthy thing... that he's not addicted to something else, that he was losing life from. That's just kind of who he was.

When you were preparing for the role did you choose to meet the real Brandon early on? Or, did you want to wait?

Matthew McConaughey: I did meet Brandon early on and I had many talks with him. I also did a lot of my own homework. Whether it was the football stuff, the actual playing of it, or calling a lot of these services on my own. And hearing different sales pitches, and types and Brandon's... there's all different kinds of ways you do want to hear that certainty, in that uncertain world. And that's one of the lines in about the whole racket, yeah know? If the phone is ringing, that person on the other end of the line is looking for direction. So you're already there. There's some great stuff in the movie about, "the person's already calling, TELL them what to do." As for what Brandon's pitch would be? Don't be the sell, sell, sell guy. He just says, "Hey man, I'm gonna tell you the truth. Here's what I know because I've played the game. I love the game. Now also, as well, both are true, if you want to make some money call the number at the bottom of the screen, lets do it." He didn't see it as an act.

Do you gamble?

Matthew McConaughey: I play around... my friends and I get a lot of grudge matches going. As we call it, we like to "buy a ticket to the game." So we can watch every play and say, "I told you so," or blame it on something. If you win, you get to talk noise for the rest of the week. If you lose you get to talk about how you got screwed up. It's fun.

What was it like working Al Pacino?

Matthew McConaughey: It's like dancing, man. Dancing with a great partner. It's fun. It's free. It's unexpected at all times. He gets on waves and he rides them all the way, sometimes they land in a perfect spot. Sometimes they don't but he rides it. Everytime. That's one of the things I loved watching from the side. And also working with him, you give him something and you catch a wave. You don't know where it's going but while you're doing it you're not trying to stay ahead. And if you hit it, then you kind of have that feeling afterwards like, "Okay, I don't know what that was but it worked."

Did you see Brandon and John Anthony as two different characters?

Matthew McConaughey: I did not. The packaging's a little different but the product's the same. Brandon Lang that's who he is. Call him John Anthony, call him whatever... that's Brandon Lang. He's got slicked back hair, talking a little quicker but he's still a winner. He's not addicted to anything. He's not lying, cheating, stealing. He's a winner. He's a good dude. I never chose to see that as black and white. I saw it more as an evolution of how life could be.

Did Jeremy Piven's character in the movie start losing because yours was winning?

Matthew McConaughey: I never thought of that. It's not a science. You go through the evolutions of hot and cold streaks. With John Anthony not only was he hot, he was REALLY hot. The hottest anyone's ever been for the longest amount of time, arguably. 82% winner, what? That's major against the line. And he sustained it for a time. I didn't not help him. Was I gonna tell Walter, "No, don't put me up front"? He asked me for picks and I didn't know. He got paranoid and thought I knew. I'll share my picks. Also, I'm not gonna sit there, come up with all the ideas and do the work and just hand them out. I'm not a fool. That's my job security, I'm there making money. I've got things to do and dreams to dream, to do with that money. I had mouths to feed and people to take care of back home. That would have been foolish, but when he asked I really didn't know.

Is football your game of choice?

Matthew McConaughey: I sure do like college football. And I like pro football too but I do like college football. And I like baseball. In the last four years I've started getting more into baseball and really appreciate the game.

How do you deal with the different level's of temptation in your level of stardom?

Matthew McConaughey: Some things, you just like what you like and you stick to it. Other things, you like what you like, but the things that come with celebrity or success comes more options. There's was nine, all of the sudden there's ninety-nine things to say "yes" to, which you didn't have the option to say "yes" to yesterday. On one level there's the thought, "I've never had the chance. Lets try it out. See what they're talking about." No on comes out and says, "This is gonna be offered, don't take it." Their advice is, "There it is. Be cool. Check it out, don't forget yourself and go into it." Sometimes you may get into it and go, "This is great, this is neat." And you may wake up the next morning, or you may wake up the next year and go, "This is not feeding me. I get it. It was hot. It was fun. It was exciting but it doesn't go along with who I am. That was Halloween. That was dress up for a time. I checked it out. Cool. Not for me." I've always just had, at even not the best times, I've always known that whether I even realized it or not, I've got a lot of self respect.

Do you feel liked you have an addictive personality?

Matthew McConaughey: I know I can. That just comes from me, if I'm doing something I do like to take it to the limit. I've got a high ceiling. A wide threshold for seeing what those boundaries are for myself. I'm very resilient inside. I find things that I like and do and boy, I do like to stick to them. I'm not necessarily a guy who gets addicted to more of certain things, but if I find something I like to do, I like to stick to it.

What was it like making this movie with a 43 day shoot?

Matthew McConaughey: It was ideal, man. Sometimes you can have a twenty day shoot, lets go to the low end and to the high end, where you may not even have time to get the coverage you need. Other times, you can be on a very big budget where it's all preparation time. There's so much sitting around and waiting to go shoot, and time is not as precious. This worked... from the story, to the work that was done in preproduction, to all the group cast together, the crew, the director, me, Al, Rene, everybody, that we showed up and we were immediately doing the work. We weren't showing up going, "So how do we do this?" We had already done that process. So there's a vitality that comes with that. That has more of that independent flavor, where time is real precious. So, lets get straight to the work. Lets sort of rehearse on film because we can start shooting. There's an aliveness that comes from that.

I think that adds to the dance because everything's not overly rehearsed. Everything's not too precious, you know? There's time to breathe. D.J. really gave us room to breathe and move, and see where scenes were going and what they're supposed to be via the characters; before necessarily setting up and constructing shots, before you even know where the characters are going. I loved that. I loved working on this thing.

What's next for you?

Matthew McConaughey: I've got one called Failure to Launch coming out, I think, in March. I just finished that. I don't know what my next film is.

Two For the Money hits theaters Friday October 7th, 2005.