Dallas Buyers Club QA Jared Leto on his indy film heartbreak and McConaughey on shaking up his career, he hasn't ruled out Rom-coms but give the man his Oscar already

Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Friday, November 29, 2013

Dallas Buyers Club QALast week I was fortunate to go along to a screening of Jean-Marc Vallée's phenomenal  Dallas Buyers Club and QA with it's leads Jared Leto (and a virtual) Matthew McConaughey about their Spirit Award nominated performances in the Dallas Buyers Club.

The Dallas Buyers Club has been one of my most anticipated films of the year. After being moved by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée's earlier haunting and original relationship drama - Café de Flore. I was enthralled and obsessed with his ability to create a film that captures the feeling of loss and new love so poignantly. His adult take on the concept of soulmates, destiny & love as well as his sublime use of music to blur the lines between emotion and narration make Café de Flore transcend the screen.

Café de Flore stayed with me long after watching it and I was looking forward to Vallée's next venture. When it was announced that Vallée would be collaborating with Matthew McConaughey who is currently outputting what must surely be career defining performances, as audiences rediscover his depth of talent - the combination would surely give birth to something special.

Well last week I went along to an early screening of Dallas Buyers Club and a chat hosted by Edith Bowman with stars Jared Leto, who is on tour with his band Thirty Seconds To Mars and Matthew McConaughey who Skyped in from his trailer on the set of Chris Nolan's Interstellar.

The Establishing Shot: DALLAS BUYERS CLUB TRAILER - 7 FEB 2014

I'll have some thoughts on Dallas Buyers Club up shortly, suffice to say Vallée's almost perfect and absorbing film is in my top 5 for the year, or possibly in my top 10 for 2014 as its only released in the UK next February. It is an outstanding film with engaging characters. Even though this is the third McConaughey film in my Top 10 for the year - it's worth noting that I'm not a particular fan of the guy but his performances over the last two years in films like; Killer Joe, Magic Mike, The Paperboy and Mud have been charismatic, bold, engaging and central to each of those films success for me. McConaughey's performance in Dallas Buyers Club as the embodiment of the flawed outlaw cowboy spirit beats out both his outstanding performances in The Paperboy and Mud for me.

I was really keen  keen to go along to the QA in hopes of finding out more about the genesis of Matthew McConaughey's shift as an actor from, arguably, middle of the road Rom-com lead to one of the most electrifying performers on screen. Was this all part of a meticulous long term career plan?

He is one of those rare breed - a bona fide Actor. There are few performers within our generation that have been able to switch from “matinee idol” style actor to serious performer with such seeming ease and success. He is clearly cut from the same cloth as a long line of talented actors that are the backbone of the entertainment business. All of which does beg the question where next for McConaughey?

Whilst I didn't get all the answers I was looking for both Leto and McConaughey were open and covered much:

I asked Matthew McConaughey:  Your career is enjoying a really incredible renaissance at the moment and I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your shift from your previous work to these more serious roles and would you return to the Rom-com genre?

Answering your questions back to front. [Regarding Rom-coms] Yea, sure could do! I sure enjoyed those, you know, while I did them.

Let that take me to your first question- the shift was I was just looking to shake up my relationship with my career. I was very happy with how my career was going I was happy with the work I was doing I did start to feel like some of the work I was doing, some of the scripts scripts I was getting whether it be a romantic comedy or action comedy I started to feel like oh I could do that two weeks from now.

That wasn't a bad feeling to have but I questioned it. And I said you know what I would like to be a little scared of something I would like to look at something that I don't know what I'm going to do with it.

I would like to really have to get inventive and create some character, and really find something I can really hang my hat purely on humanity and stick to it. You know, Romantic Comedies are built to be light they are built for a certain buoyancy. So my life at the time has been extremely adventurous and I have had real love and real  laughter and real pain and real joy.  And in  Romantic comedies there is a certain ceiling and a floor that you can't necessary love as hard, or hate as hard, or have as much pain because you hit the ceiling of the romantic comedy but in drama, like some of the ones I have been doing the ceiling, the floor was my own and in many ways that was a higher ceiling or lower floor so there is more breadth, more bandwidth for those emotions in certain of those dramas.

So that was the shift I just wanted to shake up my relationship with my career and like I said it was going fine and I just wanted to shake it up and thought about it kind of like a relationship in life with a woman or friend.

Hey! things are going well. So why do I need to rock the boat? I don't know! But let's rock it though.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof in Jean-Marc Vallée’s fact-based drama
Dallas Buyers Club Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof in Jean-Marc Vallée’s fact-based drama ZOOM

Other highlights from the QA session included:

It was the right project because of the role. I fell in love with it. When I read the script I thought there was so much potential here to put a real life on screen not a campy, cliché or stereotypical performance that I think we have seen quite a bit when it comes to this world.

I saw that opportunity. I saw an enormous challenge to play this trans-gender creature addicted to drugs and dying of A.I.D.S. and thought my God that sounds like fun. It was absolutely miserable the entire time but so fulfilling and so wonderful to have the opportunity to play.
Dallas Buyers Club Jared Leto as Rayon in Jean-Marc Vallée’s fact-based drama
Dallas Buyers Club Jared Leto as Rayon in Jean-Marc Vallée’s fact-based drama ZOOM

I'll tell you what I know. Ron was a two bit electrician he dabbled in some bull riding and some gambling. He was a heterosexual guy who led a very wild life, mostly living for the weekends. He was pretty loose and he got HIV. He was given 30 days to live and took AZT, he saw what it did and didn't do for himself and he seeked out alternate medications.

 He went across borders, smuggled things in and started the Buyers Club, found a loophole, charged people $400 for membership so could give the drugs away. And lived for 7 more years that's true.

Jean-Marc wanted the metaphor to bookend the film, with the bull ride and the rodeo at the beginning with the end for Ron's story and I think that's pretty effective. The Rayon character that Jared plays is fictionalised. There was a Doctor, there were quite a few doctors in Ron's life and I guess Jennifer Garner's character was an amalgamation, the FDA did come shut Ron down – 2 or 3 times. So he was doing well enough that he was on their radar and they wanted to remove him from the market.

I was really fortunate. I have played real life people before and that's fun because there is so much research you can dive into. I really enjoy learning about other people, I am curious about other people but this was great for me because I had the freedom to let my imagination run wild. I met with trans-gender people and there was a complete physical transformation of course there was a lot to learn.

And it was a great thing to be able to do after not making a film for 6 years to have that kind of challenge I really love the challenge and I'm just happy that it worked.

Yea! I mean there was enough on the page and the manuscripts that I read and heard about Ron that I was already loaded I had plenty to grab hold on to, to give me an identity for this man.

And then I was going to see his family and I had to think about it because it can be a tricky thing. For one I was so excited and sprouting so much truth and reality of the guy through the material I already had. That I sort of feared going to meet his family and getting an inside look and being less reverent of this man that I was trying to inhabit.

I didn't want it to fall beneath what my imagination had grasped onto from the research but I chose to go meet them. I met them they opened their diaries they were very honest and candid about who he was , who he was not. They went into the realities of who he was, they even handed me his diary. Which was a real secret weapon for me. When they gave me his diary, from two years before he had HIV, that gave me Ron's monologue, which really informed every dialogue in the film for me. So I was really happy I went.

It was a responsibility and I felt like it was my job to take real ownership as best as I could of who he was and try show every true colour and to not sugar coat things,not placate to some narrative that someone may have wanted and to really stick to who the guy was. I really felt like I was able to see him from the inside out.

But there is more responsibility that I know I felt knowing he was a real man and that he really existed. In that way it was biographical.

Yea, I think that is probably fair to say. I mean there was so much research to do on this man, and time and HIV. I gave myself a good solid seven months to dive in headfirst and stay in it. I have said this - if we were making the film tomorrow and I had the last year to research I would still be busy researching I could still fill my time getting ready for this.

[On becoming a recluse] Well it sort of started when I decided to lose weight - the militant way in which I went about that gave it the construct - to spend a lot of time on my own and research it. Meaning that I wasn't really eating as much and I was staying on a programme of meals so that took away social gatherings, that took away meetings in restaurants but I wasn't getting any sun either because I needed to be more pale, so that was 3 hours a day I wouldn't be outside, so what I found is  that I had 7 hours a day that I would stay inside and I sort of just became a hermit and dove into theses great tapes, books and the diaries and plenty of fun stuff to study on this guy Ron Woodruff. I never really had time to get complacent.

I didn't meet Matthew till the movie was over. It's kind of a joke, but its also true. I never met him, the Director, Jennifer or anyone.

I spoke to people only through the character, through Rayon and I think it was really beneficial to do that. As it was a 25 day shoot and I had 3.5 weeks to prepare. So I basically just stopped eating and started putting on the lipstick and the heels and the eyelashes and I waxed my entire body thankfully it was a period piece, so I didn't have to go full Brazilian.

After 6 years that was one of the things that was great about it. It was fast and furious there was no lighting at all, we used practical lights - I never saw a light on set. we didn't do any rehearsal, not a single minute of rehearsal. Which was great I love that.

It was really fun, a really unique way to shoot, a lot of energy, no waiting around, except if you were in make-up.I just think another word for staying in character is staying focussed, committed, concentrating. The great thing about it for me is you know normally, if there is a normal to acting, It's all just a weird thing to do anyway, at the end of the day, isn't it?

There are no rules, there is no method you do what works for you and what enables you to deliver the best performance possible but what was great about it to me was I really had an opportunity to work when I wasn't in front of the camera, so whatever it was, the way people start treating you is fantastic as well because you learn so much from it you know there could be an AD who reaches for your hand when you are walking down the steps or a grip who opens the door.

Dallas Buyers Club Jared Leto as Rayon & Jennifer Garner as Dr. Eve Saks
Dallas Buyers Club Jared Leto as Rayon & Jennifer Garner as Dr. Eve Saks ZOOM
[Regarding the roles] A bigot cowboy, a crazy creature transsexual hot piece of ass and then you have this straight man in the middle which is Jennifer, but she really did something wonderful  I think that I gave a much better performance because of her.

When you work with her in a scene she really believes you. And that's a lot - she gives you faith. she believes, she listens, she cares. I'm so glad she played that part - she made me a much better actor for sure.

I immediately missed him because, I don't know it was such an adventure to be an underdog for 9 months and I put myself on this island and it was really inspiring to be there. And then I felt in the 25 days in which we told the story it felt like we were getting something special.

And I was looking forward to a really nice full size meal but I even have times now over a year later that I sort of miss that time a little bit, to have something to commit to so fully really turned me on and was inspiring.

I think the same thing, you know when you dive that deep you fall in love you can't help it. And I don't think I'll ever leave her this will always be a really important project and time of our lives.

I think that in a lot of ways that is true when you stand on the stage it can reveal a lot - Your sense of humour, your lack of humour, it can tell the audience quiet a bit, there is no script, your life is the script,the songs are the dialogue but when you build a character you are under similar circumstances there is a lot of jazz going on, you are appropriating, you are inventing, you are pulling pieces of yourself and magnifying those.

Dallas Buyers Club Poster
Dallas Buyers Club Poster ZOOM

Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers Club starring Matthew McConaughey (Best Actor Rome Film Festival 2013), Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner.

An imperfect man fights for survival during an uncertain time in America. Inspired by true events, Ron Woodroof’s story of strength is told in Dallas Buyers Club, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from an original screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack.

Matthew McConaughey portrays the real-life character, whose self –interest is galvanised into something much more. Blindsided by his diagnosis of HIV and given 30 days to live, Woodruff’s search for alternative treatments helped establish a way in which HIV positive people across the country could access his supplies.

An outsider to the gay community, Ron finds an unlikely ally in fellow AIDS patient Rayon (Jared Leto) and together they embark on a battle with the medical establishment and a fight for dignity, education and acceptance.

Dallas Buyers Club will be released 7th February, 2014


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Craig's is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.

When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, mentally storyboards the greatest film ever made & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime. 

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