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A slew of actresses and Interstellar director Christopher Nolan took to the stage at the American Cinematheque’s annual gala Tuesday night to paint a picture of a man as large in life as the characters he plays onscreen.
At the star-studded event at the Beverly Hilton, there were plenty of impressions of Matthew McConaughey‘s signature Texas drawl, references to the “McConaissance” and utterances of his signature “All right, all right, all right” and “Just keep livin’ ” catch phrases. And in between the funny on- and off-set stories were effusive words of praise for the Oscar winner and the career he’s built over the years, especially his recent run that includes HBO’s True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club, Mud and Wolf of Wall Street.
“I’m not a believer in the McConaissance,” said Nolan, who was the final presenter to take the stage. “I think Matthew’s success of late is the rest of us catching up to what he’s been doing. I’m very proud to know him.
“I’ve never worked with an actor so relentless in his pursuit of truth in everything he does,” added Nolan. “This is a performer who can’t say ‘Pass the salt’ without it being truthful, without it meaning something.”
Two of the stars of Nolan’s upcoming space film Interstellar (out Nov. 7), Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, also spoke about their co-star, whom Chastain called “the emotional center” of the film.
After insisting that she knew McConaughey would win an Oscar after his performance as a strip club owner in Magic Mike, Hathaway praised the actor for his generosity as an onscreen partner.
“You are present,” she said. “When you look at someone, you really take them in.”
The evening gala, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, also featured plenty of video messages from McConaughey’s co-stars, clips of his work and a performance by the Texas Tenors. The event was a fundraiser for the American Cinematheque, a nonprofit exhibition organization that owns, operates and programs the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, and programs the 1940 Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.
After Kimmel opened the show with a few jokes about McConaughey’s recent Lincoln commercials (“He’s very dedicated to his craft. He lost 85 pounds — for his Lincoln commercials.”), Kate Hudson took the stage, doing the first impression of the actor of the night.
She also spoke about their adventures at a lake house and how he was able to convince her to dive right in to their scuba diving lessons for Fool’s Gold.
“He attacks everything with an intensity that is palpable,” she told the crowd. “He’s truly a phenomenal actor, and a bright shining star.”
McConaughey, whose guests included his wife, Camila, his mother, and his kids, took the stage at the end of the night, saying it was surreal to see so many years of his career presented in from of him.
He told the crowd, which also included presenters Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon and Lili Fini Zanuck, Nic Pizzolatto, Brad Grey, Avi Lerner, Michelle Monaghan and Jess Weixler, that he didn’t grow up watching movies, having only seen two (King Kong and Orca) by the time he was 18. But he decided to leave law school to study film and pursue a career as an actor.
“I have grown to love making films. I think I like making films even more than I like watching films,” he said.
He recounted the series of lucky coincidences and decisions that led him to his career, including spilling a bottle of Coca-Cola in Brian Grazer‘s office and slurping it off the table (that got him EDtv) and fighting to get Dallas Buyers Club made when “everybody with a wallet” was saying “no.”
The actor, who has Interstellar coming up followed by Gus Van Sant‘s Sea of Trees, ended his speech by reflecting on the business of Hollywood and moviemaking as a whole.
“It’s a business where ideas get realized,” he said. “It’s a magic trick we do. We play make-believe, and when we do it really well, we make you believe.”
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