Matthew McConaughey Explains How 20-Month Hiatus From Hollywood Led to "McConaissance"

Matthew McConaughey at 90th Annual Academy Awards
VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

"Being gone, not seeing me shirtless on the beach, not seeing me in your living room, or in your theater in a rom-com, I became a new good idea," the new memoir author said.

Much ink has been spilled on the topic of the "McConaissance," or actor Matthew McConaughey's transformation in the early- to mid-aughts from romantic-comedy lead of films like Fool's Gold and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days to flawed antihero in dramatic awards contenders such as True Detective and Dallas Buyer's Club.

Now, some of that ink is coming from McConaughey himself, who addresses his career turn in his new memoir, Greenlights, and discussed it while promoting the book on Real Time With Bill Maher on Friday. When Maher asked how McConaughey managed the one of the trickest of Hollywood business pivots -- the shift in perception of an actor -- on Friday's show, McConaughey responded with some humor: "What happened was I was the rom-com guy, I was the shirtless guy on the beach. That was fine," he said. "Yes, I said it then and I'll say it now, those rom-coms I was in were paying for the house on the beach where I was shirtless. Guilty."

He added, "I did notice that that's all I was in the public eye and that's all I was to studio financiers in Hollywood. Other roles I wanted to do, dramatic roles, they were not being offered. They were not an option for me."

McConaughey says he took a 20-month sabbatical from Hollywood as a result, even turning down a $14.5 million offer for a romantic-comedy role (when Maher asked, McConaughey would not reveal the name of the project, although he did say it was never made). After that time and a period of "14 months" when he said no offers came in, he said, "Being gone, not seeing me shirtless on the beach, not seeing me in your living room, or in your theater in a rom-com, I became a new good idea. Where's McConaughey been? We forgot about him. Well guess who's now a good idea for Lincoln Lawyer, Paperboy, Killer Joe, Mud, True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club, Magic Mike?" (Maher suggested that one reason he was able to make the change was his "innate likeability.")

Earlier during the interview, Maher compared McConaughey's memoir to a former Dos Equis commercial series: "So many of the passages are like copy for the next 'Most Interesting Man in the World' [commercial]," he joked.

The next stop in the McConaissance journey? McConaughey will be producing and lending his voice to a Hank the Cowdog podcast series with his Mud director, Jeff Nichols.

Watch his appearance on Real Time below.