Matthew McConaughey's New Memoir Details 'Dazed and Confused' Breakout to Infamous Naked Arrest

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

In his new memoir 'Greenlights,' out Tuesday, the Oscar-winning actor reflects on the prominent moments in both his professional and personal life.

On the very first page of his new book Greenlights (Crown Publishing), Matthew McConaughey declares that it is "not a traditional memoir" but rather "a playbook" based on the adventures of his life.

Throughout the 304-page book, released Tuesday after being announced earlier this year, the Oscar-winning actor, known as much for his eccentric aphorisms and persona as he is for acting, reflects on the prominent moments in both his personal and professional life.

In Greenlights, McConaughey takes readers on a journey as he revisits his thoughts, musings and experiences while also sharing photographs and his signature "bumperstickers," which he describes as "lyrics, one-liners, quick hitters," and "unobtrusive personal preferences that people publicly express."

"Over the last fifty years, I've been collecting my bumperstickers. Some I've seen, some I've heard, some I stole, some I dreamed, some I said ... I've included some of my favorites in this book," he writes.

Whether describing his tumultuous Texas family, the backstories of some of his best-known screen roles, his career renaissance or his personal rediscovery, McConaughey doesn't present a dishy tell-all but rather tells readers he wrote his book as a way for them to keep him accountable. "I wrote this book so you can hold me to task and remind me of what I forget." He also hopes his story "can be useful and lend a hand if you need it, that it might teach you something, inspire you, make you laugh, remind you, help you forget, and arm you with some life tools to better march forward as more yourself."

The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at some of the highlights in Greenlights, from McConaughey landing his breakout role in Dazed and Confused to saying goodbye to the rom-com world and that infamous naked arrest. Here are the takeaways:

McConaughey, the Defense Attorney?

McConaughey reveals that though he would go on to embark on a Hollywood career, he originally wanted to go to law school and become a defense attorney, a plan he formulated and held on to since the ninth grade. That all changed when he learned the school he wanted to attend (SMU) — he explains that its location in the metropolitan city of Dallas could present more opportunities for an internship at a law firm — cost over $8,000 a year. Meanwhile, his father hoped his son would go to the University of Texas. He decided to go to UT after learning the school only cost $5,000 a year because it's a public school and out of respect for his father's wishes. "Out of respect for my dad, I attended the University of Texas at Austin but never told him why. I knew changing my mind would make Dad happy," he writes.

Exchange Student 

After his mom suggested he become an exchange student, McConaughey felt that it could make for an adventurous and wild time. After committing to be an exchange student in Australia for one year, McConaughey stayed with a family in Wanervale, a town that had a population of 305. In his time there, he took a job as a bank teller at Australia and New Zealand Bank. He also worked as a boat mechanic, a photo processor, a barrister's assistant, a construction worker and an assistant golf pro. "It was a year that shaped who I am today. A year when I found myself because I was forced to."

First Gig 

"The first gig [he] got was as a hand model," McConaughey shares of his first Hollywood moment. After needing extra spending money, he worked as a waiter at Catfish Station, which he described as an "all-Black, sweaty bar that sold catfish, beer and blues. … I was the only white person, male or female, who was ever in this place." He writes that he is friends with the owner to this day.

Landing Dazed and Confused's Wooderson 

He recalls meeting Dazed and Confused casting director Don Phillips at a bar in Austin where his friend bartended. It was then that Phillips told the actor to audition for a small part in the upcoming film. McConaughey shares that the line, "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older; they stay the same age" served as a "launchpad" for him into the character. "That line opened up my entire world into who he was, an encyclopedia into his psyche and spirit," he writes.

He also said Wooderson was born from the impression of his older brother leaning against a wall, casually smoking a cigarette. He described his brother in that moment as "the epitome of cool … He was literally 10 feet tall. It left an engraved impression in my heart and mind. And 11 years later, Wooderson was born from that impression."

"Alright, alright, alright"

The actor recalled the first scene he ever filmed for Dazed and Confused, where he would deliver his most infamous line. Though he was only called on set to do a makeup and wardrobe set, director Richard Linklater suggested his character would try to pick up Marissa Ribisi's Cynthia. "You think Wooderson might pull up and try and pick her up?" he asked the actor, to which McConaughey responded, "Gimme 30 minutes." He then took a walk to think about "who's my man. … Now, there were no lines written and this was my first time on a film set. I'd never done this before. Anxious, I started going back over in my head who my man is," he writes.

He thought about how he loved his car, "loved getting high" and loved rock 'n' roll. "That's when I heard, 'Action!' I looked across the parking lot at 'Cynthia,' the redheaded intellectual, and said to myself, And I love chicks. As I put the car in drive and slowly pulled out, I thought to myself, Well I've got three out of four and I'm headed to get the fourth then said aloud 'alright, alright, alright.' Those three words, those three affirmations of what I, Wooderson, did have, were the first three words I ever said on film. A film that my character had only three scripted scenes in, a film that I ended up working on for three weeks."

"Now, 28 years later, those words follow me everywhere. People say them. People steal them. People wear them on their hats and T-shirts. People have them tattooed on their arms and inner thighs. And I love it. It's an honor. Because those three words are the very first words I said on the very first night of a job I had that I thought might be nothing but a hobby, but turned into a career."

His Father's Passing 

McConaughey writes that he learned that his dad died five days into shooting Dazed and Confused. Describing his dad as an "immovable force," McConaughey revealed that his dad always told him and his brother that when it was time, he would go while making love to their mother.

"And that's what happened," McConaughey writes. "He had a heart attack when he climaxed. Yes, he called his shot all right."

Securing a Role on A Time to Kill 

McConaughey writes that even though he wanted the lead role in A Time to Kill, director Joel Schumacher told him that a lead role would never go to a "relatively unknown actor." However, things changed when Sandra Bullock was cast and McConaughey says, "studios believed she was popular enough to headline a film," which meant Warner Bros. could "consider a less bankable actor for the lead role."

For his screen test, McConaughey remembered reciting the infamous, "Now imagine she's white" line and then afterward Schumacher told him to "throw away the script" and recite what he would personally say. "I tossed the script off the set and out of my mind. I began to slowly pace, my eyes began to burn ... I got sick to my stomach. I got violent. I broke a sweat. I nailed it," he writes.

That Infamous Naked Arrest

McConaughey reflects on the night he decided to undress, open the windows and "smoke a bowl and listen to the beautiful African melodic beats of Henri Dikongué play through my home speakers" at 2:30 a.m. "It was time for a jam session," he writes. "What I didn’t know was that while I was banging away in my bliss, two Austin policemen also thought it was time to barge into my house unannounced, wrestle me to the ground with nightsticks, handcuff me and pin me to the floor."

He describes the moment the police told him he was "under arrest for disturbing the peace, possession of marijuana and resisting arrest" to which McConaughey responded, “Fuck you, motherfucker! You broke in my house! Fuck, yeah, I resisted!" He went on to write that he refused to cover himself as a way to prove that he was minding his own business.

"Before I’d taken three steps up the wall, the Cornhusker body-slammed me back down onto the brick footpath," he recalls, adding that while being arrested, he saw "six lit-up cop cars and about 40 of my neighbors." He would eventually only have to pay a $50 fine. "Two days later, BONGO NAKED T-shirts were all over Austin," he writes.

The "Rom-Com Guy" 

Before winning an Academy Award, McConaughey acknowledged his success in romantic comedies. "The romantic comedies remained my only consistent box office hits, which made them my only consistent incoming offers," he writes. He admits that he "enjoyed being able to give people a 90-minute breezy romantic getaway from the stress of their lives where they din't have to think about anything, just watch the boy chase the girl, fall down, then get up and finally get her." McConaughey also says he feels he had "taken the baton from Hugh Grant" and "ran with it. … In the tabloids, the industry and the public opinion, I became the shirtless, on-the-beach rom-com guy. It became a thing. I was also in great shape."

He says that he was never bothered by the "consistent critical write-offs" of his career and he originally loved making romantic comedies because "their paychecks rented the houses on the beaches." However, he later began feeling like "an entertainer, not an actor."

Rom-Coms No More 

McConaughey writes that in fall 2008, he called his agent and informed him that he wanted to stop doing romantic comedies and sought dramatic work to challenge him as an actor. He recalls feeling like it was a risky bet. "In Hollywood, if you pass on too many projects, they may quit asking. If you stop out of your lane, and turn your back on what you're successful at, the industry can turn its back on you."

Though McConaughey says that "dozens of romantic comedy offers came my way" he admits that for a time, "only romantic comedy offers came my way." He recalls offers ranging from $5 million to $14.5 million. "I declined the offer. If I couldn't do what I wanted, I wasn't going to do what I didn't, no matter the price," he writes.

He later would get no offers whatsoever. "For 20 months I did not give the public or the industry any more of what they had banked on me to give them. No more of what they expected and even assumed to know. For 20 months I removed myself from the public eye."

Dallas Buyers Club 

McConaughey was eventually offered more dramatic roles after being gone from the industry for just shy of two years, a period he said he was "sending a very deliberate message to Hollywood as to what I was not anymore." He reflects on reading the script for Dallas Buyers Club in 2007 and immediately attached himself to star. But the journey to getting it made wasn't so easy. "No directors or financiers were interested in making a period drama about AIDS with Rom-Com McConaughey in the lead," he writes.

McConaughey still committed to preparing for the role, citing his strict diet consisting of egg whites, 5 ounces of fish, a cup of steamed vegetables and wine. "I shed two and a half pounds a week like clockwork," he reflects. Eventually, the film secured financing of $4.9 million despite being budgeted for $7 million. "It was enough to get us in the game," he writes. Production went on to film the project in 25 days.

Oscar Win But "Few Box Office Successes" 

After winning for best actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey writes that the award was "validation that my choices as an actor were translating as a highly competent craft. … I was not half-assin' it," he adds.

Though going on to make a slew of films such as Interstellar, White Boy Rick, Serenity, The Gentlemen and more, McConaughey acknowledges that he had "very few box office successes. … Was it me? The subject matter? The films themselves?" he ponders. "The box office failures didn't dampen my love of acting. If anything they made me more feverishly committed to my craft ... In my career now, I was more than an entertainer, I was an actor, an artist. And that satisfied me. My career was full."

Greenlights is available now.