Why Matthew McConaughey Never Memorizes His Lines
McConaughey has perfected quite the art of learning a script.
Matthew McConaughey — the guy can act.
Even though the actor makes it look easy on the big screen (or our television sets at home, these days), it's no easy task to memorize a script. That's why McConaughey doesn't. As he revealed in a recent video in his Instagram series "McConaughey Takes," he prefers to immerse himself fully in the life of his character, scrawling copious notes on scripts and reading the screenplay at different times of day when he's in different moods, to get to know his role inside out. Then, the words come naturally.
"You look at what's on the text. First you read it and try to understand it. You read it again. Me, I read it after a run when my endorphins are flying, I read it late Saturday night when I've got a good buzz going. I read it right after church when I'm feeling in a very forgiving mood," he explains of his script-memorization process. "I'll read it when I'm mad, sad, glad, tired, happy, excited. Many different places where I am personally, I'll read a script. And that means I'll have a different look at the same scenes because I'm in a different place."
McConaughey then lets all of that simmer for weeks or months before he starts honing in on how his character comports himself in a movie. Through reading the script again and again and contemplating the character he's playing, he slowly learns his lines, stressing that through this endeavor, "you know the script, you know what it's about." He continues: "It's not about knowing the lines. What's the scene about? What does the character want out of this scene? What's the obstacle in front of this character to get what he wants? What does the character need in the scene? And then, overall, what's happening in the scene? So if you do it over and over, it's never about memorizing the lines."
Later, McConaughey examines the difference between writing and acting, saying, "the actor brings the bloodline to the role. It's as much about what we don't say, as what we do. If I can pull off the meaning of a paragraph with one look, go with the look, not the words." McConaughey also adds that he writes extensive notes on a script as he learns his character's story, giving him a larger context to work from than what's on the page. At times, he'll expand a scene into something eight times longer than what he's given. Watch the deep dive into McConaughey's process in the video below.
Needless to say, all those long hours of notes-taking and script-reading are worth it. The McConaughey Method sure does deliver.