Matthew McConaughey weighs 'outlaw' bid for Texas governor

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US actor Matthew McConaughey's outlaw bona fides are well established in his new book "Greenlights" (AFP/Mark Thompson)
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Matthew McConaughey's transformation from rom-com heart-throb to serious Oscar-winning actor for "Dallas Buyers Club" was so remarkable it earned its own neologism.

Could another "McConaissance" be on the cards, as the category-defying A-lister mulls a run for governor of his home state of Texas, potentially as a third-party candidate next year?

"Look, it's been discussed. It's a possible avenue," McConaughey, 52, told AFP in an interview via Zoom.

"I would call myself aggressively centrist. Not because that's the place of gray and compromise... I think today it's a daring space. It's the space of outlaws."

McConaughey's outlaw bona fides are well established in his new book "Greenlights," with anecdotes including the time he "bongoed naked until the cops arrested me" for disturbing the peace, drug possession and resisting arrest.

At the peak of his fame, the actor ditched Los Angeles for an ecstasy-fueled hike through the Amazon, and at other times would ask film directors to fly out and meet him at provincial airports as he spontaneously criss-crossed the United States in an RV.

But soon after becoming a father in 2008, the "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" star told his agent to turn down future rom-coms, no matter how lucrative the offers, as he pursued grittier, more challenging fare.

"Rom-coms are built to be light. They're Saturday afternoon characters," he said.

"I became a father. My life takes on sincere and deep meaning right then. I was in the Monday morning of life, not the Saturday afternoon," added McConaughey.

Now McConaughey's political ambitions have caused excitement in liberal circles, and particularly those appalled at Texas governor Greg Abbott, who signed a highly restrictive law banning most abortions. It is now being challenged before the US Supreme Court.

A recent University of Texas, Tyler poll found McConaughey would fare better against Abbott than potential Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke.

But McConaughey, hailing from a small town in deep Texas and raised in a religious family, does not seem any more enamored with the Democrats than Republicans such as Abbott.

"Each party is claiming to be democracy itself, and in doing so can't much tell you what they're about," said McConaughey.

He added: "You got to go 'left' sometimes, you got to go 'right.' There are people on the so-called right and the so-called left that are better people for the job at hand at different times."

- 'That was wrong' -

McConaughey's book -- part memoir, part self-help manual -- recounts his remarkably fast rise to stardom.

Having dropped out of law school in Texas, McConaughey was quickly cast in coming-of-age classic "Dazed and Confused," before hitting the big time with the lead role in courtroom drama "A Time To Kill."

"I wouldn't say I've been interested in politics since a very early age. I've been interested in justice," he said.

The book also reveals darker moments, including how at 18 he was sexually abused by a man "while knocked unconscious in the back of a van."

The crime is only mentioned in passing because "people would have become voyeurs over that, and that's not what the book is about," he told AFP.

Without discussing details, McConaughey says the incident "affected me" but he was helped by his "clear sense that it was wrong."

"Maybe if I'd have been younger, and I'd been like 'Is that an okay reality? Is that kind of how the world is supposed to work sometimes?'"

He added: "Was I a victim in that circumstance? You're damn right.

"But I haven't been victimized from it, and I think part of the reason is it was very clear -- that was wrong, that was an aberration.

"That's not true intimacy. That's not two people saying yes to each other. That's not right."

- 'Another chapter' -

If McConaughey does decide to run for the Lone Star State's top office, he will need to file by a December 13 deadline.

Pressed on whether he has taken key early steps such as hiring campaign staff or fundraising, he responds with a stock line: "I'm not, until I am."

"It's something I'm giving great consideration... there's some wonderful sacrifices for the awesome position."

For McConaughey, who continues to act and run his Just Keep Livin' foundation for high school students, the decision will come down to "where and how can I be most useful?"

"I'm not afraid of risk. But I really need to ask that question and answer that question for myself," he said.

When McConaughey gambled by turning his back on rom-coms, his agent's phone stopped ringing for nearly two years -- to the point that he seriously considered quitting acting.

Eventually Hollywood took his new aspirations seriously, with a string of acclaimed hits such as "Mud" and "True Detective" leading to his Oscar for "Dallas Buyers Club" -- a politically charged drama about the AIDS pandemic.

McConaughey says he coined the term "McConaissance" himself, figuring his recent career run "needed a campaign slogan."

So, does he have a slogan for his next chapter, in politics or otherwise?

"It's still the McConaissance," he said. "It's just going to be another chapter."

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