Matthew McConaughey has distinguished himself as one of the most talented actors of his generation. He’s starred in countless romantic comedies and dramas and even earned an Academy Award for his performances.
However, there was a time when McConaughey had no desire to be an actor. Things changed when he discovered a book, The Greatest Salesman in the World, which altered his career path forever.
Matthew McConaughey didn’t want to work in the film industry until he reached college
Even though McConaughey is regarded as a premier actor in Hollywood today, he didn’t initially want to be one. While taking undergrad courses at the University of Texas, McConaughey was set on going to law school. However, he didn’t like the idea of being in school until the age of 28, and not being able to “make an imprint” in society until he reached his 30s.
Uncertain about his future, McConaughey wasn’t sure which direction to go. Things began to change when a friend of his who was studying film at NYU told McConaughey he had a talent for storytelling. This got the idea of filmmaking into McConaughey’s head.
‘The Greatest Salesman in the World’ made Matthew McConaughey want to work in the film industry
McConaughey’s drive to become an actor wasn’t fully realized until his sophomore year, during his exams. On test day he was at a friend’s place, with only a few hours to spare before he had to go to class. Instead of studying, he looked through a stack of Playboy magazines that was sitting nearby and discovered The Greatest Salesman in the World at the bottom. McConaughey was instantly engrossed by the book, according to an interview with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.
“I sat down and started reading, lost all track of time …” McConaughey said. “It’s [about] life, it’s stuff we learn in kindergarten that we’ve since forgotten. It’s just a real practice of good habits and being a good person. … That book finding me at that time in my life, I felt like I had a secret. I felt like I had a secret weapon that was gonna help me give me the courage to head off in a new direction into the storytelling business.
Matthew McConaughey had to tell his parents he wanted to go to film school
Up until that point, McConaughey had been pretty set on going on a more traditional career path. He came from a blue-collar family that valued hard work, so he was skeptical about breaking the news to them that he wanted to work in the arts.
However, the book gave him the confidence to call them and talk about it.
“Finding a book, The Greatest Salesman in the World gave me the courage to call mom and dad and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to go to’ [clears throat]—and I had to clear my throat—’Film school,’” McConaughey said. “And there was a long pause. And I remember my dad, after about eight seconds, he goes ‘Is that what you want to do?’ I said, ‘Yes sir.’ He goes, ‘Don’t half-ass it.’ And that was all.”
Clearly, McConaughey made the right decision.