“Look, when a crisis like this comes and it causes disruption, your purpose can become very clear,” said McConaughey, 50, from his home in Austin. “I’ve just been going, ‘Hey, lemme grab a hold of some messages that I truly believe need to be put out.’”
In March, the message flashing on his radar was “stay at home,” but McConaughey didn’t see “an aggressive take on it.” He wanted to fix that, so he shot a minute-and-a-half video urging folks to “turn a red light into a green light” and “just keep living.” It’s bare-bones (somewhat) straight talk that has been viewed nearly 5 million times.
“People thought that staying home was a cowardly move, so I thought it was important to get the message out there that this is sort of a paradox of the times. Your best weapon is to stay at home. That’s how we quote-unquote ‘win’ at hand-to-hand combat,” the actor explained.
But he also he wanted to lighten the mood.
“l felt myself and everybody feeling overwhelmed with the solemn infomercial PSAs. We’re past the shock. Let’s put a character’s spin on it and have a little fun with it, so maybe its weirdly cool,” he said of his Bobby Bandito PSA. In it, bounty hunter “Bobby B” — a scruffier version of McConaughey — demonstrates how to DIY a mask out of a bandanna. The actor’s “buddy,” “Mud” director Jeff Nichols, did him a solid and helped shoot it in McConaughey’s backyard. One Instagram user called the short spot “so Texan it hurts.”
And earlier this week, McConaughey released yet another PSA — this time in Spanish. He’d heard that the Latino community was particularly vulnerable during the pandemic, so he called up his pal, champion boxer Canelo Álvarez, and they recorded a message urging people to stay home or wear masks when outside. The tagline, “Solo sigue viviendo” (“just keep living”) is signature McConaughey, and also the name of his foundation, Just Keep Livin’, which promotes wellness for high-schoolers.
“Are some people going to listen to me? Sure. You can’t have too many of those messages right now. I’m not trying to play doctor,” said McConaughey. In fact, he would “really, really love” to hear from one.
Like the rest of the country, the actor is waiting for someone — an expert specifically — to tell him what to do, how to do it and when all this will end. An international consensus would be best, he said. But that’s not happening. So, in the meantime, his 3.4 million Instagram followers are going to get these good PSAs, even if McConaughey realizes quite clearly that he’s in a better position than most.
“Relatively speaking, I’m having a damn good pandemic. I have to unpack what that means. I understand there’s people over there sweating bullets, pacing the house with three crying kids, and a wife or husband they only like spending an hour a day with and now have to spend 18 hours with. And there’s a bottle over there that sure would be nice to hit at noon. That’s hard. That’s real,” said McConaughey.
“I sit in a privileged position, but it would be foolish for me to say, ‘Oh, but it doesn’t affect me.’ The virus has brought even the highest-flying birds down to the same level. Hey, man, I’m not talking at you, I’m with you.”
And here’s where McConaughey gets deep into the “paradox of the times” — what he calls his “3 a.m. thoughts” — about how humankind has never been so distant and yet so connected.
“We’ve never been more responsible for each other,” he said. Staying at home “seems like a very defensive, receptive backing away, but it’s actually the grandest Excalibur weapon,” he added. “This is a forced winter for everybody, but it’s just about May, it’s springtime — another paradox.”
So how is McConaughey, one of the quintessential dudes, the kid from “Dazed and Confused” and grown man in those Lincoln car commercials, really dealing with all this? You know, aside from churning out online content and calling virtual bingo for seniors? He’s taking inventory.
“I think I’m becoming a better parent. I hope to maintain that presence,” he said. “We do more things together. We’re watching a lot less TV. We’re doing puzzles. We know the yard better. We’re grooming the dog. We’re eating more dinners and lunches together. We’re saying more prayers before those meals. That’s some of the upside. That’s keeping my compass where it is.”