THE SHIFT to a different type of film and a stark change in characters seems to have begun for Matthew McConaughey in “Lincoln Lawyer.” Once “Mud” landed you knew something was happening with this star, who had obviously begun to care about something more than making money. Maybe he always had, but when he hit the middle age mark, the artist inside decided there had to be something more, something larger to tackle.
Fearlessness had replaced caution, as we saw in “Magic Mike.”
In “Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey has found it, playing a man with full blown AIDS, only he’s not gay. However, Ron Woodruff, the real life man he portrays, was homophobic, which adds a kink to an already complex drama. Woodruff is a rodeo stud who had unprotected sex with one too many women, many of whom shot up.
Early in the 1980s, a friend of mine emptied an entire floor in one California state building in Los Angeles, when he went in to see about his illness and the possibilities for getting help. I wrote about it a long time ago. It was little known at the time, something called Kaposi’s sarcoma, which quickly became known as death. I was waiting at Christopher’s apartment, as we’d arranged, and when he came in he wouldn’t let me hug him. Then he launched in to what had played out at the state building. Panic, fear and loathing oozing from his words, he broke my heart.
It was the era of Ronald Reagan, whose Administration wouldn’t deal with an epidemic, ignoring the plague that took the lives of an entire generation of young men. Christopher was one of the lucky ones.
Ron Woodruff, played with such grit and humanity by Matthew McConaughey, pays the price for having unprotected sex with strangers at a time when we all felt we were invincible. Jared Leto plays Rayon, a AIDS-stricken transsexual, a fictional character in the film, adding an extra element to the real life story of Woodruff.
Both actors have OscarÂ© buzz and deservedly so. There aren’t enough unique superlatives to describe the genius between them.
The Daily Beast tells how the story was excavated and made it to the screen, which wasn’t easy. It never is.
There had been one mention of Ron in my old newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, but really the thing that sparked my interest was reading in the Village Voice or some other alternative weekly about Buyers Clubs. The article mentioned that the group in Dallas had a national reputation: they were known for being more risk-taking and aggressive. I was always looking for stories in Dallas that had some sort of national or even international significance, and I thought this could be one of them. So I clipped the story out and began making some calls.
And it was really easy to find Ron Woodroof. He was not in hiding. He was not underground. People in the AIDs community just simply said, “Oh, the Dallas Buyers Club””here’s how you reach them.”
But I met a man in a suit. That was the first thing that threw me off. He had a nice white shirt on, and a tie. He might have even had cufflinks. He was carefully groomed. He had a thick, healthy mustache. I remember thinking that it looked like a holdover from the disco days.
In short, he wasn’t the outlaw gangster pirate person I thought I would see””furtive and frankly scary.
“Dallas Buyers Club” reminds us of the bad old days, the days of AZT, and throwing darts at a pharmaceutical board to see what would stick. My friend Kris ended up getting lucky and cheated death through participation in an interferon trial. He then was in high demand, appearing all across the daytime talk shows, because it had “cured” him of AIDS. That flipped him out as much as getting the disease.
That was a long time ago. The film peels back some of the history on the flip side of the gay community’s battle to get help from the F.D.A. and the federal government.
“There was this amorphous evil that went around just killing people randomly, and nobody seemed to understand it,” Nightingale says. “And I think many of us who were treating “” or otherwise involved with “” people with AIDS at that time would’ve felt very much like Sheriff Bell.” [NPR]
Ron Woodruff’s lawyer, Michael Cascino, said that the Texas rodeo cowboy would have loved being played by such a big star.
Matthew McConaughey shed 50 pounds to play Ron Woodruff and delivers the performance of his career, though at this point, who knows what’s next for this accomplished actor?