Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey describes his life as an 18-year-old exchange student in regional Australia as a ‘livin’ hell’ in his plainspoken new memoir.
The Academy Award winner, 51, brands his little known experience as ‘torturous’, ribs a family that hosted him for their ‘nonsense’ and confesses to going through a ‘crisis’.
The Dallas Buyers Club star expected to live in paradise, imagining living near Sydney in a land of sun, beaches, surfing and supermodel Elle Macpherson.
But his vision of life Down Under didn’t match up with reality, according to a lengthy chapter of his new autobiography, Greenlights.
In his new memoir, Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey (above) reveals his expectations about Australia as a young man didn’t quite match up with reality
McConaughy, 51, reportedly wrote his memoir on a 52-day self-imposed exile in the west Texan desert
A young McConaughey drinks Australian beer, Fosters, with a Tooheys-guzzling mate
McConaughey draws an unfavourable comparison between life back in Texas – where he was voted ‘Most Handsome’ at school, dated the ‘best looking girl’ in town, scored straight As and owned a red sports car – and his time in Warnervale, on New South Wales’ Central Coast.
In 1988, teenage McConaughey landed in Sydney and found himself nicknamed ‘Macka’. He was enrolled at an ‘awkward’ high school where he complained ‘everyone wore uniforms and played tag at lunch.
‘No one wanted to party and the chicks were not digging me.’
In his retelling – which sounds like a Hollywood comedy – he bristled against his adoptive family, kindly renamed ‘the Dooleys, after finding out they didn’t live on the ‘outskirts of Sydney’ so much as down a dirt road, some 106km to the north.
He was slapped with a curfew, instructed to keep his opinions to himself and worked six different jobs, including as a bank teller for ANZ and a lawyer’s assistant.
And he took an introspective turn.
McConaughey spent nine months abstinent. He became a vegetarian who shrunk to 58kg eating meals consisting of tomato sauce and iceberg lettuce. He wrote letters to himself, considered becoming a monk and ‘freeing Nelson Mandela.’
‘I was in the bathtub every night before sundown j**king off to (poet) Lord Byron and (U2 cassette) Rattle and Hum.
‘Telling myself daily, I’m okay, I’m good. You got this McConaughey, it’s just cultural differences.’
McConaughey couldn’t return home as he’d shaken hands on his exchange agreement, and vowed to be true to his word.
Not quite Sydney: In the book, McConaughey claims he was told by one of his host families that they lived ‘on the outskirts’ of Sydney… the family lived in Warnervale
The actor, now a father-of-three, reportedly wrote the bestselling memoir during a 52 day exile in the West Texas, poring over decades of journals. It has made headlines with his candid revelations that he was molested at 18 and for detailing his arrest for ‘disturbing the peace’ at a house party in Texas in 1999.
Some of his memories could be distorted by time, given he recalls going for a jog during a ‘tornado’ on Australia’s east coast and claims he was told to ‘get your a** inside’, a very un-Australian phrase.
However, he is known to have developed a lifelong love of cricket from his time here, and maintained a relationship with his at least one of the families who hosted him.
I was forced to look inside myself for the first time to make sense of what was going on around me
McConaughey on Australia in his new book
One such host, Ray Crocker, was reunited with the actor on Australian radio shortly after his Oscars success in 2015. Mr Crocker said McConaughey gave his late wife, Eileen, a shout-out when she was very ill.
‘You sent Eileen a cheerio call while she was in hospital, which gave her a great lift for the last few weeks of her life,’ Ray said, during a joint radio interview. McConaughey replied that Eileen ‘was special and she was real sweet to me’.
Ray said he was very proud of what McConaughey, who once aspired to being a lawyer, had gone on to achieve.
He has starred in a multiple Hollywood hits, including The Wedding Planner and Magic Mike. He also won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the Dallas Buyers Club.
McConaughey at dinner during his yearlong stint in Australia. He has described his host family as ‘kind hearted’ and generous – but had a tough time himself, according to the memoir
In his new book, McConaughey acknowledges his main host family were ‘kind hearted’ and ‘generous’.
McConaughey sounded envious of an Australian who went on exchange to the United States
But he also described the year as ‘torturous for me’ and ‘a livin’ mental hell’ without the trappings of his previous life.
McConaughey said it was proof of an essential life lesson of his that ‘we have to be thrown off balance to find our footing’.
However, he does finish his recollections of life Down Under sounding envious of a student who went to the US from Australia in his place.
That young man boasted a lot of success with women, visited NASA, went on summer holidays to Florida and drained the liquor cabinet dry.
‘He had the time of his f***ing life.’
Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey, is published by Headline in Australia. RRP $32.99