Longtime buddies Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson on why they're at such intense odds on new HBO drama True Detective – and what makes a good director.
An exchange between True Detective stars and real-life friends Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson can "turn into an improvisation and go and go," McConaughey said Thursday during a press conference.
"I mean, into the ether and then some.”
The Texas natives—who appeared in big-screen comedies EDtv and Surfer Dude together—work so well with one another because the longtime pals affirm each other and instinctively “get on each other’s frequency," the recent Golden Globe winner shared.
But their work on the grisly, 8-part HBO drama series True Detective? “This was something different.”
"This is the first time we worked together where there’s real opposition," McConaughey continued. "This was not about us coming together.”
Created by Nic Pizzolatto (The Killing) and shot on location in rural Louisiana, the series stars McConaughey and Harrelson as head-butting detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart. Bound by a 17-year hunt for the perpetrator of a heinous 1995 crime — a murdered young woman’s nude body turns up bound, kneeling, with buck antlers affixed to her head — we follow the friction-charged relationship of these mismatched lawmen over the course of this pursuit.
Hart is a middle-of-the-road guy who believes in America, apple pie and Chevrolet, said Harrelson, who returns to HBO following his acclaimed turn in original telepic Game Change. “Marty’s very sociable and gregarious and Cohle is just the opposite.”
”Cohle’s had a lot of tough things happen in his life and he’s developed into a very antisocial person, “ Harrelson explained. “That doesn’t bother him, that’s just who he is.”
A former undercover narcotics detective from Texas, Cohle goes about things differently and often rubs people the wrong way. Consequently, Hart is constantly at intense odds with Cohle or apologizing for him.
“Early on I remember we said, ‘Boy, man, we gotta find a place in this to put some kind of fun in! This thing can be a lead weight!” McConaughey said.
True Detective director Cary Fukunaga did have extensive conversations with the actors and the production team about where they sought to go with the material prior to shooting. He likes to think, however, that he stayed “out of the way” at key times and really let the talent deliver.
Fukunaga “knew what the truth” of particular scenes, he said, and would say something only if it started to veer somewhere else – which it rarely ever did.
“I think Matthew had his entire role mapped out before he even came to Louisiana,” he recalled.
McConaughey appreciated Fukunaga’s approach, but emphasized that while he may arrive on set with his own track on a character, he wants to hear a director come up with other options and ideas. He wants an objective “nudge here and there.”
“I like to be directed, but I know, when I’m flying and I’m on fire? I don’t want someone coming and getting in my way just because they feel like they need to,” said the actor, whose Oscar buzz for his turn as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club heightened with Sunday's Golden Globe win.
“A good director will do what Cary did,” McConaughey continued. “If you’ve got an actor that’s flying and they’re telling the truth, just sit over there and put some wind under them and keep putting the wind under their wings.”
True Detective premieres on HBO on Sunday night, January 12, immediately following the debut of the first trailer for Game of Thrones season 4. Check your local listings.