n Hollywood speak, to be described as ‘the

next big thing’ can be a mixed blessing.

The few who live up to the promise stay on

the A-list. the others are largely forgotten.

The latest to win the tag is 26-year-old

Matthew McConaughey. a handsome. chisel-jawed Texan who beat the likes of Brad Pitt to the plum role of lawyer Jake Brigance in Joel Schumacher’s version of John Grisham’s first novel. A Time To Kill.

As heart-throbs go. McConaughey has all the right equipment. Tall, lean and finely honed, a full head of hair. an attractive smile. compelling eyes. a pleasant drawl and something to say for himself. Pitt. George Clooney and Tom Cruise must be looking over their shoulders at the new competition.

McConaughey has been likened to a young Paul Newman he owns a dog called Miss Hud and a young Brando. His performance in A Time To Kill catches the eye and keeps it. as Brigance is certainly somebody you’d want on your side or at your side. Like Brando and Newman. he has the ability to act ‘thinking’. a rare quality that really makes him look like he’s mulling over the options rather than pulling a few faces to denote inner turmoil.

Yet the young actor had no formal training his stint in film school was on the director’s course and A Time To Kill is only his sixth movie. A chance meeting with producer Don

‘The hardest thing about this loss of anonymity is that my lite is now under a microscope. Every night I’ve got to sleep with myself and I’m waking up with myself. I’ve got to work every day to make sure I’m buddies with Matthew McConaughey.’

Phillips lead to McConaughey being cast in a small part in Dazed And Confused during his junior year at the University of Texas. and extra scenes were added when it was seen how the camera loved him.

Back in college. he directed a short film called Chicano Chariots before another chance au- dition brought him the lead in Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, on moving to Los Angeles. he was almost immediately signed up to play the cop who wooed Drew Barrymore in Boys On The Side. He has also completed a Bill Murray comedy called Larger Than Life and a starring role in John Sayles’s Lone Star. but A Time To Kill has put him on the map.

Grisham kept control of the production, with his contract assuring script, director and cast approval. The role of Jake Brigance, the lawyer who defends a Southern black man who killed the two white racists who brutally raped his ten- year-old daughter, was a hot property but Grisham rejected every major actor on the grounds that, if a big star went into the


Trial of strength

The latest John Grisham legal thriller, A Time To Kill, has thrust hot young actor Matthew McConaughey into the spotlight. He tells Sue Greenway about coping with new-found fame.

courtroom. the audience would automatically expect him to win the case.

The level-headed McConaughey got on with the work. wasn‘t over-awed by big name co- stars including Sandra Bullock. Samuel L. Jackson. Kevin Spacey and Kiefer and Donald Sutherland. At the end of filming. he took off to Peru by himself for two-and-a-half weeks to avoid the hype. Some hopes. ‘I go outside to take out the trash and there’s a camera there.‘ he says in a resigned tone.

‘l’ve got good people around me, friends and family who were there before. The hardest thing about this loss of anonymity is that my life is now under a microscope. The worst thing that could happen - and I’ve seen people do it and I see how easy it is - is to become cynical and all of a sudden have a jaded look towards everybody. To quit looking at the world as a

good place and people as good people. Every night I‘ve got to sleep with myself and I‘m waking up with myself. I’ve got to work every day to make sure I’m buddies with Matthew McConaughey.‘

The burning wish of a large number of females is to wake up with Matthew McConaughey. The very first fan letter he received came from a woman who enclosed a picture of herself in the bath tub. Yet he practically blushes at the mention of the term ‘hean-throb’. Dressed in a stylish lime green shirt. unbuttoned virtually to the waist. and sporting a beard - it suits him for his next role opposite Jodie Foster in Contact. he laughs uncomfortably.

‘I just saw the funniest thing in the world in a magazine called Star Girl. It said “New Sex God”. That’s funny. I am surprised at how many serious questions I get about this and I guess my answer is. as long as you’re saying that. I’ll say thank you. There are a lot worse things to be called. There’s an image and then there’s me, and l have to balance the two and try to keep them as close as possible. But if l listened to some of the stuff being said. i wouldn‘t like to hang out with me.’

Legions of women could tell him something different.

A Time To Kill goes on general release on Fri 13 Sept.

laying down the law: Sandra Bullock and Matthew Mccooooghey star In A time To Kill

The List 6- l9 Sept 199615