With a rangy handsomeness that makes him look as if he would be equally comfortable branding cattle, Matthew McConaughey found fame shortly after making his screen debut in Richard Linklater's 1993 Dazed and Confused. After being cast in two high-profile 1996 films, Lone Star and A Time to Kill, the actor was soon being hailed as one of the industry's hottest young leading men, inspiring comparisons to such charismatic purveyors of cinematic testosterone as Paul Newman and Tom Cruise.
A product of Texas, McConaughey was born in Uvalde on November 4, 1969 and raised in Longview. The son of a substitute teacher and a former member of the Green Bay Packers, he excelled in sports as a high school student and was voted "Most Handsome" by his senior class. After graduating, McConaughey spent some time working in Australia and then returned to the States to attend the University of Texas at Austin. It was there that he met producer and casting director Don Phillips, who introduced him to director Linklater, and, after directing from UT in 1993 with a degree in film production, McConaughey was cast in Dazed and Confused. Although his role as Wooderson, a slacker old enough to know better, was relatively small, McConaughey succeeded in winning a degree of immortality with lines like, "That's what I like about high school girls: I keep getting older, they stay the same age." After Dazed, McConaughey took on a number of supporting roles in films of varying quality, appearing in everything from 1994's Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre to 1995's Boys on the Side, in which he was cast as Drew Barrymore's straight-arrow cop boyfriend. The latter film won him some notice, heightened a year later when he was cast in John Sayles' acclaimed Lone Star. McConaughey made a distinct impression in his small but pivotal role as the town's beloved late sheriff, Buddy Deeds, and was duly given his first leading role in Joel Schumacher's 1996 adaptation of John Grisham's A Time to Kill. Although the film met with lackluster reviews, McConaughey managed to attract favorable attention, holding his own against Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, and Sandra Bullock.