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SXSW: A 'Dazed and Confused' Reunion

by Stephen Becker 14 Mar 2012 4:08 PM

Richard Linklater and Matthew McConaughey talk about how they created one of the most distinctive characters in Texas film history.


"Alright, alright, alright..."

AUSTIN – Richard Linklater’s Bernie premieres tonight at the Paramount Theater. The film stars Jack Black as the title character in the true story of how the nicest man in Carthage, Texas, was convicted of murdering the woman he worked for. The movie is based on a Texas Monthly story written by Dallas resident Skip Hollandsworth.

Matthew McConaughey plays the district attorney who tries to put Bernie Tiede behind bars for killing Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Only trouble is everyone in Carthage loves Bernie and they hated Marjorie. In real life, the trial had to be moved to San Augustine County so that a jury could be found that might actually convict Tiede.

Linklater and McConaughey took part in a joint interview session today at the Four Seasons (I’ll play selections of it during an upcoming episode of The Big Screen podcast. You are subscribing to that, right?). And, this being Austin, it didn’t take long for the talk to turn to Dazed and Confused – the film that brought the two together nearly 20 years ago.

Linklater said that McConaughey’s character, Wooderson, wasn’t even originally a major part of the film. Rather, he was intended to be just a guy that Linklater had written into a scene or two.

But it was Wooderson’s most famous line that got the two thinking about the potential of the character.

“If you write a character, no matter how large or small he is, and he says, ‘That’s what I love about high school girls: I get older, but they stay the same age,’ that’s the title of the book,” McConaughey gamely recalled. “When you get something that has a definitive line like that, you go, ‘Well who is THAT guy?'”

“The first thing you ever told me,” Linklater said to McConaughey, “was, ‘I’m not this guy. But I know this guy’.”

And that guy was?

“My brother as I saw him when I was 10 years old,” McConaughey said.