TK Books: Spot the Real McConaughey

Separating fact from fiction in the Lincoln pitchman's new book, "Greenlights"

Matthew McConaughey’s new memoir, Greenlights, is a lot like his celebrated Lincoln commercials — compelling throughout, but you can’t decide whether it’s because what you’re hearing is deep, insane, or both.

The genial megastar actor has among the more eclectic off-screen lives of any Hollywood celebrity. Apart from the whacked-out car ads, which inspired spoofs by everyone from South Park to SNL, McConaughey is regularly spotted on the sidelines of University of Texas football games, while he also contributes “Sleep stories” for use in meditation that litter YouTube and are probably more effective than a lot of edibles in making you feel high.

Greenlights is a hardcore distillation of the off-screen McConaughey experience. The plot reads like a letter sent back from one who has arrived at Man-Heaven, inviting all who are willing to join — if only you can decipher the clues to the playful treasure map sent back (that sounds like a plot of a McConaughey movie!). In between philosophical ruminations (“An existential crisis? I’d call it an existential challenge, and one I was up for”) and requisite non-specific political messaging (“We were reminded that All Lives Matter until Black Lives Matter more”), the book is filled with tales of “late-night revelry of song, dance, and the occasional wrestling match,” some of which get pretty weird.

See if you can guess which of the following passages are actually from Greenlights, and which is the one we made up. There’s a poll underneath the entries:

A) In January 2012, my agent told me a Canadian director named Jean-Marc Vallée had read the script for Dallas Buyers Club and was interested in meeting me. I watched a film of his, C.R.A.Z.Y., and liked it for all the right reasons. I felt a deep connection with the character, but I had reservations, beginning with the key question – could I pull off the physical transformation? Was this light red, or green?

I had a new house in Hollywood Hills with a yard big enough to get my hands back in the soil. There was a shed in the back with an old hula hoop in it and I took that hoop and put it down on the cold dry California ground under the moonlight. Then I stood in the middle. I’d been reading the script all night. It was fire.

I was naked except for my ninth beer of the night which I held in my left hand like a talisman.

McConuaghey, I said, if you can piss in a circle ten times without letting a drop of gold inside that hoop, you’re the man.

I was livin and hit fourteen.  

Life is our résumé. It’s our story to tell, and the choices we make write the chapters. I walked inside and made the call. I was ready to play Ron Woodroof.

B) I had a wet dream.

I was floating downstream on my back in the Amazon River.

Wrapped up by anacondas and pythons. Surrounded by crocodiles, piranhas, and a few freshwater sharks.

There were African tribesmen lined up shoulder to shoulder on the ridge to the left of me as far as my eyes could see.

I was at peace.

Eleven frames.

Eleven seconds.

Then I came.


C) I don’t know if you’ve ever shaved your head before, but if you have, you know it can be gnarly under there. I had dents in my cranium, a psoriasis patch, and my scalp was chalk white. The paparazzi got a shot of my freshly shaved nugget the day after I did it, and that photo was in People magazine the next week.

Soon enough, my phone rang.

“You did not shave your head,” an ominous whispering voice stated. For the sake of his privacy I’ll leave his name off the page, but he was a top studio executive with a very large financial investment in Reign of Fire.

“Yes, I did,” I said bluntly.

“No, you didn’t, I refuse to believe this, Matthew. You just wore a bald cap as a prank.” Again stating not asking.

“No…I shaved my head.”

He hung up.