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A leading man in search of a leading lady, Matthew McConaughey tells Jenny Cooney Carrillo he learnt about love from his parents, who married each other twice, so he knows it isnít easy.

Itís more than a little ironic that Matthew McConaughey is one of the most eligible bachelors in Hollywood yet heís never played a romantic leading man. Until now. The 31-year-old Texan actor, whose credits include A Time to Kill, Contact, The Newton Boys, Edtv and last yearís action blockbuster U-571, now stars opposite Jennifer Lopez in the hit romantic comedy The Wedding Planner, in which his character Dr. Steve Edison falls in love with his wedding planner (Lopez) on the eve of exchanging vows with his long-time girlfriend, internet tycoon Fran Donolly (Bridget Wilson-Sampras, the real-life wife of tennis star Pete Sampras).

While the charming star with the southern drawl has been attached to a string of Hollywood beauties throughout his dating career, including Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd and Patricia Arquette, as well as a reported new love by the name of Saly Richardson which he refuses to confirm or deny, Matthew does confess he is keen for a happy ending himself Ė and that he still believes in them.

You havenít really done a romantic comedy before, have you?
No, I havenít. Iíd say the closest thing was probably EDtv in that it was a comedy and there was a small romance but Iíve never done a romantic comedy that was a full-blown romantic comedy like this film. After U-571 which was heavy responsibility and fourteen guys on a mission, I felt like doing something lighter. I guess I wanted to play a lover of sorts and thatís what I get to play in this film as Dr. Steve. Heís a guy with a huge heart and unlike U-571 which was a lot about thinking, this is about affairs of the heart.

How did you know the chemistry would be right with Jennifer Lopez?
I wanted to meet her before I signed on because I felt it was really important to see and hope that you have some chemistry with somebody, especially in a romantic comedy where thereís a lot of pressure to see how you get along and how you move around each other. So I drove to Vegas and I met her. She was there doing some awards show and within about five minutes it was very easy to get along with her. We just had a nice rapport and that was when my mind said, ĎIíd like to be part of thisí. The main work on this film was getting into the headspace of this character, who has no guilt with the situation of the love triangle because itís just how funny life can be sometimes. You think youíve got everything figured out and a woman comes into your life and can flip your world upside down like a fairy-tale.

Do you believe in fairy-tales in real life?
Iíve been asked if I believe in love at first sight. All I know is my mother saw my father across the gymnasium in 1949 and didnít know him and said, ĎIím going to marry that maní and did and they were married thirty-nine years. So itís possible. All of us are told at some point by our parents how you find true love and your knees will go weak and youíll just know and the woman hears that you are going to be the knight in shining armor riding over the hill that day and thatís what happens. Itís innocent, itís optimistic and I think itís nice. In a world where you can get easily disillusioned with love and romance and marriage, it reminded me that if it happens like this once there is hope and thatís what was fun about it.

So what are your own thoughts on marriage and weddings?
I havenít thought about it but it seems like women like to prepare weddings and think of that day and how it is going to be so if and when that day comes, Iím sure Iíll leave that up to her Ė whoever she will be Ė and if we disagree on something, sheíll probably win the argument!

Are you against big weddings?
I have to say there are times when I think it could be in the Amazon Rainforest with the two of us but my mom wouldnít like that very much at all! I think sheíd be real angry because sheís got three boys and one grandson and sheís like, Ďwell whoís next, I need some more grandchildren!í She wants to be there, Iím sure, so I can see a big wedding eventually. Have I met her yet? I donít know!

Itís been five years since you landed on the cover of Vanity Fair as the next big thing in Hollywood. How are you handling it these days?
Thereís more joy now than there was in the beginning. Iíve made about four or five films where when I was finished I felt the gratification of accomplishing something. I didnít feel that on A Time to Kill or Contact or Amistad until like a year ago because the frequency of events was so much, I wasnít quite sure what I was doing. Now I feel a maturation of going to the set each day, building a character and feeling good about it when Iím finished.

How did turning thirty affect you?
Boy, my twenties were good but the thirties have a grace that comes with them. Somebody said, Ďyou donít figure out what it is you want to do, you figure out what you donít want to do in your thirtiesí and I thought that was pretty cool and accurate. But I wouldn't change a thing I did in my twenties.

You talk about your parents so much, your fatherís death in 1992 must have greatly affected you. How do you think it has changed you?
My mom and dad were married twice, so thatís just a lesson in persistence there, man! They had a passion for each other but couldnít live with each other sometimes - but couldnít live without each other more of the time. My father passing away was one of the grandest moments of my life as far as helping me move into being a man. When you have a loved one pass away so early on, thereís a wonderful sobriety and courage that comes with that. It remains a lot of the impetus for who I am now and how I live.

So what would it take for you to have your own family?
Well, finding the right woman would be a start!

And what are you looking for?
Thatís hard to define. When I find her, it will be real easy to define, wonít it? Have I already met her? Maybe. I could have met her ten years ago so what I mean to that is itís also timing and youíve got to give a lot of validity to timing. There are times where I donít want to go do something and other times Iím happy to be a part of something and give 100%. I want a partner. I want a lover. I want a woman, not a little girl. I like independent women. I like women who make me feel as much like a man as I can be and a woman that will let me make her as much like a woman as she is.

So letís say youíve found her and married her, what will you do once the courtship is over to keep the relationship alive? How can you be sure it wonít end in divorce?
Boy, you just wonít quit will you? If anything I did learn about love from my parents, I learned that it ainít easy and any kind of partnership is hard work. Marriage is hard work so obviously first I would hope youíd try to exercise all salvation tactics as much as possible if it ran into trouble, but there is no real science on how to do that. Basically, Iím an idealist like anyone else. You want to do it right and you donít want to do it twice. At the same time youíre waiting for exactly the perfect thing. Hell, I may be talking to you when Iím 105, still an eligible bachelor!

Published March 29, 2001

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