Matthew McConaughey might have been forever consigned to a career as everyone's favourite rom-com rogue, if director William Friedkin hadn't happened to spot him on a TV chat show.
And when the veteran director first sent McConaughey the script for 'Killer Joe', the popular Texan hated it so much "he wanted to take a shower with a wire brush", according to Friedkin.
Matthew McConaughey plays against type in 'Killer Joe'
McConaughey's career is not all paper-light fare. He's made some impressive turns in 'A Time To Kill', 'The Lincoln Lawyer' and a striking turn 16 long years ago in 'Lone Star', but it's fair to say his fame and bank balance have, for quite a while, depended on the pop corn offerings of 'Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past', 'How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days', 'Failure To Launch' and similar.
"I'd never seen any of those films he was in," Friedkin tells HuffPost UK. "I knew he was very successful, and that he was a nice guy because he'd worked for my wife (Paramount Studios boss Sherry Lansing, in these aforementioned rom-coms).
Friedkin had his heart set on a more grizzled actor than the smooth McConaughey, but was impressed by his intelligence and lured by his Texan accent, which was just right for 'Killer Joe'. Cut to a year later, and McConaughey confounded fans with his portrayal of a cold-hearted assassin, paid to take out a client's mother.
McConaughey has done it again recently, being photographed in almost skeletal form for his role in 'The Dallas Buyer's Club', a transformation that has again impressed Friedkin.
"If you look like that, people don't want you to act," the Exorcist director reflects on a budget-conscious Hollywood. "But this last year, he's taken control. I don't know why, because he still looks great. Not many actors would do that..."
An intimidating Matthew McConaughey with Gina Gershon - a million miles from his rom-com staple fare
In 'Killer Joe', a tale from the underbelly of American society, MConaughey stars alongside Thomas Haden Church and Emile Hirsch. British actress Juno Temple is also on board...
"I was going to cast one of three famous actresses," reports Friedkin, "and Juno sent through an email of her audition - the seduction scene! - with her younger brother. And that was it for me. I didn't even realise she was British until she turned up at my house. She just had the accent down pat. I couldn't believe that. There is a movie god who works for and sometimes against, sometimes both."
Friedkin knows of which he speaks. The director of films like 'The Exorcist' and 'The French Connection' has tasted both Oscar success and the deafening silence of a non-ringing Hollywood telephone, but apparently takes both in his stride...
"Everything creative is subjective, even the financial success of a film, or the Academy Awards.
"It's not anything you really did. You did it and it worked, but you didn't know how, and you couldn't repeat it. So you may as well do things that interest you."
Killer Joe is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from today. Watch our exclusive clip of a transformed Matthew McConaughey below...
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