Matthew McConaughey says he owes his entire career to Joel Schumacher

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Hollywood was shocked and saddened by the loss of director Joel Schumacher yesterday at the age of 80. Schumacher directed a slew of classic films including ST. ELMOS'S FIRE, THE LOST BOYS, FLATLINERS, and FALLING DOWN but it was his 1996 film A TIME TO KILL that made Matthew McConaughey a household name and the actor is thanking the late director for giving him a career.

Before taking on the role of Jake Brigance in the courtroom drama based on the novel of the same name by John Grisham, McConaughey was relatively unknown having appeared in small roles in films like DAZED AND CONFUSED, ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD, and BOYS ON THE SIDE in the mid-90s. McConaughey also appeared in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION which was filmed in 1995 but released two years later after being shelved by Columbia Pictures. By the time that film was released in 1997, McConaughey was given his first lead role in the racially-charged A TIME TO KILL and it made him an instant star. McConaughey issued a statement to "Variety" about the passing of Schumacher and he looks back on the film that fully launched his career:

"Joel not only took a chance on me, he fought for me. Knowing the studio might never approve a relatively unknown like myself for the lead in 'A Time to Kill', he set up a secret screen test for me on a Sunday Morning in a small unknown studio because as he stated, 'Even if you did great, you may not get the part, so I don't want the industry to ever think you screen-tested and DID NOT get the job.' I remember days where I would be having a tough time on set, he would always remind me with the most simple and sound advice a director could give a young man, 'Hey, you are Jake Brigance. You, Matthew, are the character.' I don't see how my career could have gone to the wonderful places it has if it wasn't for Joel Schumacher believing in me back then."

A TIME TO KILL was the second of two films based on Grisham's novels directed by Joel Schumacher, with the other being THE CLIENT in 1994. Despite opening during the summer movie season that is dominated by studio blockbusters, A TIME TO KILL grossed $108 million at the domestic box office and spent two weeks at number one back in 1996. The film was also relatively well-received by critics with a fresh score of 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film's best notices were given to its ensemble cast which also included Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Oliver Platt, Ashley Judd, Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, Chris Cooper, and Patrick McGoohan. Even with a stacked cast of talent such as this one, McConaughey stood out to critics who praised his performance which more than proved that Schumacher was right to fight for the actor to get the lead role. In my personal opinion, it still ranks as one of McConaughey's best performances. 

Set in Mississippi, A TIME TO KILL involves the rape of a young girl, the arrest of the rapists, their subsequent murder by the girl's father, and the father's trial for murder. McConaughey plays a fearless young lawyer who defends the black man accused of murdering the two white men who committed the act which leads to violent retribution and revenge from the Ku Klux Klan.

What are YOUR thoughts on A TIME TO KILL and its place in making Matthew McConaughey a star?

Source: Variety

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