McConaughey shows Cannes he can
To have one film competing at the Cannes Film Festival is a privilege.
To have two, says Matthew McConaughey, is wonderful good fortune - and reward for his hard labour in the trenches of independent cinema.
In Lee Daniels' steamy Southern noir The Paperboy, McConaughey plays a journalist who returns to his home town in Florida to investigate a murder.
In Jeff Nichols' Mud, screened on Saturday as the festival's final competition entry, he is a story-spinning fugitive holed up on an island in the Mississippi where he is befriended by two local boys.
McConaughey laughs when asked if having two movies competing for the Palme d'Or gives him divided loyalties.
"That would be a high-class problem," he said. "I'm really endeared to both of them for different reasons - and they're very, very different from each other.
"I'm very honoured. I've got two films I'm proud of, two experiences I really loved and I've got two characters I really care about."
The two films take the Texas-born actor on a tour of the US South - and of men on society's fringes.
In The Paperboy, McConaughey's Ward James is a crusading reporter with a dark side that imperils his quest for the truth. His character in Mud is hunted as a dangerous fugitive, but who may be a wild innocent driven by love.
Critics have hailed McConaughey's performance in Mud, and director Daniels said he was wowed by McConaughey's nuanced performance in The Paperboy.
McConaughey said the roles were the result of a decision to "shake things up" in a career that has involved leads in a mixed bag of romcoms (Failure to Launch, Fool's Gold) - and, as he noted at Cannes, lots of lawyers, in films from A Time to Kill to The Lincoln Lawyer.
"I was looking for characters who didn't necessarily pander to convention, or even didn't pander to plot," he said, stretched out on a sofa in a Cannes hotel.
"They're all characters living on the fringes of society.
"But they're really human characters."