Matthew McConaughey strode into the pressroom at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday and looked like he just stepped out of the 1800s. That’s because he has grown a long, shaggy beard while filming the Civil War movie “The Free State of Jones.”
But he took a break from the set to promote his latest, Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees,” which premiered Friday night to boos.
McConaughey didn’t look at all perturbed. In fact, it appeared that everything, from his perspective, was all right.
He was asked about the hostile reception at the Friday press screening, and he replied by saying: “Everyone has a much of a right to boo as they have to ovate.”
Van Sant seemed similarly unfazed, noting that two film critics got into fisticuffs when debating one of his earlier Cannes films, “Elephant,” which went on to win the Palme d’Or.
Van Sant, McConaughey and co-star Naomi Watts all said they were drawn to the story of a failing marriage, and the oblique way that we come to understand how McConaughey’s character has ended up in Japanese forest where he’s contemplating suicide.
McConaughey said that his character, Arthur, was going through purgatory. “It’s a supernatural trip through purgatory where you have to face death in order to actually find life,” he said. Then Watts added: “The journey to the forest puts you in a place that can kill you or heal you.”
McConaughey acknowledged that Arthur’s journey is quite different from that of his character in “Interstellar,” where, he said, his character had a clear goal of getting back to Earth. “This was more of a moment-to-moment” kind of film, he said.
One critic pointed out that McConaughey has made a habit of crying in his last few movies. McConaughey seemed a bit taken aback, but laughed and said, “The one thing I’ve learned is that you’ve gotta relax. Tension is your worst enemy.”
He said he viewed “The Sea of Trees” as a life-affirming story, even if it’s “a hard trip.”