'Greenlights' Book Review: Matthew McConaughey Peels Back Layers of His Life

Matthew McConaughey on his 1999 pot bust: "It was time to smoke a bowl and listen to the beautiful melodic African beats."

To Matthew McConaughey, life is about making the greenlights. Here's how the metaphor goes:

"We can catch more greenlights by simply identifying where the redlights are in our life and then change course to hit fewer of them."

These are among the many words of wisdom proferred in Greenlights, McConaughey's autobiography published by Crown in 2020, The Texas-born actor turned 50 in November.

Best known for his Oscar-winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey got his start playing Wooderson in Dazed and Confused in 1993. He reminisces about the famous one-liner, "Alright, alright, alright," from the latter film:

"Now, 28 years later, those words follow me everywhere. People say them. People steal them. People wear them on their hats and t-shirts. People have them tattoed on their arms and inner thighs. And I love it. It's an honor. Because those three words were the very first words I said in the very first night of the job I had that I thought might be nothing but a hobby, but turned into a career."

Greenlights is not your typical celebrity tell-all. McConaughey spends as much time revealing Hollywood secrets as his does sharing travel stories from touring around the U.S. with his dog and adventure trips to South America and Africa.

He jumps from movie to movie, making significant stops at Dazed and Confused, A Time to Kill and Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey focuses quite a bit on how he bolted from popular rom-com roles and shifted to dramas, ultimately leading to the Academy Award Best Actor award in 2014 for his powerful portrayal HIV sufferer Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club. (he slimmed down to 135 pounds for the role).

RELATED: 2020 Dazed and Confused Table Read Ft. McConaughey 

There are numerous references to marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy in the book, and a revealing section about when McConaughey lived at Los Angeles' party-central hotel Chateau Marmont for 18 months in 2000-2001.

Busted in 1999 for marijuana possession and resisting arrest during a late-night raid after neighbors called police about noise blasting from his house near Austin, McConaughey explains it all started when the University of Texas, where he attended, defeated Nebraska in a football game that weekend, setting off a two-day bender:

"At 2:30 that morning I finally decided to wind down... It was time to smoke a bowl and listen to the beautiful melodic African beats of Henri Dikongué play through my home speakers. It was time to stand over my drum set and follow the rhythm of the blues before they got to Memphis, on my favorite Afro-Cuban drum born of ceremony and speaking in tongues, the congas...

"It was time to lose my mind in it, take flights into the haze and slip into the dream. It was time for a jam session."

McConaughey was so caught up in the moment, he didn't realize police had "barged into [his] house unannounced." They wrestled the actor, who was naked, to the floor and handcuffed him. He initially refused to put on clothes, saying several times, "This is proof of my innocence." (He donned a pair of pants in the police station.)

Ultimately, all charges were dismissed except for the sound violation: 

"Well, obviously I was lucky, walking out of jail only $50 poorer - this didn't happen to everyone who got hauled in on charges like resisting arrest and marijuana possession."

The 300-page hardcover concludes with McConaughey reflecting on 2020, the year of Covid-19 and racial strife in America. About George Floyd's death, he acknowledges:

"The unjust murder sparked a social justice revolution in America and around the world, and as racism reared its ugly head into the spotlight once again, we were reminded that All Lives couldn't matter until Black Lives matter more."

Alright, alright, alright.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.