Let’s do some word association. When you think of Matthew McConaughey, what’s the first phrase that comes to mind? If you immediately thought, “Alright, alright, alright,” you’re not alone. In fact, that line from the 1993 Richard Linklater classic Dazed and Confused, has become one of the Texas native’s most iconic and widely-quoted lines.
Most stars have to work for years before they have a line that works its way into culture at large. However, Matthew McConaughey’s triple-affirmative was the first line he spoke on film. Recently, McConaughey took to Twitter to share the story behind that line.
Matthew McConaughey on the Origin of “Alright, Alright, Alright”
In 1992, Matthew McConaughey had two non-speaking roles under his belt. He was an assailant in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries and he was the titular character in Trisha Yearwood’s “Walkaway Joe” music video. At that time, he didn’t even know if he wanted to be an actor full-time. Acting, for Matthew, was just a hobby. Then, he landed the role of Wooderson in Dazed and Confused.
In the Twitter video, Matthew McConaughey explained that he went to the set of the film for a makeup and wardrobe test. “Basically,” he explained, “an actor comes in – they’re not supposed to work that night – and goes through makeup and wardrobe. When the director has time, between whatever scene they’re shooting, the director will come over and have a look.” This gives the director a chance to make sure the actor looks the part.
According to Matthew McConaughey, Richard Linklater thought he looked perfect for the role of Wooderson. Then, he posed a question that changed McConaughey’s life. “Say, you know, Wooderson is the kind of guy who has been with all of the typical ‘hot chicks’ in high school… Do you think he’d be interested in a red-headed intellectual?”
Already resonating with the character, Matthew McConaughey replied, “Oh yeah, man. Wooderson like all kinds of girls.”
That red-headed intellectual was Cynthia played by Marissa Ribisi. Linklater described a scene in which Wooderson pulls up beside Cynthia and her friends and tries to pick her up. McConaughey was on board with the idea. So, Linklater asked if he was ready to shoot the scene. The young actor said he needed thirty minutes to prepare.
An Iconic Ad-Lib
During that thirty-minute break, Matthew McConaughey took a walk and dug into his character. “The next thing I know,” he said, “I’m sitting in my ’70 Chevelle, about to shoot the first scene I’ve ever done on film. There’s not a scene written, there’s nothing written.” He had to rely on what he knew about his character and the scene. “All I know is I’m going to pull up and try to ‘pick up’ Marissa Ribisi.”
Anxiously, McConaughey started asking himself what Wooderson was all about.
“I’m about my car,” he thought to himself. “I’m in my ’70 Chevelle. There’s one.”
“I’m about rock & roll,” he continued. “I’ve got Ted Nugent in the 8-track rockin’. There’s two.”
“I’m about gettin’ high,” he observed. “Slater’s ridin’ shotgun, he’s always got a doobie rolled up. There’s three.”
Then, he heard Linklater call “Action!” He had to put the finishing touches on the scene.
“I looked down and crossed the way where I’m going to pull my car up and there sits Marissa Ribisi, the red-headed intellectual. In my mind, as I put it in drive I say, ‘the fourth thing I’m about is chicks. I’ve got three out of four and I’m going to get the fourth.’ Alright, alright, alright.”
Matthew McConaughey Never Gets Tired of Hearing the Line
In the video, he noted that it was the first line he ever said on film, he said it offscreen, and he wasn’t even supposed to shoot a scene that night. That, he said, makes it even more surprising that the line stuck the way it did.
“It’s also why today, when people ask, ‘Don’t you get tired of people always saying alright, alright, alright?’ I say no. It’s a callback to, like I said, what I thought might be a hobby. Three days of work as a hobby in my summer of 1992 which turned into a career.”
About hearing people repeat the iconic ad-libbed line Matthew McConaughey said, “It’s a compliment that puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.”