‘Mud’ Director Is Just Glad He Didn’t Ruin Matthew McConaughey’s Streak

The summer movies that usually grab people’s attentions are the ones with monsters, robots, and monsters fighting robots. Those films go onto make hundreds of millions of dollars, but one small movie this summer made big waves by doing considerably less business.

Mud,” the third film from “Take Shelter” writer-director Jeff Nichols, made a little over $21 million this summer with a strategic release schedule and became the highest grossing independent movie of the year so far.

The film, which stars Matthew McConaughey, just hit Blu-ray and DVD today (You can watch an exclusive from the disc above!), so we got on the phone with Nichols to talk about how the release went and what’s up next for him.

First of all, congratulations on your little indie hit!
It’s a credit to Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate that they released it in a really intelligent way, and it was cool to hear that plan on the front end and see it work. I was a little nervous about it; I knew there were some risks and some potential rewards. That was a release strategy that is not commonly used. It’s really cool to see them try something on this mid-level, 400-screen release, and it grew up to, at one point, 900 screens. That was exciting. It just makes you feel good.

Now, I read before that the original idea for the movie came to you while you were in college.
It was 1999 when I had the first idea for it.

How different is the finished version of “Mud” from that original idea?
It’s funny because literally ten minutes before this phone call, my producer, Sarah Green, had sent me an email with the shooting script in it. She said, “If we go after awards consideration, is this the script you want to circulate?” I was just scrolling through it on my phone, and it’s insane how the lines stayed in place. We were incredibly true to the script. You read for four years with an image in your head, and I can still access that image. But I also have access to what we did because that’s burned into my brain as well after watching it 20,000 times. I have to say it’s pretty remarkable how the two line up.

You just happen to catch Matthew McConaughey in the middle of a big comeback for him. What was it like working with him during that time?
He’s a great guy, and he’s very serious about what he does. There’s this thinking that he’s this dude, which he is. He’s the guy you want to be with when you watch football, but we’re both they’re to work. He took my lines very seriously. He was totally prepared and really got into it. I don’t think he showered for a month. He stayed on an island for a couple night by himself. He just really got into it and took it seriously.

How do you feel now that people are recognizing him as a serious actor?
It’s cool to see the world catch up. I finished the script in 2008, and I was telling people “Matthew McConaughey, Matthew McConaughey, Matthew McConaughey.” I didn’t know him at the time, so the first part was cool was meeting him and thinking “Oh, awesome. This is the guy I hoped he’d be. This is the guy I’ve been thinking in my head for over a decade in this part.” It’s cool that he’s smart and funny, and I don’t have to explain it to him. I don’t have to worry about him trying to make himself look too good or too pretty or any bizarre movie star crap like that. I’m just glad my movie wasn’t the one that ruined the streak.

“Magic Mike” and “Killer Joe” were great. “Mud” really screwed it up for him.
Exactly. Until “Mud,” wow, he was really great.

Check back tomorrow to see what Nichols had to say about his next movie “Midnight Special.”