Last year, Matthew McConaughey was touted as an Oscar contender for his supporting role as a manipulative male stripper in the surprise hit “Magic Mike.” While he was snubbed by the academy, he is all but certain to contend this time around for his acclaimed performance in the biopic “Dallas Buyers Club.”
He shed 40 pounds off his already-lean frame to play Ron Woodroof, a drug-taking, women-loving, homophobic man diagnosed with AIDS in 1986. Since he was shooting the picture last Oscar season, we got a sneak peek at his startling transformation. Knowing how the acting branch loves to see fellow performers suffer for their art was enough to secure McConaughey fourth place on our Best Actor chart.
Now, based on the buzz following the film’s premiere at the Toronto film festival on Saturday, expect him to rise even further. Two decades ago, Tom Hanks — who could be one of McConaughey’s toughest rivals with “Captain Phillips” — won the first of his two Oscars for his touching portrayal of a man dying of AIDS in “Philadelphia.” While that character was noble and dignified, McConaughey’s is a macho man, all piss and vinegar, forced to confront his own failings to ensure his survival.
To that end, he forms an unlikely alliance with the cross-dressing Rayon when he begins importing banned AIDS medicines from Mexico. Jared Leto is unrecognizable in this role and could also reap his first Oscar bid. While the supporting actor race is equally crowded — with Hanks leading for his work as Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks” — there could be room for Leto, who would follow in the heels of other gender-bending nominees Robert Preston (“Victor Victoria,” 1982) and Jaye Davidson (“The Crying Game,” 1992).
With “Dallas Buyers Club,” Canadian writer-director Jean-Marc Vallee (“The Young Victoria”) makes an impressive Hollywood debut. His emotionally powerful picture also features Jennifer Garner as a doctor who goes from foe to friend of Woodroof. While she is a longshot in supporting actress, this Hollywood darling could get a boost if the film does decent business.
Those savvy folks at Focus Features have moved up the opening to Nov. 1, giving the film time to percolate before the end of the year onslaught of awards.
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