Who wants to be the next Matthew McConaughey?

On the lookout for the next great Hollywood career-revival story

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Photo: Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in “Dallas Buyers Club”

A degree of finality set in when Matthew McConaughey took the stage to claim the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Lead Performance for his role in “Dallas Buyers Club.” The attentive entertainment writers out there – and the readers who follow them – must have relished the culmination of almost two years worth of scouting the trajectory McConaughey had charted.

Something significant had taken hold of the handsome good-time guy with the big smile and the washboard abs. Before our eyes, he was suddenly living up to the potential a precious few had detected in him, but that he had largely been wasting on silly rom-com plots and real-life re-enactments with a who’s who of the usual suspects with the world of famous models and actresses.

Who could remember his marvelous turn in John Sayles’s “Lone Star” or that stark portrayal from “Frailty,” when his filmography was littered with “The Wedding Planner” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”? (I attended the junket for that “10 Days” and all I had to show for it was a childish board game and a dating guide bearing the title that was seemingly written for a preschool audience.)

But he embarked on a plan to make us forget all of that disposable junk, starting with “The Lincoln Lawyer” in 2011, and not exactly ending with “Dallas Buyers Club,” because thanks to HBO, premium cable subscribers were enjoying his volcanic work alongside Woody Harrelson in the evolving anthology series “True Detective.” And he’s not done yet, with a recent starring role in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” and a sequel to “Magic Mike” looming on the horizon.

So, who’s going to be the next actor to pull a McConaughey?

Nicolas Cage is certainly an intriguing possibility, right? Cage dazzled and engaged audiences early on with indie and mainstream projects that granted his mercurial personality free rein. From the gently wild and wooly (“Raising Arizona”) to the certifiably freakish (“Vampire’s Kiss”), who could define what was a Nicolas Cage type of role or performance? Then, he melted down brilliantly right before our eyes in “Leaving Las Vegas” – earning an Oscar and leaving no doubt he was an acting force to be reckoned with.

And just as quickly, the personal troubles and bad decisions began to steer him away from his inner mad method on a frantic chase along a downward spiral of paycheck gigs. There have been muted shades of his former self, lurking in “World Trade Center” in 2006 and again in 2010 as Big Daddy in “Kick-Ass,” but he’s a pale reflection of the actor we once knew. The bearded ex-con in David Gordon Green’s “Joe” feels like an attempt at career resurrection, although it is far too early to assume that he’s gone full McConaughey on us.

Oddly enough, I find myself hoping and praying for someone else to follow the breadcrumbs: Cameron Diaz. I’ve never exactly been a huge fan, but I must acknowledge her efforts to branch outside the rom-com box Hollywood would love to trap her in. She’s a beauty, but she’s got a comic ditzyness that runs counter to her obvious genetic birthright. While I wasn’t completely sold on her as the urchin street thief in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” it would be hard to deny the effort she exerted to make us believe that she could be a hungry nobody on the make.

What intrigues me even more is something like her performance in the Ridley Scott/Cormac McCarthy collaboration “The Counselor,” a shocking use of her beauty, in much the same vein as Denzel Washington’s Oscar winning inversion of his righteous fire in “Training Day.” She needs more roles like this, but it’s got to be tough when the industry can see her as nothing more than “The Other Woman.” There’s got to be a project out there, something that will speak truth to her power and beauty. Like a true detective, I’m on the lookout.

Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit his blog for additional film reviews at terrencetodd.wordpress.com.

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T.T. Stern-Enzi
Reach DCP Film Critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com and visit his blog for additional film reviews at TerrenceTodd.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @ttsternenzi.

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