PLAYBOY: Do you prefer being in a tent in the middle of a forest or a four-star hotel?
McCONAUGHEY: I like both, but that tent in the forest makes you love the Four Seasons. I fly economy to the jungle but first class back. You backpack on the trip, come back and get room service. You got ESPN, and there's a game on. In color. In English. Oh my!
PLAYBOY: What perks do you want when you make a movie?
McCONAUGHEY: I need an assistant. I didn't know what to do with an assistant when I first got one, but it frees up three extra hours a day for me to relax and focus on my work. What else? I'm more of an outside, go-do-it guy, and if I get a couple of dumbbells and exercise machines, I can break a sweat. I don't have to have a gym, but it's a cool thing to have. Security? Yeah, I've got stalkers, death threats and all kinds of shit. If I fly in the U.S., I prefer to fly private. I don't need a lot. I'm about as bare-bones as it gets. I have a go-to guy, John Chaney, who has been my main man for 14 years. Driver, security, assistant. He knows my rhythms, what I need. I go to a place, maybe he shows up first, scopes it out. Anybody there we've been receiving letters from?
PLAYBOY: You listed private planes. That's a fairly lavish perk, no?
McCONAUGHEY: Here's the thing with private flight. It's just the heads and tails of the trip; that's what you pay for. Regular first class is awesome—the food. But I just flew back from Europe, 10 and a half hours. Before we were up in the air I was asleep. A person woke me up because we were 45 minutes from landing. I don't need to spend $260,000 on sleep; I can do that in economy. But people pay for the time saved in not dealing with security and not getting bugged. You pull up, have a door open for you, step out, shake a pilot's hand, walk up five steps onto a G5 and go. That's the difference between 20 seconds and two hours, plus two more on the tail end. Is it worth $100-something thousand? I'm no-frills once it's time to work. I'm saving money because I'm on time, I show up ready and I put in 12 hours without complaint.
PLAYBOY: One odd fact about you comes from your admission that you haven't worn deodorant in 20 years. Has a co-star ever complained?
McCONAUGHEY: Kate Hudson can't stand it.
PLAYBOY: What does she say?
McCONAUGHEY: She always brings a salt rock, which is some natural deodorant, and says, "Would you please put this on?"
PLAYBOY: The average guy would smell like a corpse without deodorant. How do you get away with it?
McCONAUGHEY: I don't know, dude. I'll tell you what: Diet matters.
PLAYBOY: How about showers?
McCONAUGHEY: I take a few a day.
PLAYBOY: What do you have against deodorant?
McCONAUGHEY: I just never wore it. No cologne, no deodorant.
PLAYBOY: In addition to Hudson, you have been paired with lots of beautiful women in films. Would you have taken roles opposite men, too? Specifically, would you have taken on Brokeback Mountain, as your friend Jake Gyllenhaal did? If you had been offered that role and read the explicit gay sex scene in the tent, could you have done it?
PLAYBOY: Would you worry about what it would do to your image, or would you be uncomfortable getting it on with a guy?
McCONAUGHEY: I thought the movie was real good. And if it's got that, then as an actor it's hard to say, "I'm not doing it, because I'm not gay." Or "I'll do it, but we're not kissing." That isn't the basis of why I would say no. I wouldn't be fearful. I wouldn't say, "That's going to mess with my image." It doesn't make sense to me.
PLAYBOY: Owen Wilson is another laidback Texan with a charming, easygoing screen presence. Were you shocked last year to hear he tried to commit suicide?
McCONAUGHEY: We met a couple of times, but I don't know Owen that well. First thing, when you hear that about someone in Hollywood, you wonder if it's true. At first I didn't think it was. But the more we heard—well, it seems as if it was true. I asked friends of his who know him better than I do to check in and see how he was doing. When I work with Ben Stiller later this month we'll give Owen a call. That ought to be pretty cool. I put the guy in my prayers; that's my main thought about that.
PLAYBOY: You'll be working with Stiller in Tropic Thunder, replacing Wilson. How did that come about?
McCONAUGHEY: I got a call from Ben. I wasn't really looking to work for the rest of this year. I wanted to make sure I had time to finish producing Surfer, Dude, which was in postproduction, because producing is a whole new thing for me. But Ben said it was a couple of days, and the script was laugh-out-loud funny. I talked to him a few times, took the job and headed to Hawaii.
PLAYBOY: Is doing that role a gesture to help out Ben, who was suddenly left adrift when Wilson couldn't do the movie?
McCONAUGHEY: I didn't think of it that way. If anything, it's a privilege. It's not the best circumstances for a job to open up, sure. But it's open and it's a good idea, so let's rock it.
PLAYBOY: Now that you're getting older, do you worry about the changes that often come with aging? What happens to all the bare-chested shots when you put on a gut?
McCONAUGHEY: Oh, that will be coming, bro, and soon. That's how I'll look in The Grackle, a movie I'm going to produce about a barroom brawler who'll settle any dispute and deliver a beat-down for 200 bucks. It's a game I haven't played yet—R-rated, balls-out comedy, the stuff Jim Carrey does.
PLAYBOY: Are you losing the six-pack for the movie?
McCONAUGHEY: Woo, baby! Yeah, my character in The Grackle needs to be bull strong but meaty. Watching it happen will be fun. There should be some funny stories in the tabloids because I'll still have to go out and get my belly tan.
PLAYBOY: Are you as able to take care of yourself now that you're approaching 40? Has aging begun to catch up with you?
McCONAUGHEY: I've started to notice it, man. I'm 38 now and in good mental and physical shape, but it's different from when you're 20, bro. I think I'm faster and stronger now. I can do an activity and not even notice it. But the next day, I go, "Ow, my back!" That's what happens with age.
PLAYBOY: Will it be a comedown when you no longer qualify as People's Sexiest Man Alive?
McCONAUGHEY: Yeah, they'll put me on the cover anyway: WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM? They'll make up a story about some drama in my life where things have gone awry. I can't wait.