Every actor has to start somewhere, and for a lot of future A-listers, it was in low budget horror.
Leonardo DiCaprio debuted in Critters 3, Jennifer Aniston made her feature film bow in Leprechaun, George Clooney and Laura Dern starred in Grizzly II: The Revenge, Kevin Bacon and Johnny Depp got their foot in the door through Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street respectively, Paul Rudd’s second movie was Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, Charlize Theron was in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, and on and on it goes.
One of the most notable low budget and very bloody efforts to boast a couple of major alumni is Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, the fourth installment in the franchise kicked off by Tobe Hooper’s classic 1994 original. Two future Academy Award winners delivered early turns in the splatter flick, and nobody could have predicted what the future held for either Matthew McConaughey or Renée Zellweger at the time.
In a new interview, McConaughey took a trip down memory lane and revealed how he came to be cast in the slasher sequel, which flopped at the box office after earning less than $200,000, but went on to gain a reputation as something of a cult classic in the aftermath.
“I had already done Dazed and Confused the summer before, in Austin, Texas. Now I went back to school, graduated, and had my U-Haul packed up. Just as I was about to drive out to Hollywood trying to get a job, I got offered this role in this horror picture, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was a one-day role. A guy who rides up on a motorcycle at the beginning of the movie, sees Renée Zellweger’s character on school campus, she sees him, he rides off. She goes through her night of hell, and almost gets killed, and the next day at school he rides back up, she sees him, jumps on the motorcycle, they ride off. No lines. Just this sort of Romeo to Juliet character. Sure, I’ll do that.
As I got to the curb to get in my truck, which already had my U-Haul packed up to come to California, I said, ‘I should try for that role’. So I went back down the sidewalk, went in, He said ‘You forget anything?’. I said, ‘No! I didn’t forget anything but I want to try out for the role of Vilmer’. The girl that was the secretary goes, ‘I’ll do it!’. And right then, I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a big table spoon out of the drawer, came back in, and just pinned her in a corner and acted like it was a weapon. And did it until she cried. And they yelled ‘Cut’, and Kim was like, ‘That was good’. And the girl was like, ‘Yeah, that was really good. You really scared me’. And Kim goes, ‘Do you want the part?’, and I go ‘Yeah, I’ll take the part’.”
Two years later, John Grisham adaptation A Time to Kill set McConaughey on the path to superstardom, and it would be an understatement of epic proportions to say that the 51 year-old has come an awfully long way since his humble beginnings as Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation‘s Vilmer Slaughter.