Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so the proverb goes…
And from real-life to fictional sources, actors have a long history of proving that when it comes to nailing a role, they all have particular inspirations to draw from.
Tom Hanks looked to eight-year-old co-actor Michael Conner Humphreys for inspiration for the Southern drawl that made Forrest Gump, while Christian Bale emulated Tom Cruise’s go-getter, fitness freak attitude for his legendary portrayal of Manhattan killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.
And some actors don’t take inspiration from humans at all.
When voicing Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Andy Serkis came up with the character’s distinctive guttural noises when watching his cat, Diz, coughing up a hairball.
Sir Anthony Hopkins likewise chose felines for the stealthy gait of Hannibal Lecter, while Johnny Depp was famously inspired by loveable Warner Brothers skunk Pepé Le Pew for his infamous portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow.
But for Matthew McConaughey, it was family relationships and authentic experiences that ultimately led to his characterisation of Kenny Wells in Gold.
The film, which is loosely based on real-life events, follows the story of Wells, a businessman who becomes embroiled in a scandal when he takes investors for a ride after claiming to strike gold in the Indonesian jungle.
Upon reading the script, McConaughey was hit by a feeling that he knew the role inside-out already.
In a recent interview, the actor explained: “I know a lot of people – and I don’t care for what they do, I wouldn’t trust ’em with my kids, or round my family – but boy, I respect who they are. Kenny Wells was one of those guys. That’s just who he is.”
McConaughey knew a real-life Kenny Wells – and that man had a central role in his life: his father.
An entrepreneur in the booming Texas oil business, Jim McConaughey was a hustler who talked the talk and it paid off.
Confident, full of bluster and always on the phone chasing a new deal, the parallels between Wells and McConaughey’s father were obvious.
“There were parts of him that I observed and parts of him — his dealings with some people doing some shady deals — that were very Kenny Wells,” he said.
But it was only by the time he died that McConaughey realised his father had been stringing them along and that the family was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
“Peddlin’. That’s what he called it,” he recalled. “He’d wake up every day and say, ‘Today’s going to be the day, buddy!’ And his other line was, ‘I’m gonna hit a lick! I’m gonna get a big sale!’ And he never did for those 10 years. But he had a resilience and an appetite. He was consuming life.”
Also starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramírez, Toby Kebbell and Rachael Taylor
Directed by: Stephen Gaghan
Running time: 145 mins