WHAT ABOUT… MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY AS DAVID WOODERSON IN DAZED AND CONFUSED?
The twenty-something Texan lothario may party and get high with the high school crowd, but he’s no dope. Story: Leigh Singer
School’s out for summer. But for the Texan class of ’76 at Lee High, aware that teenage years are freefalling into an onrushing adulthood, no amount of hip rides, tight jeans, beer kegs or Aerosmith-pumping 8-tracks can keep it at bay. It’s an understandable time, then, to be a little dazed and confused. One figure, however, seems not to be bewildered in the slightest. It’s as if he’s seen it all before. Which, of course, he has.
David Wooderson, according to a less-than-complimentary student, “graduated when we were, like, three.” Yet here he is, hanging out with the kids, celebrating an end of term that for him finished years earlier. A former school football star, probably mid-to-late 20s, by rights he should be a figure of ridicule to the freshman and seniors still bound by stupid initiation ceremonies and ball-busting football coaches. Man, haven’t you got, like, anything better to do?
Apparently not. And what’s more, it seems that’s OK – or rather, as he frequently nods, “alright, alright, alriiight…” - by Wooderson. See, it’s not that he’s some sad sack addicted to his own glory days, paralysed by fear of going into the big wide world. He’s already out there working, putting a little change in his pocket. It’s just that he’s come to the conclusion that high school is where it’s at.
Not high school per se, you understand. Wooderson, for all his talk of possibly returning to higher education himself, is well aware he doesn’t want to “spend my time listening to some dipshit who doesn't know what the hell he's talking about anyway”. No, it’s more the social side that floats his boat: the beer, the weed, the girls. Especially the girls. “That's what I love about these high school girls, man,” he drawls, “I get older, they stay the same age.”
It should be the sleaziest line imaginable. Yet the way Wooderson expresses it somehow conveys a simple, honest appreciation of natural, youthful beauty. It’s almost honourable - and able to bestow his own glowing confidence onto those with less self-esteem. “I love them redheads,” he grins to the shy Cynthia, with her frizzy copper-coloured Afro. Her two male companions, Mike and Tony are aghast, but check out her reaction. “I think he’s cute” she smiles coyly, fluffing her curls in the mirror. No prizes for guessing who’ll be hooking up later that night.
Wooderson’s sartorial choices are perhaps a little more baffling, even given mid-1970s fashions. The Ted Nugent T-shirt may be de rigueur, but the faded pink jeans? The oddly dapper moustache? And the hair (part greased-up moptop, part 17th century French courtesan)? Still, the way that Wooderson struts into local hip hangout the Emporium, looking like he owns the place and leaving star school quarterback Randy ‘Pink’ Floyd trailing in his wake, makes it clear. This is someone who’s a law unto himself.
Which is partly why Wooderson’s genial generosity might come as a surprise. Sure he’s out for his own kicks but his greater mission is to keep everyone smiling. When the planned house party is busted, who’s making arrangements for an impromptu open-air “fiesta” by the Moon Tower? And when a vicious fight breaks out and all the onlookers are being held back to let the fists fly, who gets in there to break it up?
The respect the high schoolers give Wooderson isn’t just a matter of high-quality marijuana or a souped-up car. He knows exactly where they’re coming from, and even has some idea of where they’re heading. For school, read work. For teachers, see bosses.
“Man, it's the same bullshit they tried to pull in my day,” he observes, in response to quarterback Floyd’s quandary over whether to sign a contract with the football coach that forbids all kinds of non-sports related fun. “If it ain't that piece of paper, there's some other choice they're gonna try and make for you. Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin' man. L-I-V-I-N.”
Not bad advice from a supposed stoner in a state of arrested development. Just keep livin’. Alright, alright, alriiight…
Matthew McConaughey is just one of several Dazed and Confused actors who went on to bigger – if not necessarily better – things…
Parker Posey (Darla Marks) -
One-time Sundance-crowned Queen of Indie Cinema graduated to Christopher Guest’s mockumentary posse and adding alt.movie eccentricity to mainstream fare like Scream 3, Blade: Trinity and Superman Returns.
Ben Affleck (Fred O’Bannion) –
Carefully acquired street cred through Kevin Smith movies and Good Will Hunting screenplay Oscar before dumping the lot with ill-advised Bruckheimer bollocks like Armageddon and Pearl Harbour and Hurricane J.Lo.
Milla Jovovich (Michelle Burroughs)
Eloped to Vegas to marry D&C co-star Shawn Andrews (later annulled) before high-profile roles and director entanglements inThe Fifth Element, (divorced Luc Besson) and Resident Evil franchise (engaged to Paul WS Anderson).
Joey Lauren Adams (Simone Kerr)
Baby-voiced actress dated Kevin Smith and apparently the inspiration for his Chasing Amy, co-starring with Ben Affleck. Supporting role in Adam Sandler ‘comedy’ Big Daddy; voice of the Squirrel in Doctor Dolittle 2.
Cole Hauser (Benny O’Donnell)
Supporting role in Good Will Hunting before establishing niche as B-list lead or co-star in actioners like Pitch Black, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tears of the Sun.