At SXSW, Matthew McConaughey Says It’s OK To Laugh At ‘Killer Joe’

'It's a bit of a hyperreality ... very violent, at the same time, it's very funny,' star tells MTV News at South by Southwest film festival.
By Kara Warner

Matthew McConaughey
Photo: Michael Buckner/ Getty Images

Despite the fact Matthew McConaughey is a homegrown Texan, this is the first year he's attending Austin's annual South by Southwest film festival in support of a film of his that was selected. And McConaughey isn't just in town for one premiere — he's here for two: "Killer Joe" and "Bernie."

In "Joe," the "Lincoln Lawyer" star plays a contract killer hired by a young man (Emile Hirsch) who's trying to get rid of his mom for stealing his drugs. Sound outrageous? It is. So much so that the castmembers revealed that while watching some of the scenes, they didn't know if they should laugh or be offended.

"It's a comedy, but everyone played it straight," McConaughey told MTV News at the SXSW premiere Saturday night. "It wasn't a comedy where you played the joke. The situations are absurd. It's a bit of a hyperreality like in some good Tarantino films — very violent, at the same time, it's very funny."

Co-star Gina Gershon added, "The wonderful thing about it is that you could be watching a scene and ... one person watching is totally horrified and the other is laughing their head off. Sometimes, it's like, 'This is kind of sexy.' 'No, it's horrible!' 'No, it's funny.' It really screws with your emotions a lot."

Hirsch admitted that the fact that his character hires a hitman to kill his mom is extreme, but she asked for it when she stole his drugs.

"It's kind of crazy. I think the MTV crowd — whoever those Music Television-loving people are out there — could like it," he said. "I don't know. I'm not going to tell them they will."

The "Into the Wild" star said he liked the insanity of the story — and that he got to act with a limp. "It was good. [Director William] Friedkin kept coming up to me and was like, 'Don't forget the pain. Let me see that limp, let me see that leg.' "

McConaughey said he expects a lot of delayed laughter from audiences because people can't decide whether they should find the situations funny: "It's the kind of late laugh that you go, 'I'm not supposed to be laughing, but I just found myself laughing, and is it OK for me to laugh at that 'cause I just did?' I like it."

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