Matthew McConaughey has read tons of scripts over the course of his movie career, during which he starred in 37 pictures.

But the actor said Wednesday that there have only been two where he knew immediately after he finished reading them that he wanted to be involved.

One was his very first film, “Dazed and Confused.”

The other? “We Are Marshall.”

McConaughey and McG, the director of “We Are Marshall,” talked about the movie at a press conference prior to Wednesday’s Marshall football game, which pitted the Thundering Herd against the Golden Knights of the University of Central Florida. The two also led the Herd players and coaches on their traditional walk from the Henderson Center to Joan C. Edwards Stadium, and McConaughey also led the crowd in a chant of “We Are Marshall.”

“We Are Marshall,” the movie, opens nationwide Dec. 22, tells the inspiring true story of how the university and the community struggled to cope in the wake of one of the nation’s worst sports disasters — the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash that killed 37 Thundering Herd players, eight coaches and university staff members, the flight crew and 25 football boosters who had traveled to the Herd’s game against East Carolina.

McConaughey plays the role of Jack Lengyel, the coach who helped rebuild the football program following the crash. The film climaxes with the Young Thundering Herd’s victory over Xavier in its first season after the crash. The film also stars Matthew Fox, from the hit ABC-TV series, “Lost,” and David Strathairn, who was Oscar-nominated for his performance as legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow in the film “Good Night and Good Luck.”

The crowd at Wednesday’s game got to view a scene from the movie that depicts a speech Lengyel gave to the team the morning of the Xavier game.

The scene comes near the end of the picture. During its filming, “We felt like there were a lot of people there with us ... fueling the sentiments,” McG said.

The screenplay for “We Are Marshall” is based on the award-winning documentary “Ashes to Glory.” And, while “We Aer Marshall” isn’t a documentary, McG, aka Joseph McGinty Smith, said he tried to keep the film as faithful to the real events that inspired it as it possibly could be.

“We really didn’t want to bring any of Hollywood into this picture,” he said. “This is your story.”

McG said he hopes the film’s legacy will be that it will inspire those who see it to reach out to the ones they love without them having to experience tragedy.

“We hope people will go see this on a Friday or Saturday night and, coming out of the theater, they’ll think ‘I need to call my mom. I haven’t talked to her in awhile.’” he said.

McConaughey, sporting a scruffy beard, said he certainly felt that way after read the “We Are Marshall” script for the first time.

“I couldn’t get it off my mind,” he said. “I experienced emotions I hadn’t felt in awhile.”

McConaughey also said he was unfamiliar with the story of the Marshall football program before reading the script. He said he’s confident that others who might still not be familiar with it will be as moved by it as he was after they see the movie, which will have a premier in Huntington prior to its national opening.

McConaughey, whose other film credits include “Failure to Launch” and “A Time to Kill,” said he had recently taped an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that will focus on the movie. At the end of the program, the entire studio audience chants “We are Marshall,” he said. He said he wasn’t sure when the show was scheduled to air.

McG said he would be forever grateful for the hospitality he and his crew were shown while filming the movie on location in Huntington.

“Everyone in this town welcomed us,” he said, despite the fact that “where we were going (with the picture) was not an easy place to go.”

At the close of Wednesday’s press conference, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahal, D-West Virginia, presented the actor and director with congressional certificates of recognition “for what you have given to our community.”

KENNETH HART can be reached at or (606) 326-2654.


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