Way back in 2002, Matthew McConaughey was making Reign of Fire and hanging out with dragons. The fantasy epic about winged beasts that emerge from the earth is pretty intense, but not as intense as McConaughey, it seems when producers requested nobody on set call him by his real name.
Co-star Alexander Siddig, who played Ajay alongside Matthew McConaughey‘s Denton Van Zan, was in the room when an assistant director relayed the message not to call one of the best actors of all time anything but his character’s name.
Siddig told AV Club: “The only thing I remember about [Reign of Fire] was the first day. The first A.D. [assistant director] came into the trailer where we were all having our makeup and shit done, and he was, like, ‘Guys, I need your attention, please.'”
He continued, “We were, like, ‘Yeah?’ And he said, ‘Um, Mr. McConaughey’s gonna arrive on set in about 15 minutes, and I have to give you a directive — which comes from the producers — that you are not to call him ‘Matthew’ or ‘Mr. McConaughey’ or anything to do with his real life. You must call him Van Zan.'”
“‘And even if you meet him outside on the road, even if you meet him out in town in Dublin,’ where we were shooting this movie, ‘you must call him Van Zan.’ And that is exactly what I remember about that movie because as that first A.D. left the building, I shouted — rather lamely— ‘And he’s got to call me Elvis!’ But he didn’t call me Elvis. In fact, he didn’t call me anything.”
A method acting rule like that for McConaughey — sorry, Van Zan — sounds unlike the cool cowboy, but apparently, it’s not.
Screenwriter Matthew Greenberg revealed to Gizmodo: “The director told me stories how he would get calls from Matthew — you know, when we were still in pre-production — and Matthew would talk to him not as Matthew McConaughey but as Van Zan.”
Considering the amount of method-acting in new movies that is plain harmful instead of just silly, we find this tidbit rather endearing, especially considering how ridiculous the macho character was in the actual movie.
Sure, not being allowed to use someone’s name does sound irritating and self-serious, but we’d rather be annoyed than have Jared Leto send us weird packages or be yelled at on set by a tyrant using the excuse of immersion.
For more Van Zan, we’ve got a list of the best movies of all time that has plenty of him. And while Reign of Fire might not have made our list of the best fantasy movies, we’ve got enough dragons on our plate with House of the Dragon season 2 anyway. But you might want to hear about how McConaughey’s hilarious first role was a “fairly robust” death scene.