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Matthew McConaughey caused major controversy with bit of fried chicken

One of Matthew McConaughey's best movies hit real trouble with the MPAA before its cinema release, and a piece of fried chicken was at least partly to blame.

Matthew McConaughey caused controversy with fried chicken in Killer Joe

Matthew McConaughey has starred in some great movies, with his resurgence throughout the 2010s earning a special moniker: the ‘McConaissance’. One of the key parts of Matthew McConaughey‘s terrific run during that decade was 2011’s Killer Joe, one of the best thriller movies directed by the late William Friedkin.

In that movie, which certainly put the star’s best rom-coms behind him, McConaughey plays a sadistic hitman hired to help a family collect a life insurance policy. What follows is a tangled mess of dirty dealings, culminating in a frankly horrific scene of sexually-motivated torture involving a fried chicken drumstick.

It’s a deeply unpleasant scene at the heart of one of McConaughey’s best movies and it was a big part of the Motion Picture Association of America’s decision to hand the movie a restrictive NC-17 rating.

Rarely deployed, the NC-17 rating on paper means that only adults can see the movie in theaters. In practice, though, most mainstream multiplexes simply won’t show a movie with an NC-17 rating. It’s a commercial death sentence.

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The movie was ultimately released on disc in separate formats, with an unrated version showing the scene in full, while a special R-rated cut featured a substantially edited version of the chicken scene and other violent sequences.

Friedkin, who sadly passed away earlier this month, refused to edit Killer Joe for an R-rating in cinemas as he said it would compromise the intensity of the story. It’s hard to argue with that as the chicken scene is a big part of what makes Killer Joe such a tough, powerful watch. It’s definitely one of the most impressive works of Friedkin’s late career.

For more Friedkin, find out why the director went on drug busts to research The French Connection and learn how you missed a bizarre hidden scare in The Exorcist.