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‘Mud’ takes Matthew McConaughey down memory lane

Matthew McConaughey (left) Tye Sheridan star 'Mud.'  | AP

Matthew McConaughey (left) and Tye Sheridan star in "Mud." | AP

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Updated: May 28, 2013 5:45PM

Matthew McConaughey’s new film “Mud,” now in theaters, is filled with examples of unrequited love, forbidden love and love gone wrong.

As the film’s title character, an island-dwelling fugitive who’s wanted for murder and longs to reunite with the woman from whom he was separated, McConaughey meets and eventually gains the trust (even admiration) of an emotionally embattled teenage boy named Ellis (Tye Sheridan).

Ellis’s parents are on the verge of divorce, and the girl for whom he pines is giving him the cold shoulder. To help salve his wounds, Ellis makes it his mission to find Mud’s lady (Reese Witherspoon) and reunite the couple despite dangerous roadblocks.

McConaughey remembers what it was like to be Ellis.

“It takes me back to that first love, first kiss, first broken heart,” he says of “Mud,” in which the stripping star of “Magic Mike” and erstwhile “Sexiest Man Alive” keeps his shirt on for an impressive 100 minutes before doffing it to reveal his famously buff physique. “And it’s in that time where, through [the character of] Ellis, innocence is banging on the ceiling of knowledge and the way the world really works.”

At that point in a boy’s life, McConaughey says, love “has fangs and they dig in. And we learn to protect ourselves better as we grow up.”

He knows this from ample firsthand experience. And while he skirts specific details about the last time he was romantically incinerated, he lays out his philosophy on how to deal with such a situation.

“I’ve got friends who either go through the divorce or a breakup, and I’ve talked [to them] about, ‘OK, first off, let’s not put on the AC/DC right away. Let’s sit back and be still with ourselves and learn from this what we’re supposed to learn — if we need to change, if we need to evolve. And after we’ve done that, let’s not wallow too long, because now there is a time when we need to put on the rock ‘n’ roll and dust ourselves off and move forward. Some people — I’ve done it before — put on the rock ‘n’ roll too early and don’t learn anything from the pain. Other people never turn on the rock ‘n’ roll and sit around and become depressed forever.

The key, he says, it to “take some stock in the loss and the pain, but then get on with it.”

Knowing oneself is crucial as well.

“No matter who you’re going to bed with,” McConaughey says, “you’re sleeping with yourself every night. So if you ain’t getting along with the ‘M and the E,’ you’d better spend more time with them because you can’t get rid of ’em.”

In order to properly commune with said ‘M’ and ‘E,’ McConaughey recommends “throwing on a backpack” and getting away from it all. Totally, utterly, completely away.

“And wherever you go, get out of whatever you know,” he says. “Leave every crutch you got. Leave your car, leave your Blackberry, leave your iPhone, leave your girlfriend, leave your attention and get out there. And you’re going to get frustrated, man, and you’re going to be like, ‘What am I doing? I need to go back.’ And make sure you stay. As soon as you say, ‘I’m gonna go back,’ you’ve got to stay another 10 days, because you’ll get through that side and get to the other side and go, ‘Oh, I can exist here. I can do this.’

“As soon as you feel that, then it’s OK to come home.”

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