'Dallas Buyers Club': underdog film turned scrappy Oscar contender

Thu Jan 16, 2014 3:40pm EST
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By Eric Kelsey and Mary Milliken

BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - "Dallas Buyers Club" is a film that prompts a discussion about money - not big Hollywood money, but rather the lack thereof.

The scrappiest of the nine films nominated for a best picture Oscar on Thursday cost just $4 million to make - a speck on a Hollywood studio spreadsheet - and 25 days to film.

But the real-life story of an unlikely activist in the fight against AIDS drew big talent, like Matthew McConaughey who plays the lead role of Ron Woodroof, Jared Leto as his transsexual side-kick, Rayon, and up-and-coming Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee.

Co-producer Robbie Brenner, after earning her first Oscar nomination with the best picture nod, remembered how they were handicapped by the lack of money.

"When we told Jean-Marc that he was going to have less days, he said 'I am going to get rid of the lights, I am going to shoot the movie without lights,'" she told Reuters after what she called "tears and screams" upon hearing Thursday's news.

"Dallas Buyers Club" garnered six nominations in total, predictably for McConaughey and Leto who both shed dozens of pounds (kilos) for their roles and were rewarded with Golden Globes last Sunday for best actor in a drama and best supporting actor, respectively.

The film took 20 years to make from script inception and was touch-and-go even after McConaughey got involved in pulling together financing.

"I'm like, wow, this little story that was declined and rejected 137 times. This little story that was around for 20 years that never could get made," McConaughey told Reuters soon after the pre-dawn nomination announcements, injecting a few "wahoos!" in the interview.   Continued...

Cast member Jared Leto arrives for a red carpet event for the movie "Dallas Buyers Club" at the Rome Film Festival, November 9, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi