Interview By: Christian Ghigliotty
The pairing of Matthew Mcconaughey and Steve Zahn brings an interesting paradox to the movie Sahara. Mcconaughey’s smooth, southern seasoned charm coupled with Zahn’s quirky slapstick comedic skills would seem unlikely bed fellows for a movie littered with gun-toting action sequences and an impressive panoply of exotic locations. As different as the two veteran actors are they still manage to coexist and stay faithful to the character’s as written in the novel; and while their respective abilities will hopefully lure a fan base to the big screen adaptation, Mcconaughey is quick to downplay the extensive training and preparation needed for the movie and commend the incredible and ambitious promotional campaign he helped to create when promoting the release of Sahara. “We handed out over 3,000 hats, over 4,000 t-shirts. It’s been fun, it’s been lively”. Central to the promotional campaign was an RV that held a billboard that literally proclaimed the film’s release date of April 8th. “Seeing the trailer, thinking that’s cool, and when they see I’m driving they get an extra kick out of that.” McConaughey drove a whopping 6000 miles to Los Angeles where he spoke with truck drivers at nearly every truck stop, handing out Sahara promotional gear. Moreover, the large scale promotional offensive didn’t stop there; stops at Daytona, the CNN Center, Philadelphia and New York City racked up the mileage, but the message was clear: this movie will be an experience-make sure you see it.
Promotional onslaught aside, both actors did endure rigorous physical and military training in order to stay true to the characters of Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino (played by McConaughey and Zahn respectively). The results are eye-poppingâ€”McConaughey’s transformation from fit country boy to ripped superhero will undoubtedly turn female heads at the theatresâ€” but the experience of his metamorphosis into Dirk Pitt was not
While shooting in Africa, protocols of the tribes that inhabited the villages needed to be followed to keep order on the set. Before arriving, McConaughey did some research on the tribes and their languages but ultimately left most of the experience to the moment, learning about the culture and their rituals through active participation. “The chief comes out, he greets you; he looks in your eyes, if he likes what he sees in your eyes he raises his right hand and you give him a soft hand shake. And once that happens you turn to walk back into the village. When the people in the village see you walking back with the chief you’re cart bloncheâ€¦they find you the best chair in the village, the sturdiest one. “With McConaughey’s status locked as a guest of honor in the village(s), he enjoyed privileges most wouldn’t be entitled to.” Every tribe has one young boy that takes you to the river, the cleanest part of the river so you can bathe and brush your teeth, and he watches out for you. You walk back and he’ll catch a chicken, a chicken that was just running around through your legs five minutes ago, and then the chief
Even with tranquil relations with the people of the villages, the cast and crew encountered hostile weather conditions that included sandstorms and scorching heat, and insect infestations. Digging through the trenches allowed for some beautiful cinematography that offsets the loud clangs and bangs that the tanks and helicopters pump out, giving the movie what Zahn calls a “romantic feeling”; and with commitment to two more Sahara films, he hopes that that romanticism gives the Sahara rollercoaster enough steam to warrant sequels. “I am truly excited about it. I would do it in a heartbeat. I hope it goes over great because I would truly love to make another.”
With its strong opening weekend (topping eighteen million at the box office), Zahn may get his wish and McConaughey may have to keep up his sorcerer bit a little longer.