Matthew McConaughey is still fresh from his Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club, as well as his starring turn alongside Woody Harrelson in HBO’s True Detective. Both roles catapulted McConaughey out of his typecast nook as a romantic comedy lead with no shirt and a Southern drawl.
But an upcoming role could make good use of McConaughey’s trademark drawl once more. This time the subject material is distinctly Southern.
The film is The Free State of Jones, and is based on real events in the Civil War era. McConaughey will play Newton Knight, a Confederate soldier who ended up leading a company of deserters called Knight Company against the South.
Legend has it that Knight deserted the Confederate army at least in part because of what was known as the Twenty Negro Rule. Under this rule, if a plantation owner owned 20 or more slaves, he was exempt from conscripted Confederate army service. In fact, for every 20 slaves he owned, an additional male family member was excused from military service.
The title of the film refers to an area around Jones County, Mississippi that Knight and his men attempted to set up as independent.In 1864, newspapers reported that Jones had “seceded from the Confederacy” and that Knight and his men were declaring themselves “Southern Yankees.”
Knight famously entered a common-law marriage with a former slave and started a small mixed-race community in Mississippi, where interracial marriages were illegal.
The filmmakers are also bringing in Gary Ross to direct. Ross is known for direction and screenplay work on The Hunger Games, Seabiscuit, and Pleasantville.