Matthew McConaughey: From sexy rom-com king to Oscars glory

HOLLYWOOD - Matthew McConaughey, crowned best actor at Sunday's Academy Awards, is a one-time Sexiest Man Alive who swapped rom-coms for more testing roles to finally strike Oscars gold at the age of 44.

The Texas native - who shed about 45 pounds (about 20 kilos) from his famously chiseled physique to play an HIV-positive AIDS activist in "Dallas Buyers Club" - won Hollywood's top honor on his very first nomination.

McConaughey defeated a group of top rivals, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale, to win the award for his turn in the low-budget film about the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

"For the first time in my career, I lost money! No joke!"

McConaughey told Variety, referring to his move away from blockbusters towards less mass-market films.

The father of three - who also co-starred this year in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" - became an Oscars frontrunner after winning the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild prize earlier in Tinseltown's annual awards season.

The blue-eyed actor, the child of a gas station owner and a school teacher, originally planned to be a lawyer and spent a year living in Australia before studying film at university in Texas.

McConaughey's heavy Texas drawl disguises a mixed family background that includes Irish, English, Scottish, Swedish and German ancestry.

After appearing in several television ads, his first film role came in the 1993 coming-of-age comedy "Dazed and Confused," which gained critical plaudits despite only modest success at the box office.

Over the next few years his career gained pace, ranging from movies like 1994's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation" to Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated "Amistad" in 1997.

McConaughey was seriously considered for the role of Jack Dawson in James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster "Titanic," before the role went to DiCaprio.

After 2000, he gravitated towards romantic comedies like "The Wedding Planner" (2001) and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (2003), where his good looks helped turn him into a major bankable star.

The money helped him buy a ranch in his native state, as he enjoyed the good life, being named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive in 2005 and its Hottest Bachelor two years later.

Career shift

But as the decade and his 30s wore on, McConaughey found himself settling down with Brazilian model Camila Alves, with whom he now has three children. The couple married in 2012.

That same year saw him star in indie coming-of-age story "Mud," which screened in competition at the Cannes film festival, and Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike," in which he played a male stripper alongside Channing Tatum in the title role.

Last year he debuted with Scorsese - and stole the show in "Wolf" with a scene where he chest-thumps and hums, a technique he used to relax himself on set. The legend director loved it so much it made the film, and the movie trailer.

In "Dallas Buyers Club, he plays Ron Woodroof, in the real-life 1980s story of a homophobic rodeo hustler who contracts HIV and teams up with a transgender woman to procure then-banned experimental AIDS drugs for fellow sufferers.

McConaughey's next movie to hit theaters will be sci-fi adventure "Interstellar," helmed by "Dark Knight" and "Inception" director Christopher Nolan, due for release in November this year.

He can also be seen on the small screen, starring alongside veteran Woody Harrelson in the critically acclaimed police drama "True Detective," which premiered in January on HBO.