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Matthew McConaughey and castmates were eaten alive by bugs on film set

Cover Media logo Cover Media 10/06/2016
<p>Matthew McConaughey</p> © Cover Media

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha Raw didn't have to do much pretending while shooting period movie Free State of Jones in the Mississippi swamps, because the sweat and mosquitoes were real.

Oscar winner McConaughey portrays farmer Newt Knight, who leads a small army of slaves and rebels against the Confederacy Army during the American Civil War, and he admits much of his acting was actually "reacting" to his surroundings.

He tells WENN the cast and crew were "food" for mosquitoes and there was very little they could do to avoid bites, stating even top bug spray Deet couldn't keep the flying bugs away.

"I've had a wonderful relationship with swamps and always have," Matthew says. "My father's mother lived in Morgan City, south of New Orleans, and we used to go down there every year for the shrimp festival, so that part of the country is something I've always been turned on by. And I've done quite a few movies in swamps.

"The thing about the swamp is it's sort of like the jungle - you gotta worry about what's coming from above you, below you, left and right, every step, because it's a living, breathing thing. There's no acting; there's reacting. When you see us in the film walking and swat, that's a real mosquito. They're not coming in to put on fake sweat and you don't need sound design to put in locusts in the background.

"We were seeing 'gators every day."

Co-star Gugu reveals some locations were so remote she and her castmates would have to take a boat to get to the set.

"When you are that far away from any symbols of modernity - no buildings in the distance, no telegraph poles - you really feel like you're surrounded by nature," she explains. "Especially when you see the alligators with that prehistoric look floating by.

"It was easy to imagine that you are in a different time. I feel like the swamps probably haven't changed very much since the Civil War at all."

And McConaughey reveals cell phones were useless on set: "There was a rule that we weren't supposed to be doing that (making calls between takes) anyway but this environment created a cave. It became a part of us."

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