The industry take on McConaughey’s career is that in the years that followed the It Boy morphed into that other cliché: the cautionary tale. The problem with this line of thinking is it doesn’t take into account the fact that McConaughey made what anyone would call wise, conservative, career-boosting choices. He worked with Spielberg in Amistad. He worked with Zemeckis, right on the heels of Forrest Gump, in Contact. He worked with Ron Howard in EdTV, a clever script that satirized reality TV before reality TV began satirizing itself. And yet, because making movies is sort of like driving around without a map, not one of these films did well.

“‘How’s it feel since Time to Kill?’” McConaughey says pre-emptively, because he knows it’s coming. “Everyone asks that question. They say, ‘You know, things didn’t stay so high after that.’” He takes off his glasses, leans in close. “Well . . . hell, no! It’s impossible! Some look at it as less than; it was just different. I worked with some great directors after that. Whether they did better or worse in the stock market, what can you do?” That said, McConaughey’s value did slip, and he became most famous as (1) the guy who dates famous actresses, and (2) the guy who was found by the Austin police one night in 1999, playing the bongos, a bong simmering on the coffee table, naked as the day he was born.

Bring up his arrest and McConaughey doesn’t seem embarrassed in the least—hell, it’s just another weird stop on the road. He takes a sip of tequila, leans back, and lets out a chortling, almost feral laugh. “That night was real enjoyable until I looked up and saw someone in the house who I knew I hadn’t invited,” he says. “Less enjoyable when he was tryin’ to pin me to the ground and I was fightin’ back. It sucked when I was goin’ into the jail, and once I got in jail it became enjoyable again because there was some real fun cellmates. We were singin’ songs.” As for what he was doing: “If I don’t want to wear clothes I don’t have to, you know? It feels better that way. I ain’t harmin’ nobody.”

And the bong on the table? While he’s not about to go into the details of his stoner past or present, he does sound a lot like Wooderson at times. “My ideal house?” he muses, apropos of nothing. “It’s an airport hangar over a river, right? Where you hit the property a mile up the road and then float your inner tube down to the house and get out at the dock in your living room.” (A few years ago The Onion ran the headline “Stoner Architect Drafts All-Foyer Mansion,” which seems like an idea McConaughey could dig.) His actual house, the one on Mulholland, he describes as “Spanish-Mediterranean-African-Mexican. Pretty eclectic and earthy, man. I brought the outside in, you know?” He makes a series of semi-spiritual arm motions. “Tried to get rid of most of the right angles in the house. The rooms merge—it’s got great lungs, man.” Maybe all that becomes clear when you see the place, and the plan had been for us to head over there this afternoon, but that plan involved navigating steep and narrow roads populated by nervy rich people walking small dogs, which wasn’t the best chaser to wake-up pints of tequila.