Dara Kushner/INF
Amy Longsdorf
December 13, 2006 09:00 AM

To promote his ’70s football drama We Are Marshall, Matthew McConaughey has been staying in character – or at least in wardrobe. The actor wore a garish green and brown suit to a recent press event for the film, telling reporters, “The plaid suit helped me find the character. I loved it. Still wearing them.”

He also served up dish on his relationships with Lance Armstrong and Penelope Cruz and on his famously buff physique.

McConaughey, 37, who has in the past laughed off rumors about his close friendship with Armstrong, admitted, “Lance has been a great friend. He’s one of the great new relationships I’ve found in the last couple years.

“He’s a great man. You look for people or ideas who are inspiring and he definitely is. His second chapter, now that he’s not riding the tour, is to be the face and leader of cancer research. And he’s attacking that just like he did the tour.”

McConaughey also joked about his famous physique. “When people say to me, ‘You’re in great shape, you must keep up with Lance,’ I start laughing. I see the back of his jersey for the first 200 yards of the ride and, after that, I don’t see him again until the end.”

But he’s no slouch when it comes to keeping fit: “I haven’t been in a gym in years, but I’m in shape. I either run, dance, ride the bike or swim every day. Physically, spiritually and mentally, I try to keep in shape. I feel better and have better energy. I try to eat right.”

To prepare for his role as real-life Marshall University football coach Jack Lengyel, he had to change his diet and workout regimen. “When I did this movie, I was 16 lbs. heavier than I am now. I had a big caboose and a big belly.”

McConaughey promoting We Are Marshall

How did he lose the weight? “I got a new character that I’m playing now” – in the adventure-romance Fool’s Gold, which he’s been filming in Australia with Kate Hudson.

As for real-life romance, he’s still friends with Penelope Cruz, with whom he split in June after a year together. “I just saw (her new movie) Volver, in fact,” he said. “She’s going to get an Oscar nomination – or she should. She’s incredibly excited about that film.”

Any potential girlfriends should know McConaughey’s idea of a romantic evening: “I think you’d just tell each other what you really dig about each other. You might call your mother and then swing by your brother’s house and then go home and do a little cooking. And you’d really respect the person you were with.”

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