Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros
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November 04, 2014 02:25 PM

Real men cry – just ask Matthew McConaughey!

“I watched it, and I cried three times,” the Oscar winner told PEOPLE of his new blockbuster Interstellar at its New York City premiere Monday.

The actor, who turned 45 on Tuesday, also admitted that filming some of the scenes left him in tears, too. “It throttled me.”

The Christopher Nolan-directed film, which finds McConaughey and costar Anne Hathaway traveling across space and time trying to save civilization, isn’t just a mysterious sci-fi adventure, the actor says. Much of the story centers on his character’s relationship with his daughter and trying to create a future for her.

“Even if you don’t care that much about the science of it or even the love story between a parent and a child, you just want to go for the wild, epic ride it is,” McConaughey says.

And while he’d do anything for his own kids, McConaughey hasn’t quite faced the extremes his character, Cooper, did.

“There hasn’t been a promise or a goodbye like Cooper has to go through with his daughter in this,” says McConaughey, who, with wife Camila, is father to Levi, 6, Vida, 4, and Livingston, 22 months. “I’m very fortunate: I get to take my family with me when I go to work, so my goodbyes so far haven’t had to be so long.”

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Interstellar opens in theaters on Friday.

For much more from McConaughey, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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