Matthew McConaughey Opens Up About Raising Creative Kids (They Even Took People's Cover Photo!)

"Being a dad was always my only dream. ... I can't think of anything being more important," Matthew McConaughey tells PEOPLE

Matthew McConaughey is no stranger to deftly juggling whatever life throws his way. But like many parents navigating pandemic life, the star has faced the unique challenge of raising his little ones in quarantine.

To McConaughey’s proud delight, Levi, 12, Vida, 10, and Livingston, 8, his with kids wife Camila, 37, have more than risen to the occasion.

“They have doubled down on their hobbies, creative things and parts of themselves I don’t think they would have leaned into if they were back in school,” the 50-year-old Oscar winner tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, where he exclusively opens up about his life, his new memoir, Greenlights, and the “awe-inspiring” gift of fatherhood.

  • For more from PEOPLE’s exclusive interview with Matthew McConaughey and an exclusive excerpt from his memoir, Greenlights, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
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Matthew McConaughey. Levi Mcconaughey

“One of the assets of this COVID quarantine is they’ve been forced to be more self-reliant. They’ve been forced to create their way out of their boredom,” he says.

One particular passion and skill they’ve honed is photography. “They’re into it — all three [of the kids],” he says. “They’re becoming a production crew. It’s very cool, [and] they’re starting to get kind of good at it.”

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So good in fact that the young trio collaborated on a photo shoot of their dad for PEOPLE, including snapping this week’s cover image!

Their creative interests are varied and far-reaching.

“They’re becoming pretty good storytellers [too],” McConaughey says. “Our youngest one will come fill us in: ‘Oh, I’m on chapter two ...’ Vida really likes to paint and draw and loves graphic novels. ... For Levi it’s probably more music. Basically he came out of the womb knowing a minor from major key on the piano. In the last six months, he really got into listening to composers, and he now can listen to a movie and tell you, ‘Oh, that’s Hans Zimmer,’ or ‘That’s John Williams,’ which is really cool.”

matthew mcconaughey and camila alves with their children
Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves with their children and his mother in February 2019. Gary Miller/Getty

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As McConaughey watches his kids tap into their talents, he relishes the “privilege and responsibility” of being their dad.

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Matthew McConaughey with his children. Courtesy Matthew McConaughey

“The only thing I ever knew I wanted to be was a father,” he says. “And it’s remained the pinnacle for me. Being a dad was always my only dream. ... I can’t think of anything being more important.”

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Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey.

RELATED VIDEO: Matthew McConaughey on His Memoir Greenlights and How His Father’s Death Changed Him

As he and Camila, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of Women of Today (WOT) online community, ready themselves for the ever-nearing teenage years, McConaughey says, “My hope is that our kids are conscientious and confident and autonomous. ... All three are very, very caring and kind individuals.”

He adds, “I can tell you this: I’m happy and confident to say our kids do not question the love we have in our family.”

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