updated 08/27/2013 AT 2:30 PM ET
•originally published 08/27/2013 AT 2:45 PM ET
And in the trailer for Dallas Buyers Club, you can see why he took the part so seriously. The film tells the story of Ron Woodroof, a heterosexual Texas electrician diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s, who tracked down and smuggled non-FDA-approved drugs into the U.S. to try to save his life.
Ultimately, Woodroff creates a club to sell the drugs to others with the AIDS virus – mostly gay men, the very people he won’t associate with at the start of the film – transforming his initial disbelief over his diagnosis into meaningful action.
The film costars Jared Leto (who shed 30 lbs. for his role as transgender woman Rayon) and Jennifer Garner as Woodroof’s doctor.
To play Woodroof, McConaughey famously dropped 47 lbs. in just three months, but earlier this month, the actor, 43, told PEOPLE it was worth it.
“I really was intrigued by this wild, almost redneck Texan who was trying to be Scarface – drug-smuggling, dealing and rolling in the cash, trying to stay alive,” McConaughey says of the character. “He was a bad ass.”