Thrillist: Where did Moondog come from? How did you first imagine him?
Harmony Korine: Moondog is... a lot of it was from spending time in Key West, and I lived in South Florida, lived in Miami, so I spent a lot of time in the Keys. A lot of it was just kind of a Keys vibe, or it's a real heartbeat that's present there. Guys that like to... I call it the kind of "check out" culture of people who celebrate this idea of complete and total lack of ambition, which I really admire, and I think is kind of hilarious.
People go to the southernmost tip of the United States and run off. I have friends living on houseboats who just devote their lives to getting blazed all day and sitting up on that thing and they're staring at the sunset, fishing. Nobody wears shoes. People have pet chickens and drink a lot of red wine. It seemed like a fun world for me, and I like the idea of a character who lived there, embodied it.
It's really just essential that if something feels good. [It's an] "if one joint is good, why not smoke 10?" kind of philosophy, and I grew up on Cheech and Chong movies and this idea of a cosmic America. Whether it exists or not, I'm not sure, but I've wanted to create a specific cosmic America for Moondog to dance around.
You were very immersed in this culture and the life in the Keys, but how'd you get Matthew McConaughey plugged into this character and the environment?
Korine: As cool as Matthew is, he's kind of already got this iconic stoner persona, and obviously he knows the world, and so it was pretty... I read him the character, and the first time I talked to him about it, it was obvious that he had known guys like that, so it was pretty easy for him to tap into it. He's known pirates, smugglers and that whole thing, and so I feel like he was already familiar with it. And then, he came down and we spent a lot of time just hanging out in the Keys.
Did you write the script with him in mind?
Korine: As I was writing and it was starting to develop and I was like, "Who could play this?" And then I liked the idea that he already had this persona, this thing people perceive. Even though it's not necessarily true, it still existed, so I forced it. I liked the idea of pushing it into something hyper-imaginative, hyper-real.
You call that lifestyle a lack of ambition, but with Moondog, it also looks like personal freedom, similar to a theme in Spring Breakers. To you, is The Beach Bum about freedom?
Korine: Definitely, that's what Beach Bum is about. It really is about the idea of freedom in the moment, living in the moment and an idea of, at least his character, even though there's kind of moral ambiguity, it really is about seizing a kind of joy and living without formal restraints.