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McConaughey credits Australian town

Published: 3:26PM Friday April 07, 2006 Source: AAP

Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey has thanked a small Australian town for leading him to a life of fame, fortune and romance with some of the world's most beautiful women.

Texas-born McConaughey lived in the NSW Central Coast town of Warnervale for 12 months as a Rotary exchange student when he was an unknown 18-year-old without any idea of what he wanted to do in life.

Unglamorous jobs such as shovelling chicken manure and washing dishes during his Australian adventure apparently set the good-looking American straight.

The 36-year-old now earns $US15 million a film, was named by People magazine as the 2005 Sexiest Man Alive and has been in a relationship for two years with Spanish beauty, Penelope Cruz.

"I don't think I'd be here today if I hadn't taken that first year off," a smiling McConaughey, looking buffed and tanned after a recent holiday with Cruz at the Mexican beach resort of Cabo, told AAP in a recent interview.

In McConaughey's new romantic comedy, Failure to Launch, co-starring Sarah Jessica Parker, McConaughey plays Tripp, a lazy 35-year-old still living at home with his parents.

The actor says he was nothing like his character.

"Two weeks after I graduated high school I was out," McConaughey laughed.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life.

"I went and interviewed for a Rotary exchange programme and I got chosen so I picked a country that spoke English and I went to Australia for a year."

McConaughey may have made more than 30 movies, travelled the planet, accrued a fortune and dated the likes of Cruz and Sandra Bullock, but he remembers every detail of his Australian trip.

"I lived in a place on the other side of Newcastle," McConaughey said.

"On the other side of Newcastle is Toukley.

"On the other side of Toukley is Gorokan.

"Then on the other side of Gorokan is Warnervale, population 395, about two and a half hours outside of Sydney.

"I always had a wanderlust for travelling and I wanted to take a year off to go take an adventure and it was."

In Failure to Launch, Tripp's parents hire Paula (played by Parker) who is an expert at enticing men to leave their parents' home.

McConaughey says he does not have any advice for thirtysomething slackers who refuse to give up an easy lifestyle living with their parents.

"Some of them love it and have a great system," he said.

"Mum and dad love having them there, some of them don't want them to leave. Some of them do it for economic reasons `cause they don't have money.

"They've got the rent paid, they've got their food paid, they've got their clothes laundered and folded.

"It's a heck of a deal if you can get away with it."