Matthew McConaughey’s Serenity Character Was Inspired By A Very Strange Individual

Matthew McConaughey in Serenity

Matthew McConaughey plays a complicated individual in the new film Serenity. He lives in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, dedicating his life to his real passion, but he’s also an intensely emotional person with some rage-fueled instincts. Needless to say, Baker Dill is a peculiar creation from the mind of writer/director Steven Knight – but what makes the character even more interesting is that he’s apparently inspired by a real person, as the filmmaker recently told me:

A few years ago I went on a fishing boat with a tuna boat captain, and he took tourists out fishing and he was very nice and accommodating until a fish bit - and then he was completely obsessed with the fish. You didn't exist. He just went for it. And it just interested me somebody that lived on this beautiful island, their only concern was the fish, and I just was interested in how a character could be like that. So I began to construct a character who might have reason for that.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of hopping on the phone with Steven Knight to talk about his work on Serenity, and it was at the very start of our conversation that we got into his inspiration for making the film. It apparently all started with a vacation and a fishing expedition, led by a genial man prone to extreme intensity.

Knowing this, the actions of this inspirational figure are very clear from the very beginning of Serenity. The movie opens with a genial Baker Dill out on the ocean with a couple of clients whose line gets snagged by a gigantic tuna – one that the captain has been hunting for years. While the tourists have paid Dill to let them catch fish after being led to the proper spots in the water, that doesn’t stop our protagonist from taking extreme control of the situation, going as far as to threaten one of the men with a knife, should he try to get between him and his catch. Needless to say, you immediately get a very clear picture of who this man is, and it’s because Steven Knight knew exactly the kind of character he wanted at the center of his story.

Armed with a very clear image of his lead, what came next was crafting an appropriate narrative for him to chart, and within that the writer/director took it upon himself to make the creative process as complicated as he could in pursuit of a greater challenge. The movie is Knight’s directorial follow-up to 2013’s Locke – a film set in real time entirely within the confines of a car being driven by Tom Hardy – so one can see this pattern emerging in his work. He explained,

I like to set myself narrative challenges, if you like, so I wanted to try and construct a story that was quite a conventional, noir-ish love story of sorts, and at a very inconvenient point in the conventional film take away the reality of it. And also offer the lead character the possibility of knowing what was happening through the fourth wall. So I wanted to see if I could do that, and if I could engage in audience with the characters, and then take away that engagement, and then restore it. So it was an intellectual challenge.

To go any further into the complexity of that approach would be diving way too far into spoilers – and Serenity’s hook is definitely one that deserves to be experienced within the film. If you’ve seen the movie already, however, and want to get into a discussion about all of its twists and turns you can check out our Ending Explained piece.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen Serenity, the film – starring Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, and Diane Lane in addition to Matthew McConaughey – is now out in theaters nationwide. Be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interview with writer/director Steven Knight, and to see what else is coming soon to your local cineplex check out our 2019 Release Calendar.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.