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5 Things to Know Before Joining the Dallas Buyers Club With Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey, The Dallas Buyers Club Focus Features

A Texas-sized tearjerker, Dallas is based on the true story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), an electrician and rodeo bull-rider who's diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and given 30 days to live. This hard-living, shit-kicking good ol' straight boy refuses to accept his death sentence, and he tracks down alternative treatments that he smuggles into the U.S. Woodroof finds an unlikely ally in transsexual Rayon (Jared Leto), an AIDS patient who helps him establish an underground "buyer's club," where members pay dues for access to unapproved drugs. Despite running afoul of the FDA, IRS, and FBI, Woodroof keeps fighting to get meds for those who need it most. Here's your prescription — take these five facts and see Dallas, stat: 

1) Long Road to Dallas: Screenwriter Craig Borten met with Woodroof a month before he succumbed to AIDS in September 1992. Borten was fascinated by Woodroof's life story and recorded more than 20 hours of interviews over several days. The resulting screenplay went through years of development hell, during which Borten teamed with writer Melisa Wallack in 2000 to rework the script. Twenty years after Borten's meeting with Woodroof, Dallas finally went into production. 

WATCH: Dallas Buyers Club trailer

2) Hollywood Star From the Lone Star State: McConaughey was born and raised outside of Dallas, so he was very familiar with the culture and history that helped shape Ron Woodroof. After reading the screenplay, which he thought was "incredibly human, with no sentimentality," McConaughey threw his support behind the film. To prepare, the actor not only went through an extreme physical transformation but also did extensive research. He found Woodroof's journals to be the most informative for understanding how the homophobic cowboy became a stalwart of the AIDS movement.

NEWS: Jared Leto Opens Up About Roommate Who Died From AIDS

Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, The Dallas Buyers Club, Holiday Movie Guide Focus Features

3) Dude Looks Like a Lady: Jared Leto wasn't looking to return to acting, since he'd been busy working as a writer/director and singer/musician for five years. But the plum part, strong script, and McConaughey as leading man made the project irresistible. Leto immersed himself, working on Rayon's voice for weeks, and by the time he met director Jean-Marc Vallée, he was already acting and dressing the part. "Rayon" even tried to seduce him. "I don't know Leto," Vallée says. "Jared never showed me Jared."

4) The Dallas Diet: McConaughey's weight-loss plan, supervised by doctors, spanned four months before filming began. He shed nearly 50 pounds to play Woodroof at 140 pounds for most of the movie and then hit 135 pounds for a pivotal hospital scene. Leto had only three weeks to prepare and fasted to reach a scary-skinny 116 pounds. Leto has altered his weight several times for film roles, including dropping 25 pounds for Requiem for a Dream and packing on 60+ pounds to play assassin Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27.

WATCH: Jennifer Garner Talks About Dallas Buyers Club

5) Fast and Loose (and Used): Dallas had a super-tight shooting schedule — just 25 days. Director Vallée maximized every minute by using only existing light and practical lamps and shooting the entire movie handheld, both of which added to the realistic look of the film. Fortunately for the limited budget, costumers were able to outfit many of the actors in '70s and '80s clothing from thrift stores. Their fashion finds ranged from Urban Cowboy-inspired menswear and polyester suits to waist-high jeans and large shoulder pads.

PHOTOS: See other celebs who have transformed their bodies for movie roles

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