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In “Mud,” Arkansas-born director Nichols creates an affecting coming-of-age story with echoes of Mark Twain, rooted in the landscape of his home state.

Lee is very different from Jeff Nichols,” McConaughey said. “Lee’s not a linear thinker at all. Jeff Nichols was very linear _ he wrote the script, wrote each word on purpose, and would be editing in his head after he thought he’d got his take.

Lee grabbed this book but created his own world.”

McConaughey’s Cannes double-header is the product of remarkable year of work that saw him shoot five independent films with strikingly different directors.

As well as “The Paperboy” and “Mud,” he was a sheriff in Richard Linklater’s dark comedy “Bernie,” a club owner in Steven Soderbergh’s male-stripper movie “Magic Mike” and a hitman in William Friedkin’s thriller “Killer Joe.”

The 42-year-old actor has never been busier _ or, it seems, happier.

“I fired out of bed every morning so excited, and a little scared about going to work, but excited to go and get into it,” he said. “I love the energy of an independent film. Time is so precious. There’s no go-back-to-the-trailer time. It’s a very vital experience, and I like that.”

It was also an education in modern American cinema from five filmmakers with strong personal styles.

“Friedkin, you’d do one take, maybe two,” McConaughey said. “Usually one. Soderbergh: minimalist. He’s more of a shaper.

“With Linklater _ this was our third time working together. We do all this character work together. … We have a shorthand together.”

McConaughey will find out Sunday, when the film festival wraps up, whether either of his Cannes films has taken a prize.

Next up, he hopes, is “The Dallas Buyers’ Club,” a drama based on a true story about illegal AIDS drugs in the 1980s that he’s long sought to make with director Jean-Marc Vallee.

“I never had a rule on what to do, just keep trying to do different things,” he said. “But it’s got to be more than that. I was instinctually drawn to this kind of material where I was not necessarily drawn to some other comedies or things that I’ve done in the past.

“I’m more fulfilled with the work probably than I’ve ever been, and more turned on by it, and I hope that continues.”

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