Matthew McConaughey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Cooper in Interstellar.
Matthew McConaughey plays an average Joe hero for the film, although technically not all that average considering he is a former spacecraft pilot. When the film opens though he is merely a farmer attempting to do his best to take care of his family. This is an interesting character for McConaughey to take on as it is sort of a blend for him from his former days as the leading man, and his more intense character driven work. In the early scenes it mostly stresses McConaughey to once again be the semi straight forward leading man to invest in. McConaughey is quietly charming in his usual way that he hones in properly to fit into a guy like Cooper. He's particularly good in portraying Cooper as a father. McConaughey has particularly great chemistry with Mackenzie Foy as Cooper's daughter Murph. McConaughey and Foy both are terrific in creating the needed natural ease and warmth between the two. They are absolutely convincing in creating the needed bond between the two which is truly an essential part of the film.
An idea behind Cooper in the early scenes is that he seems to constantly still have his head in the stars even while it seems that the rest of society has become particularly worldly minded. McConaughey is great at being a bit of a personification of an individual exceptionalism. McConaughey carries this incredible passion around the ideas that Cooper holds dear that it's hard not to sympathize with the character's dreams involving them. McConaughey, for the lack of a better word, is properly spunky in the role. Cooper basically wants to save the day for his family and the earth as a whole, and McConaughey makes this a sensible idea through his performance. McConaughey is very important in creating the sense of excitement in seeing the mission through as he conveys such a powerful desire in Cooper to find the way. What matters the most is that McConaughey makes it such a genuine fervor and allows this to be such an inspiring idea. McConaughey makes Cooper's objective, even though he leaves his family, a noble endeavor.
McConaughey's performance becomes all the more essential once the mission takes off and the film does indulge in a great deal of expository dialogue in order to explain the various scientific concepts involved in the film. McConaughey always grounds the film whenever he is onscreen as he never becomes lost in the words. He perhaps has less of it to deal with, and the some that he does have McConaughey handles in a particularly natural fashion. More necessary though is the way that McConaughey always conveys what it is that the others are talking in terms of emotional means. When they speak of something relating to completion of the mission, what way they are going to complete the mission, or simply whether or not they will lose more time, McConaughey always reflects what this means to the story of Cooper and what he cares most about. This being of course his family and McConaughey always keeps that human quality within the larger spectacle of the film, and never loses it for a moment even during all of the film's sound and fury.
Now as good as McConaughey is in showing how Cooper is always remembering his family that seems like almost nothing compared to the scenes where the film focuses right on it. There is one long scene where Cooper watches messages from home after having lost a considerable amount of time caused by gravitational time dilation. Which means that while Cooper explored one of the planets decades went by on earth while Cooper was only on the planet for a few hours. McConaughey is absolutely heartbreaking in the scene. He is outstanding as he reflects just how every message forces Cooper to see what he has lost over the years, and realize the lives he's left his children of. The intense emotional devastation McConaughey depicts is incredibly moving, and makes one the remarkable scenes in this epic just a man watching a monitor. All of the real weight of the time loss is completely expressed by McConaughey's performance, and this whole idea is never lost for a moment due to his presence.
The emotional poignancy of McConaughey's work brilliantly carries the film and is never overwhelmed by the larger vision of the film. McConaughey treads so efficiently through every turn that it is something amazing to behold. There are even a few moments where McConaughey does throw in a light bit of comedy particularly in Cooper's interactions with the robot TARS, that McConaughey never overplays this but does bring some much needed humor to the film. He also never allows any scene that he's in to completely fall flat because of his performance. Even the very divisive ending scene where Cooper spends his time in a time bending bookshelf, McConaughey still does not lose it. McConaughey does his absolute best to make this a believable result of the journey through his depiction of the emotional state of the moment. Again McConaughey is absurdly moving in the scene as he shows Cooper desperately pleading with himself to stay home, and even if you don't buy the scene as a whole you can certainly believe McConaughey's performance.
The film does have more than a few pitfalls along the way, but Matthew McConaughey never falls into one of them. Although McConaughey is even in scenes that don't entirely work, such as the demented guest appearance by Matt Damon, McConaughey never falters in his portrayal of Cooper. The missteps going on in the scene such as Damon getting much too of an over the top of a villain speech as well as villainous performance. The character frankly would be more fitting for a Star Trek episode than this sort of science fiction, but McConaughey does not lose his mark as he keeps Cooper's reactions wholly honest. He acts as the perfect guide for the film's literal journey as well as its emotional one. McConaughey makes for a likable hero who we want to see survive and succeed his mission. In addition McConaughey brings that intensity he's more currently known for in portraying simply the devotion a father has for his daughter. I could actually easily see none of the film working if it were not Matthew McConaughey's performance which stands as the dramatic core which holds the far reaching story together.