The Toronto International Film Festival greeted Matthew McConaughey with a rousing standing ovation for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.
Directed by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée, the film premiered Saturday night, giving the moviegoing world its first glimpse of McConaughey's highly-anticipated performance as a Texas man diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s.
Based on the true story of Ron Woodroof, the film follows his frustration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and his enterprising smuggling of more promising drugs.
For the role, McConaughey lost nearly 22.5 kg and appears startlingly gaunt throughout the film. After the film, though, McConaughey told the audience his weight loss wasn't the hard part.
"That was the easy decision," he said. "I would have been embarrassed standing here looking like I do now playing the guy. That really wouldn't have worked."
McConaughey's performance as a hard-drinking, homophobic rodeo cowboy whose illness changes him in many ways for the better was immediately hailed as a sure bet for a best actor Oscar nomination.
Since sinking into a series of unremarkable romantic comedies, the actor has remade his career with a string of more ambitious work, including the male-stripper drama Magic Mike last year, and the coming-of-age-tale Mud earlier this year. He also co-stars in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street.
"Matthew McConaughey is doing something spectacular with his life, with his career, and I wanted to be a part of that," said Jared Leto, who also gives a stand-out performance as a drug-addicted transsexual.
"He's doing some of the most incredibly inspiring work. That was a huge part of my decision. I said, 'If he's willing to walk down this path, I gotta get in the ring with him. That's somebody I want to dance with.'"
Dallas Buyers Club will be released Nov. 1.
The Toronto International Film Festival continues through Sept. 15.