Matthew McConaughey: Why My Weight Loss Was Worth It

First Look: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto's Extreme Movie Makeovers
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey
Focus Features

08/02/2013 AT 11:00 AM EDT

A burger never tasted so good.

After nearly starving himself for the upcoming movie Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey spent 25 minutes "doozying up" his first hearty meal after shooting wrapped: a big, juicy cheeseburger.

"Extra mayo, extra jalapenos, extra dill pickles and extra ketchup!" he tells PEOPLE. "It was exactly as I wanted it."

McConaughey also wanted to look as realistic as possible, losing a whopping 47 lbs. in three months to play Ron Woodroof, a heterosexual Texas electrician diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s who tracked down and smuggled non-FDA-approved drugs into the U.S. to try to save his life.

Woodroof ends up forming a club to sell the drugs to others with the AIDS virus – largely gay men, the very people he "deplores" at the start of the film, says McConaughey. Jared Leto lost about 30 lbs. to play his friend, a transsexual woman named Rayon, and Jennifer Garner plays Woodroof's doctor.

Matthew McConaughey: Why My Weight Loss Was Worth It| Health, Movie News, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner

Focus Features

"I really was intrigued by this wild, almost redneck Texan who was trying to be Scarface – drug-smuggling, dealing and rolling in the cash, trying to stay alive," McConaughey says of Woodroof. "He was a bad ass."

The film, which opens Dec. 6, "is serious subject matter, but it’s almost got humor in the most anarchic way," he says. "It's a great story."

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