Rather than endure the usual press junkets, McConaughey decorates his $65,000 Airstream trailer with art from his upcoming film Sahara and takes a six-week cross-country road trip, including a pit stop at the Daytona 500.
With Oprah's cameras rolling, McConaughey helps Dr. James Riapel, who sheltered about 50 dogs and 18 cats in a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina struck, load the pets on boats, at which point they are all choppered to safety. Almost a year later, McConaughey auctions his prized 1971 Corvette Stingray on eBay, with the $61,600 sale price going to Katrina and Rita survivors, calling the car "a luxury that I'm willing to relinquish [to] help so many with the necessities in life."
"He's chivalrous, passionate and cooks a mean marinara. And now this Southern charmer is the 20th man to be crowned PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive," reads the headline. His reaction? "I like the 'Alive' part." In May 2007, the fitness buff makes PEOPLE's 100 Most Beautiful issue. "Do I work out because I like to look good? Yes, that part's vanity," McConaughey says. "Do I work out because it makes me feel better? Yes, and that's not vanity."
McConaughey and actress Penélope Cruz, who met on the set of Sahara in 2004, end their two-year romance. Their work schedules, which often keep them apart, prove too difficult to handle. "It was the distance, nothing more," a friend of the couple tells PEOPLE.
"We tried it. Wasn't for us," jokes McConaughey in the November issue of Details, responding to reports that he and close pal Lance Armstrong are gay. The fellow Texans, along with frequent cohort Jake Gyllenhaal, have become tighter pals since their respective breakups, often biking, partying or checking out University of Texas football games together.
After nearly a year of dating Camila Alves, 24, McConaughey, 37, appears in a PEOPLE cover story about his relationship with the Brazilian model. Since meeting about a year ago, Alves has been the girl at his side, riding the waves this year from Australia, where he filmed Fool's Gold, to the Bahamas, where he shot the comedy Surfer Dude.
McConaughey and Alves add a daughter, Vida, to their growing brood. "We pulled off the greatest miracle in the world one more time," the actor writes on his Web site. "The future looks bright as the family grows."
McConaughey proposes to longtime love Alves on Christmas day. "Just asked Camila to marry me," the father-of-two posts on his WhoSay account, announcing his engagement. "Merry Christmas."
After six years and two children together, McConaughey, 42, weds Alves in a private ceremony at their Austin, Texas, home. For the sunset ceremony, the actor wears a Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo, while the bride, 29, stuns in a custom gown. "Matthew looked so handsome, like an Old Hollywood movie star," a guest tells PEOPLE. "And Camila was just glowing and beautiful."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): G. Binuya/Retna; RAMEY; Kevin Mazur/WireImage; John Calabrese/Gaz Shirley/Pacific Coast News; Whittle/Kaminski/Splash News Online; Jason Merritt/Getty