Celebrity Speaker Secrets

Celebrity speaker secrets: Matthew McConaughey's big money fee from UH isn't shocking — it's standard

Matthew McConaughey's big money fee for his UH speech isn't shocking

Matthew McConaughey in the Lincoln Lawyer
Matthew McConaughey will receive $135,000 from UH for speaking at the university's spring commencement. Matthew McConaughey/Facebook

Back in January, the University of Houston announced that actor Matthew McConaughey would address graduating students at the school's spring commencement ceremonies in May to great fanfare.

After keeping silent about the fee McConaughey was to receive for the speech — in spite of inquiries from numerous media outlets over the past few months — UH has finally revealed that the Academy Award winner will be paid $135,000 for his speech and the university would also cover the Austin native's travel costs.

UH officials say McConaughey will donate the money to the Just Keep Livin Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the actor and his wife that is dedicated to empowering high school students. The foundation serves more than 2,000 students at 24 programs in California, Texas, Louisiana and Washington, D.C.

The booking agency which helped UH decide on McConaughey, Celebrity Talent International, initially asked UH to keep the actor's pay a secret. The agency argued that if the university told the public how much it plans to pay McConaughey, a "reporter or someone" might create "unfair negatives online," according to the Chronicle.

 While McConaughey's fee may seem exorbitant, universities regularly spend big money to draw A-list speakers. 

The school will also pay the booking agency $20,250 — 15 percent of McConaughey's fee — even though the agency has no apparent ties to the actor and does not represent him.

UH will pay McConaughey with revenue generated by its continuing education program, which offers certificate programs, online courses, workshops and more to non-UH students.

Almost 5,000 students will attend the May 15 ceremony at the school's new TDECU Stadium.

While McConaughey's fee may seem exorbitant, universities regularly spend big money to draw A-list speakers.

Last June, students at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas held protests following the school's announcement that the institution planned to pay Hillary Clinton $225,000 to speak at an invitation-only event.

According to Bloomberg News, California universities paid more than $7.5 million for speeches and performances between 2012 and 2014. Fees included $110,000 to singer Tony Bennett and $75,000 to actor William Shatner.

McConaughey's alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, does not pay commencement speakers.

Learn More