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A grown-up Matthew McConaughey faces his "Ghosts"

By Cristy Lytal

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Moviemaking has finally collided with real life for formerly freewheeling actor Matthew McConaughey, not only in his new romantic comedy "The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," but in his career choices, too.

In "Ghosts," which debuts in U.S. theaters on Friday, the actor plays a man who bids farewell to bachelorhood, which seems appropriate for the 39-year-old who recently bought a house in Malibu, settled down with his girlfriend Camila Alves, and welcomed his first child, Levi, into the world.

McConaughey plays Connor in the movie, a philandering celebrity photographer who runs into his childhood sweetheart, played by Jennifer Garner, at his brother's wedding.

On the eve of the nuptials, he receives visits from three ghosts, who point out the errors of his womanizing ways and scare him to death -- nearly.

"It's got a huge heart," McConaughey says of the movie that draws from the premise of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in which angry old Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by ghosts and sees that he should become a better man.

Sitting cross-legged in a patio chair and talking to Reuters about the movie, the actor well-known for his tanned physique said his new movie is about second chances.

"It's about what would you do if you could go back in time and change things, or if you could go forward in time to see where you're going to end up, on the path you're going.

"How have your actions affected other people? Maybe Connor didn't mean to hurt anyone, but he found out he hurt a lot of people," McConaughey said.

The herald of the three ghosts is the spirit of Connor's late Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), an old-school ladies' man who taught his nephew all his womanizing tricks.

McConaughey credits his own mother as among his best teachers in the ways of love, saying she dispensed far better advice to himself and his two brothers than what Uncle Wayne offers in "Ghosts."

"My mother was always rooting us on, telling us, 'Look, a lot of people see it as the girl's the catch, and the guy just chases. Yes the guy chases, but remember, you're a catch, too.' So it was good hearing that from my mother," he said.

McConaughey will soon have the chance to pass along some of his mother's wisdom to his son Levi, who was born last July.

"I can't wait to talk to my son about women," he said. "We go somewhere now, he knows women, and he flirts with women.

"We put him in front of the duck for the first time. He looks at the duck, and he's like, 'Yeah, that's interesting.' He looks over to the left and there's this beautiful little three-year-old girl with long eyelashes, and he just reaches over and starts petting her hair. And we're like, 'Oh my gosh, there he goes.'"

In addition to what McConaughey calls "this epic that I'm making in raising my son," the Texas-born actor is staying busy acting. He will next star in the courtroom thriller "Lincoln Lawyer," drama "Stolen," and the bar-brawling comedy "The Grackle," which he will also produce.

But the arrival of Levi has made McConaughey more selective about his roles. "If I wanted to do something before Levi in South Africa, and we leave tomorrow -- 'Okay, let's go!'

"But now, there's a bigger circus you pick up," he said. "You're picking up your family. And you go, 'Okay, well, let's talk about this.' So I'm probably a little more selective."

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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