Matthew McConaughey was on the red carpet in New York promoting his new film The Dark Tower when he heard the news that his Mud co-star Sam Shepard had passed away.

Acclaimed playwright and Oscar-nominated actor Shepard died last week at the age of 73 as a result of complications of Motor Neurone Disease. His death was announced on Monday.

A reporter for the Associated Press unwittingly broke the news to Oscar winner McConaughey before the premiere of Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower at New York's Museum of Modern Art later that day.

"Today's a sad day with the passing of Sam Shepard," said the reporter. "You guys worked together on Mud."

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"What?" replied a stunned McConaughey. "Sam Shepard moved on?" the Dallas Buyers Club star asked, holding his hand to his head.

"Gosh, damn it," said McConaughey, looking away.

Regaining his composure after a few moments, McConaughey then paid tribute to his co-star in the acclaimed 2012 coming-of-age drama. 

"Look, I'm not going to trivialise that situation I just heard about for the first time," he said.

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"But I always told [Mud director] Jeff Nichols this: I said, 'Look, in Mud, the whole trailer for Mud could be Sam Shepard sitting in that green chair telling the boy about who [McConaughey's character] Mud is'. It would be about a two-and-a-half minute trailer, but it would have been really badass."

"He moved on today?" McConaughey asked again. "We lost one of the great ones. Great writer, great mind."

"Alright, see you in the next one, Sam," McConaughey concluded, pointing upwards before walking away to try to gather his thoughts again.