Creator / James McAvoy
"Every single person in the world is interesting—they're a walking story."

"Where it gets difficult is when you get two or three jobs back to back where you're playing leads and doing 13, 14 hours a day, six days a week, and you suddenly think, hang on a minute, how can you have a life like this? Do I work to live or live to work? How can I work properly with no life to inform the work?"

James McAvoy (April 21, 1979-) is a Scottish actor who is recognized for a variety of well-received roles and memorable characters. He appeared in a single episode of Band of Brothers, which first brought him to the attention of Hollywood. Children of Dune provided his first experience in a starring role (he portrayed the main character for two of its three chapters). He then jump-started his career in the UK as Steve McBride on Shameless (UK).

From being once solely known by worldwide moviegoers as "that guy who played Mr. Tumnus," McAvoy has since achieved mainstream success and acclaim after starring as the lead in The Last King of Scotland as Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (which earned him the BAFTA Rising Star Award) and the Academy Award-nominated Atonement as Robbie Turner (which led to a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination), as well as box office hits Wanted as Wesley Gibson, and the X-Men First Class trilogy as the young Charles Xavier. His role in X-Men: Days of Future Past is considered by many critics to be one of the finest examples of acting in a comic book movie.

He has also performed in a dozen major plays as of 2015 (a full list can be found here), and has been thrice nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the lead character in Three Days of Rain, Macbeth and The Ruling Class. Some theatre critics have even stated that James' stage work is superior to his strongest film roles.

McAvoy describes himself as "not ugly, but not your classic lead man, Brad Pitt guy." His fans beg to disagree. He is well-known for his striking blue eyes, red lips and crying in pretty much every movie he's ever been in.

Selected Works:

Associated Tropes:

  • Adorkable: He has played cute geeks in the 2002 miniseries White Teeth, Starter For 10, The Last Station, X-Men: First Class, Arthur Christmas and X-Men: Apocalypse.
    • James recounts to TV host Graham Norton a childhood anecdote when he used to practice his "telepathy" on his family's cat.
      "When I was a kid, I used to sit there looking the cat in the eye and just going, 'Move. (performs a Pstandard Psychic Pstance) Move.' And every now and again, after half an hour, it would eventually move. And I'd be like, 'YESSS! I'm a mutant!' [...] When I was a kid, I used to believe I could [mind-]bend your cat."
    • Towards the end of this video, McAvoy almost forgets that he's not Professor X because he is about to do a Pstandard Psychic Pstance before realizing his mistake and changing it into a goodbye wave.
  • And Starring: He gets the "And" billing in The Last Station.
  • Badass: He performed almost all of his own stunts in Welcome to the Punch, as you can see in this featurette.
  • Brainy Brunet: This is one aspect of his Type Casting. His highly educated onscreen personas include Josh Malfen (academic nerd), Leto Atreides II (political strategist with access to the life experiences and knowledge of all of his genetic ancestors), Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (medical doctor), Brian Jackson (academic nerd), Robbie Turner (a would-be medical student), Tom Lefroy (Becoming Jane—law student), Valentin Bulgakov (The Last Station—Tolstoyan scholar), Frederick Aiken (lawyer), Professor Charles Xavier (geneticist) and the titular Victor Frankenstein (medical student).
  • The Cameo: As a UPS delivery guy in Muppets Most Wanted.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: He is a modest man who doesn't like the whole process of having to talk about himself to the media.
    "It's a difficult thing—you've got to talk about yourself, but you've also got to try not to say anything about yourself. The more you give of yourself, the more there is to chase after."
  • Character Tics: He randomly licks his lower lip, and this habit is sometimes unintentionally transferred to his film/TV roles. (The director either doesn't notice or doesn't care to correct it.)
  • Chronically Killed Actor: Happens quite often during the early years of his career. He dies in: Band of Brothers, The Pool, Murder in Mind, Inspector Lynley, Bright Young Things, Rory O'Shea Was Here, Shakespeare Retold, Atonement, Trance, Filth.
  • Even the Guys Want Him:
    • A male journalist from (who is presumably straight) gushes over the actor's attractiveness:
      "When James McAvoy stares at himself naked in the mirror (and I think most of us would if we looked like James McAvoy), I have a sneaking suspicion that he scowls. He's such a damned pretty human being, but if you look at his films, he only really seems to get off on playing total bastards. The endangered subconscious of Simon from Trance. The easily corrupted Dr. Garrigan from The Last King of Scotland. Even Professor Charles Xavier seems kind of like a dickbag when James McAvoy gets a hold of him. McAvoy's boyish good looks and playful sleaziness make these scoundrels much more charismatic than they by all rights deserve, and his performance in Filth may be his assholish pièce de résistance."
    • Benedict Cumberbatch thinks that James is gorgeous.
      "I have wanted to play roles that have gone to much better-looking people than me and you think: 'Oh well, that's the pin-up guy's part...' for an actor like my friend James McAvoy, who's gorgeous on screen."
    • Daniel Radcliffe may have a bit of a man crush on McAvoy:
      "I don't view my face as particularly interesting to watch, whereas some actors you can't take your eyes off, like James McAvoy. I think I could watch him read the phone book."
    • After complimenting James' "incredible blues" (referring to the actor's expressive eyes), Jon S. Baird then made a Love Confession.
      Baird: I love you, James.
      James McAvoy: I think I'm going to get lucky tonight.
    • After the first two official behind-the-scenes images of Victor Frankenstein were released, several heterosexual guys on Reddit were willing to admit that they find McAvoy attractive.
      "McAvoy is lookin' Franken-fine."
      "Please be a guy, so I'm not the only one that thinks this, too. Something about that guy. Handsome as all fuck. Yes, I'm jealous."
      "Yup same here - Have man crush on him."
      "My exact thoughts."
      "I'm a straight (as straight as the Kinsey scale allows, anyway) dude, McAvoy is a damn fine looking dude. No shame in admitting that."
      "He makes me question my sexuality"
    • Fred Savage can't hide his admiration with comments like, "The Last King of Scotland is when I just kind of fell in love you" and "I could listen you talk about anything [...] It's true, it's true! Describe something." James then replies that this is the first time a man has told him he likes listening to the sound of his voice.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in Scottish:
    • McAvoy takes part in a French comedy skit (although his role is in English), and the comments section underneath the video is full of French fangirls who are wholly smitten by the actor's Scottish accent.
    • The American host of Mark at the Movies has remarked that (specifically North American) ladies swoon over James' Scottish brogue.
      Mark at the Movies: I want to be young, I want to be good-looking, and have an accent! That guy [James McAvoy] says "Fishcakes," [...] and all the women go, "Awwww..."
      Female Colleague: I got really turned on by it.
  • Geek:
    • MTV reporter Josh Horowitz invokes this when he asks James McAvoy (whom Josh recognizes is "a big ol' geek") what an X-Men vs. the Avengers battle would look like. The actor's passionate defense of the X-Men fandom is totally Adorkable!
      Horowitz: Cage match, how does it go down? X-Men, enter the cage, Avengers, enter the cage.
      McAvoy: There's like 40 of us, and like 5 of them!
      Horowitz: Sheer numbers!
      McAvoy: One of them's like half-man, half-robot, you just turn off the power, and he's done! And another one is a guy with a shield who is a bit strong. I mean, come on! And who's the other one? The guy with the bow and arrow. We've got guns and stuff, [Wolverine]'s got claws. (performs a Pstandard Psychic Pstance) I could just go like, "Sit down," and they all sit down. I'd be like, "Have a cup of tea," and they'd all be having a cup of tea. I'd be like, "Take your clothes off," and they'd all be taking their clothes off. It would just be a disaster.
      Horowitz: Embarrassing for them, really.
      McAvoy: Yeah, exactly.
    • The actor arrogantly shows off his knowledge of sci-fi/fantasy trivia against Horowitz and Daniel Radcliffe.
  • Hidden Depths: He trained in gymnastics when he was younger, so possessing good balance and flexibility comes in handy when he wants to perform his own stunts.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Played straight as Josh Malfen in the miniseries adaptation and as Brian Jackson. Downplayed with Conor Ludlow because the character only puts on his spectacles when he's doing the paperwork for his small business, although his father mentions that he had furnished Conor with a six-figure education, so Conor is more intellectual than he let's on. Also applies to the actor in Real Life (who is Proud to Be a Geek) on the rare occasion when he wears his glasses in public. Prada even exploited this trope when James modeled for the fashion house in 2014.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes/Pretty Boy/Wide-Eyed Idealist: His career is essentially built around these three tropes.
    • His boyish beauty (which includes his bright, baby blue irises) is sometimes emphasized by a director to denote the character's goodness and/or naïvety, such as Pvt. James W. Miller, Josh Malfen, Jay (Bollywood Queen), Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, Brian Jackson, Robbie Turner, Tom Lefroy (Becoming Jane), Valentin Bulgakov (The Last Station) and Professor Charles Xavier.
    • As the teenaged and virginal Leto Atreides II, the camera angles and close-ups often focus on his physical beauty, and it symbolizes what a huge personal sacrifice it is for him to give up his own humanity (by transforming into a grotesque Sand Worm) so that he can initiate the Golden Path and save humankind from extinction.
    • The impoverished, innocent-looking and all-too-young Lord Simon Balcairn in Bright Young Things commits suicide, and his death mirrors the abrupt end to the frivolous and carefree lifestyle of the British Idle Rich due to the arrival of World War II.
    • Subverted with Simon Newton. His youthful facial features tend to be highlighted, and he initially appears to be the most sympathetic character in the film, but it's later revealed that Simon is an abusive, violent boyfriend and a murderer.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: He describes himself as "more about brains than brawn" and a "non-alpha male." David Nicholls (the author and screenwriter of Starter For 10) believes that, "James appeals to both men and women [...]; he's one of the boys, but he also has a great sensitivity. He's masculine without being macho." Not surprisingly, a lot of McAvoy's roles feature men with androgynous personalities.
  • Manly Tears: He reveals in this interview, "Yeah, I cry easy. I cry easy as an actor and as an audience member." Bryan Singer in his commentary for X-Men: Days of Future Past admits that he was very impressed by James' ability to consistently be teary-eyed in front of the camera at the director's request.
    Singer: I've had the blessing and the privilege of working with a lot of great actors in my life, but I've never once asked how they elicit their tears and crying. And I was out to dinner with James McAvoy one night, and I asked him, "What do you think about in your mind? Like what do you call to your memory when you're crying or making tears?" Which he can always do, on cue, repetitively, and always the same manner for continuity, and it's brilliant. [...] And he actually said to me, "99% of the time I think about scene. I'm inspired by the tragedy and the sadness of the scene itself and what the characters are going through." [...] He said once in a while he'll pull a sad memory, but for the most part, he just takes your words, and uses them as his motivation.
  • Man of a Thousand Faces:
    • Paul Webster, the producer of Atonement, lampshades this in one of the movie's featurettes when he talks about James' skill as a performer.
      "It's an incredible transformation, it's not just make-up. He physically altered himself in a way that all the best actors do [...]. They kind of metamorphose in front of the camera."
    • The German magazine "Jolie" made the following observation about the actor's abilities:
      "When someone mentions the name James McAvoy, it's usually followed by comments like, "Chameleon," "the man with the thousand faces" or "one of the most versatile actors of our time."
  • Mr. Fanservice: This occurs quite frequently in his career, and one can't help but suspect that a lot of directors he works with like to present him as a sensual figure to the audience. McAvoy himself acknowledges that it's part of his job to "get naked [...] in front of the camera," and he also adds, "The amount of times I have to get my naked backside out surprised me. Wow, they're really lingering on this shot. [..] This has got more screen time than my face. My face, my ass, what a combination."
    • He couldn't have known that his very first acting gig (The Near Room) would start this trend; his character practices boxing without a shirt in one scene.
    • With a title like The Pool (listed as Swimming Pool on IMDb), his character would of course end up wearing only his swimming trunks.
    • He spends a large amount of his screen time in Children of Dune looking like a shirtless Adonis.
    • At one point in Shameless (UK), he is stark naked with red roses covering his groin area. He also exposes his buttocks to moon another character.
    • His character's chest is bare while watching TV in Wimbledon.
    • In The Chronicles of Narnia, it's justified that he's a Walking Shirtless Scene because his character is a faun.
    • Shakespeare Retold gives the actor a couple of Shirtless Scenes.
    • In The Last King of Scotland, he can be seen in various stages of undress, including a couple of moments where his character is butt-naked, plus there is Male Frontal Nudity for a split second.
    • We see his bare torso in Starter For 10 when his character is getting ready for a date.
    • In Becoming Jane, his character takes part in a boxing match without his shirt, and later in the movie he strips off all his clothing so that he can bathe in a river, which results in Male Back Nudity.
    • Has a scene in Wanted where he's both bare-chested and dripping wet.
    • In The Last Station, his character has a couple of sex scenes, so naturally he reveals a fair amount of skin.
    • Is briefly nude in Trance (although his hands cover his genitals), and it's swiftly followed by a Shirtless Scene.
    • He provides Male Back Nudity in Filth, although his pasty and slightly chubby appearance may also count as a case of Fan Disservice.
    • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby features Conor removing his T-shirt while he's being physically intimate with his wife.
    • A downplayed example in X-Men: Apocalypse; Professor Xavier owns a white shirt with vertical strips of semi-transparent material, so parts of his chest are somewhat visible. Rule of Sexy is in play here because it's out-of-character for him to put on a garment which could potentially be distracting to some of his students. (Another way to look at it is if a female teacher had worn the same shirt, it would be considered inappropriate.) It's the first time in the X-Men film franchise where Charles is mildly objectified, and it's a deliberate attempt by the filmmakers to evoke the Hot Teacher trope.
    • Split displays the upper half of the actor's chiseled, muscular physique.
  • Older Than They Look: He appears a few years younger than his actual age, especially when he is clean-shaven. Guess which picture is older than the other. This collage also demonstrates that his face has hardly changed over an eleven-year period.
    • For X-Men: Days of Future Past, Honest Trailers made the mistake of describing McAvoy's character as a "young man," a term usually reserved for males who are under 30; Xavier is in his late thirties/early forties in 1973, but it's easy to forget that because of the actor's youthfulness.
    • If it weren't for James' stubble in this photo, he would look nearly the same age as the adolescent actors.note 
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Occasionally, especially when his character is shouting or crying.
  • Period Piece: It's part of his Type Casting. The productions which feature him in a past era include Lorna Doone (2000 TV movie), Band of Brothers, Foyle's War, Bright Young Things, The Last King of Scotland, Starter For 10, Atonement, Becoming Jane, The Last Station, The Conspirator, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Victor Frankenstein, X-Men: Apocalypse and The Coldest City.
  • Proud to Be a Geek/Trekkie: He's very open about his affection for science-fiction/fantasy, and he especially adores Star Trek, as both parts of this interview can attest. Because he understands all facets of the fandom community, he knows how to appeal to fans when he promotes a genre film he has starred in. For instance, he is well-aware of the slash phenomenon and enjoys Actor Shipping with his fellow male co-stars when their characters have a bromance.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: He has been a guest several times on The BBC's CBeebies Bedtime Stories.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: He's known for using foul language in interviews, and has acknowledged on numerous occasions that he's "a walking dick/penis joke," but it's only in Wanted, Filth, Welcome to the Punch and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby where he portrays characters who curse like a sailor.
  • Squee!: He gets to play a scene with Sir Patrick Stewart, whom he is a fan of, in X-Men: Days of Future Past and isn't shy about expressing how much that delights him in interviews. The Blu-Ray release includes a featurette called "Double Take: Xavier & Magneto" where McAvoy can't stop fanboy-ing over Stewart.
  • Vocal Dissonance: For a physically small man, he has a fairly deep, manly voice. Here's an audio sample.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!:
    • Got the part as Robbie Turner in Atonement because the character is described as having eyes of optimism, and so does James, according to its director.
      Joe Wright: He has his eye on a very bright horizon.
    • After Charles Xavier is shot in the spine in X-Men: First Class, the glare of the Cuban sunshine shrinks his pupils, which makes his irises appear very large, and they are a stunning shade of vibrant blue, especially in close-up. His Innocent Blue Eyes are shiny and wet with tears due to the intense physical and emotional pain, and it marks the character's Break the Cutie moment.
    • Filth director Jon. S Baird mentions in this interview that McAvoy had to dull the beauty of his "incredible blues" in order to keep the character of Bruce Robertson as unlikeable as possible, but there was one exception.
      Interviewer: Jon, I wanted to ask you this. I mean, James [...] does have these very sympathetic eyes, and was it important for you to glaze those over in the film, and neutralize that trait of his? Because that's a trait for a lot of his good guy roles, it's something directors really lift and emphasize.
      Baird: Yeah, [...] the thing about Bruce is [...] that he's an outrageous character, and the only person who sees him as a human is [...] a character called Mary, and Bruce tries to save her husband's life, and she sees him as a hero. There's a scene between them where James' blue eyes really pop out, and you see the humanity of Bruce there, and it's a beautiful image. But he managed to hide them for the rest of the film. At that moment, I don't know what it was, but he let the audience in to the humanity of the character with those incredible blues.
    • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, 1973 Xavier collapses after the serum wears off, and there are a few close-ups of his eyes. The colour of his irises is quite vivid, and they fully express his mental anguish and vulnerability in that scene. It's a stark contrast from his hopeful and confident Innocent Blue Eyes in First Class.
    • His baby blues were also acknowledged by InStyle magazine with the title, James McAvoy May Have a Filthy Mouth, But All We Can Focus on Are His Soulful Blue Eyes
      "The movie-star blue eyes, however, command your attention the way a forehead tattoo might. They light up to punctuate profanities (every other word) and stay lit when he makes fun of you for being so skittish."
    • Just before Professor X enters Apocalypse's mind, the camera zooms in on the former's right eye. It's so blue that it's practically glowing, and it's wracked with pain and fear because of the grisly abuse that Apocalypse has put him through, but Charles' iris also exudes his defiance, and he's determined to fight his adversary to the bitter end.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Even when he portrays the lead character, he is occasionally ignored or placed in the background of promotional materials.

Alternative Title(s): James Mc Avoy