"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
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
as Robbie Turner
(which led to a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination), as well as box office hits Wanted
as Wesley Gibson
, and, more recently, X-Men: First Class
plus its sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past
as the young Charles Xavier
. The latter
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
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
He is married to fellow Shameless
actress Anne-Marie Duff, has a son and currently resides in London.
- Ability Over Appearance:
- He doesn't physically resemble Patrick Stewart (and Professor X in the comics was blond before he went bald), but the "Band of Brothers" featurette on the X-Men: First Class Blu-Ray/DVD makes it clear that the filmmakers' first choice for the role was McAvoy because he's a very talented thespian.
Matthew Vaughn: James was the first actor we cast. I've always been a fan of James, I think he's a tremendous actor.
Simon Kinberg: When initially somebody said, "What about James McAvoy for Charles?", I said, "That is the greatest idea I've ever heard, he'll never do it. Why would he take on somebody else's role which he is only going to be compared to Patrick Stewart?"
Lauren Shuler Donner: James McAvoy, one of the world's best actors, he's just incredible.
- He was cast in Trance and Filth despite the directors initially believing he looked wrong for the role.
"What's strange is that both those movies, the director thought I wasn't right for it, thought I was too young to do it, didn't have enough darkness," the actor reflected on the two roles. "And yet, for some reason, when I went in and auditioned for Danny [Boyle] and then had a conversation with [Filth director] Jon S. Baird, they seemed to change their mind."
- Adorkable: He has played cute nerds in the 2002 miniseries White Teeth, Starter For 10, The Last Station, X-Men: First Class and Arthur Christmas. Presumably the actor tends to gravitate towards these roles because he's a geek in Real Life (e.g. his favourite fandom is Star Trek).
- 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.
- Badass: He performed almost all of his own stunts in Welcome to the Punch, as you can see in this featurette.
- The Cameo: As a UPS delivery guy in Muppets Most Wanted.
- Celebrity Is Overrated: James 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.)
- Dawson Casting:
- He was 23 during the filming of Children of Dune, but his character is not yet 18 years old.
- He convincingly played a 19-year-old university student in Starter For 10 despite being 26 during principal photography.
- Dyeing for Your Art:
- Bleached his hair to play the blond punk Rory O'Shea.
- To play the alcoholic, fast-food and drug junkie cop Bruce Robertson in Filth, James gained 14 pounds, started chain-smoking and drank almost half a bottle of whiskey every evening to give himself the worn-out and repulsive appearance that was necessary for the character.
- Even the Guys Want Him:
- A male journalist from CraveOnline.ca (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.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in Scottish: 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.
- Fake American: In Band of Brothers, Penelope (strictly speaking, the story takes place in a fictional land, but McAvoy speaks with an American accent), Wanted, The Conspirator and The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby.
- Fake Brit: He adopts an English accent so often for his film roles that some directors were surprised to discover that he's actually Scottish.
- Fake Irish: As Rory in Inside I'm Dancing. His accent is extremely convincing. Also in Becoming Jane he plays the Irish Lawyer Thomas Lefroy
- Fake Russian: In The Last Station, although this is a case of The Queen's Latin.
- Fan Community Nicknames: His die-hard fans call themselves McAvoyeurs. James is aware of this and has a generally positive attitude towards them:
Interviewer: Did you know your hard-core fans call themselves McAvoyeurs? As in voyeurism?
McAvoy: Yeah, I did know that. That's been kicking about for a good three, four, five years now. It's kind of lovely, I have to say. They have proved to be the nicest, the most respectful, and kind, supportive fans over the last few years. McAvoyeurs tend to be really nice, really chilled out. There's no hysteria, no craziness, so whenever I meet fans, I can always tell a McAvoyeur because they're pretty cool.
- 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!
: 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.
- Hollywood Nerd: As Josh Malfen in the miniseries adaptation and as Brian Jackson. 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 Dr. 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.
- 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.
- Man of a Thousand Faces:
- Mr. Fanservice: This occurs quite frequently in his career, and you 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."
- 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, 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 take part in a boxing match without his shirt on 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).
- He provides Male Back Nudity in Filth, although his pasty and slightly chubby appearance may also count as a case of Fan Disservice.
- 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: ◊ ; ◊
- 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 screaming or crying.
- One of Us/Promoted Fanboy: Cited Captain Kirk from Star Trek: The Original Series as the hero he'd most like to meet, joked that one of the reasons he wanted to play Charles Xavier was so that he can embody a young Captain Picard, was a huge fan of the Dune novels prior to starring in the Children of Dune miniseries, and has been seen in a Cheetara T-shirt several times. He's also a big fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, and considers it an honour to have been able to play Mr. Tumnus, who was his second favourite character in the books (Aslan being his ultimate favourite). He was also fond of the X-Men animated series when he was younger. He loved The X-Files as a teen and fancied Agent Dana Scully, so he found it intimidating to work with Gillian Anderson, whom he kissed in The Last King of Scotland.
- Playing Against Type:
- You wouldn't expect a slim, 5'7", non-macho actor be the star of an action movie, but he got to do just that in Wanted.
- In Trance, it's disconcerting to learn that his character is a homicidal Domestic Abuser.
- Many people were surprised to see him as the greasy, racist, misogynist, homophobic, fast-food and drug junkie cop Bruce Robertson in Filth.
- 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.
- Romance on the Set: His wife was once his co-star on Shameless.
- 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.
- Star-Making Role: His career has had a much more gradual climb than most established actors. He first got noticed by international audiences with The Chronicles of Narnia, received critical acclaim for his performances in The Last King of Scotland and Atonement, and mainstream audiences now recognize him as the younger Professor X after the release of X-Men: First Class.
- Type Casting: He is often cast as a Wide-Eyed Idealist or an Adorkable intellectual (or both). He has also acknowledged that he is offered many period roles because of his skinny build.
"It may sound strange, but I think it's because I'm pale and thin. [...] Me, I look like a malnourished urchin, and there aren't too many of us around. I'm healthy, but I've never been a big guy, which is unusual for a Scottish actor [...]. I'm just a little, skinny, weak guy, and always have been."
- 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.
: 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.