James McAvoy Interview
James McAvoy Interview
James McAvoy is a Scottish actor who has been in the permanent gaze of fame since his days as a young actor in prominent television dramas such as The Bill, Band of Brothers Foyle’s War and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries. Hitting the big time with a role in Stephen Fry’s adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel Bright Young Things, he has since gone onto to become a regular on the silver screen, starring in a string of renowned films, including The Last King of Scotland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Starter for Ten, Becoming Jane, Atonement and now X-Men First Class.

Taking over the role of mind-bender Charles Xavier from Sir Patrick Stewart, he spoke to View’s Matthew Turner about tackling the imminent loss of his hair, empathising with outsiders and messing around with history.
How familiar were you with X-Men prior to being in the film?

James McAvoy

I was first aware of the cartoon while I was growing up. When I was about 12-years-old they started showing it on Alive & Kicking, I think and I’d do that thing of watching the first half of the cartoon and then they’d make you wait an hour or so before they showed you the second half of the cartoon, which was really unfair. Anyway, I was a big fan of that and the first two films as well.
Where Patrick was wise, I would be fool-hardy, where he was chaste I’d be randy...
These characters were established in the comic books but also on-screen by Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. So, where did you look to inform your portrayal of them?

James McAvoy

Well, the comic book history and the comic book lore is really different from all of the X-Men movies that have come before, and even the cartoon to a certain extent. In the comic books my character is an American and Bryan Singer decided to make that character English when he cast Sir Patrick Stewart in a master-stroke of casting! So, I had to go with the film, I think.

I watched the films and then took on board the knowledge that the film was a prequel, so it had to be different because the franchise needed to be freshened – it needed something new. But also there’s no point in having that same character just played the same way in a different suit because it just doesn’t validate the movie. I looked at Sir Patrick’s performance and took a lot of notes on Sir Patrick’s performance but it was more about seeing how it fitted in. So, where Sir Patrick was wise, I would be fool-hardy, where he was chaste I’d be randy.

By the end of three films – if we make enough money to make three films – I’ll end being something much more similar to Sir Patrick Stewart. But it was really important to start in a different place but taking the cues from his performance.
How tricky was it to ensure this origins story seamlessly fit within the X-Men universe and real history?

James McAvoy

I think one of the things that always runs through the X-Men movies is that they’re largely about people who feel like outsiders and people who have a certain amount of self-loathing perhaps. Or who are afraid of themselves, don’t like themselves and want to be normal, or even rejoice in the fact that they’re not normal. And that’s something with this film that’s always in all the X-Men films. I think that’s one of the key elements.
There’s a humorous nod to being bald towards the end of the film, so how do you think that might be addressed in the future? Will you be required to shave your head at some point?

James McAvoy

Well, he either shaves it or he loses it. We don’t know how. In the source material, in the comic books, he loses it the day that his powers activate and so he’s still very young. But we decided not to do that. Maybe it’s a smart move for an origins story.

In this movie, we spend time explaining why he can’t walk and so we get to see why he loses his hair, or shaves his head in another movie. We’ve saved that part. But because we haven’t taken the explanation given to us in the comic books, we need to come up with a really good, character convincing, narrative-essential reason. I don’t think we can just start a new movie with a new look. You’d need to embrace the change. I don’t know how they’ll do it.
Didn’t you recently have your head shaved for a role? And how was it?

James McAvoy

I did, I did. It was a joyous time.
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Content updated: 23/11/2019 06:28

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