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James McAvoy, The Man and His Movies
James McAvoy is gaining fame in X Men First Class, who is he?
Early Days - Who Is James McAvoy and Where Is He From?
James McAvoy was born in Glasgow in 1979 and is the latest in a long line of celebrated Scottish actors (amongst them, Iain Charleston, Sean Connery, Gerard Butler).
He is most well-known for his blockbuster movies, X-Men First Class and Atonement but a retrospective of his work shows that he is an actor who likes to diversify in the roles he chooses; not for McAvoy the safety net of a movie with a big budget. James ‘Jimmy’ McAvoy is good in everything he does whether it was produced on a shoestring or with mega-millions thrown at it.
James McAvoy - Band of Brothers to Children of Dune
James McAvoy, even early in his career, is an actor with enough talent to take chances. He was destined to become a sailor in the Royal Navy when he received a place at the Scottish Royal Acadamy of Dramatic Arts. He never looked back.
When he was at school, his school had the actor/director, David Hayman as a guest speaker. McAvoy has described hearing Hayman’s talk as the moment he decided he wanted to be an actor. Indeed, Hayman went on to direct him in The Bill early in his career.
His first acting role in The Near Room was followed by a long-running stint on the UK police drama, The Bill. In 2001, James McAvoy had a role in Band of Brothers, the Stephen Spielberg produced US drama, starring another good British actor, Damian Lewis. Although not a huge role, it did give McAvoy an audience on both sides of the Atlantic and he started to be offered more roles.
In 2002, he played Josh Malfon in a dramatisation of Zadie Smith’s best selling novel, White Teeth. This role was followed by Children of Dune, a sci-fi TV series based on Frank Herbert’s novel.
James McAvoy - Bright Young Thing to Atonement
James continued to work regularly during this period with roles in the movie Bright Young Things and a regular role in the Craig Cash written ‘Early Doors’. Throughout the early 2000s, James McAvoy seems to have been on the brink of making it big but he didn’t jump in either the direction of a TV or film career. He seems to have decided on both, enjoying regular work in some quality productions. After Early Doors he had a role in the movie, Wimbledon but was more effective in the ITV political drama, State of Play (later made into a movie starring Russell Crowe). State of Play was watched by millions of viewers every Sunday in the UK and James’ role as popular journalist, Dan Foster was another success.
In 2004 he starred in one of his best roles up to that date, Rory O’Shea, the paraplegic rabble-rouser in the wonderful movie, ‘Inside I’m Dancing’, the movie also starred Steven Robertson, Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker and Romolo Garai (who would later appear in another of his movies, Atonement).
James McAvoy was being offered more roles than he could cope with and his next choice proved to be one of his best; the wonderful interloper in the Gallagher household in the TV comedy-drama, Shameless.
He met his wife, Ann-Marie Duff during production so the role is special for more than just being a good part. Shameless went on to win many BAFTA awards and is still on UK TV today, though with a new cast from the original. It recently transferred over to US TV with some success. Starring William H Macy.
James McAvoy - The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe To Starter For Ten
In 2005 James McAvoy starred in the children’s movie, ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’. This movie was a dramatisation of the C.S. Lewis novel and was a smash hit all over the world.
He followed this with The Last King of Scotland and more than held his own with Forrest Whitaker who went on to win an oscar for the movie. The chemistry between the two on screen made this movie what it was. Whitaker spoke highly of McAvoy when making his oscar-speech. It was, in many ways, like an ensemble movie with good performances from all the leading actors.
2006 saw him in Becoming Jane as Jane Austen’s supposed fiancé, Tom Lefroy. The move was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic. It was a movie which raised the profiles of both of its stars, James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway. They also share an association with author, David Nicholls, Hathaway starring in the dramatisation of his novel, One Day and McAvoy with the film of the book, ‘Starter for Ten’.
James McAvoy - Atonement
In 2007 came James McAvoy’s biggest movie up to that date, a dramatisation of Ian McEwan’s war novel, Atonement. It is a performance of masculinity and sensitivity and McAvoy carries it off with some aplomb. The scenes with Kiera Knightly are a cinematic wonder, beautiful, tense, torrid scenes where two people are at first repelled then entranced by one another.
The story is amazing with war scenes not seen since Saving Private Ryan. James McAvoy is amazing in those scenes and indeed, he and the movie were nominated for many movie awards. He was only successful in the Empire UK Award for Best Actor but the movie, again, brought him to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. McAvoy is a sort of ‘everyman’ to audiences; an ordinary guy to whom extraordinary things happen. His searing blue eyes stare longingly at Kiera Knightly, and this poor boy from the village gets his girl; if only for a short time in Atonement.
James McAvoy - An Ordinary Man Who Does Extraordinary Things
This everyman quality came to the fore in Wanted, a thriller also starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman which sees the wimpish Wesley bring his best stuff as Angelina’s gun-toting sidekick.
In 2011, perhaps on the back of his role in Wanted, he got to play Charles Xavier in the prequel to X-Men, X-Men First Class. He brought a new energy to this popular series and McAvoy has us again believing this ordinary man can do amazing, extraordinary things. It certainly helps to have amazingly blue eyes, an ability to take on any accent required of him and also to be a very good actor.
He will soon appear in voice form only as Arthur Christmas. This isn’t his first venture into animated movies as he also provided voice talents in Gnomeo and Juliet.
Is there anything this man can’t do?
James McAvoy is a proud Scot, a Celtic supporter who loves his home town of Glasgow. Whilst filming The Conspiritor with Robert Redford, Redford insisted McAvoy stayed in character, effectively banning James from speaking in his broad Scottish dialect. McAvoy respected Redford but didn’t like the move to stop him being himself, “As soon as he walked off set I was back to being myself. You kind of go mad because I think when the camera stops running I need to step back.”
McAvoy has other movies in the pipeline and he is the sort of actor who is attracted to gripping, interesting scripts more than being a star. I think we will see him both on film and TV for many years to come.
He is, without doubt, one of Scotland’s finest actors. An actor who appeals to audiences because they can see he’s an ordinary Joe; a lad from Glasgow brought up by his mam and grandparents who has worked hard from day one to get where he is today.