http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/311661

Scottish actor James McAvoy mutates in 'X-Men: First Class' Special

Posted Sep 18, 2011 by Earl Dittman
'X-Men: First Class' (now on Blu-Ray/DVD) traces the origins of the X-Men, particularly Charles Xavier, played by Wanted and Last King Of Scotland star James McAvoy. McAvoy reveals how he mutated into Professor Xavier, one of the leader of the Mutants.
James McAvoy in  X-Men: First Class
James McAvoy in 'X-Men: First Class'
Fox
James McAvoy, the 32-year-old actor from Port Glasgow, Scotland UK, who trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, is quickly becoming a critically-acclaimed thespian (The Last Station, The Last King of Scotland, Atonement) and a box office favorite with fans (Wanted, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe and X-Men: First Class) on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the Matthew Vaughn-directed film X-Men: First Class -- which also stars January Jones, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon and Michael Fassbender -- witness the beginning of the X-Men Universe. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their superhuman powers for the first time, working together in a desperate attempt to stop the Hellfire Club and a global nuclear war.
McAvoy discusses how he transformed Charles into Professor Xavier, if fame has affected his career, if there could be another X-Men sequel, how he became an actor, if he is slated to appear in the next Hobbit movie and how he manages to fly under the paparazzi radar. He recently spoke to the press about the genesis of the X-Men and his plans for his own career.
James McAvoy in  X-Men: First Class
James McAvoy in 'X-Men: First Class'
Fox
Most of us are familiar with the character of Charles Xavier from the latter day X-Men films -- with Patrick Stewart in the role of Professor Xavier. What was it like playing a character as he starts to evolve as a more mature man? What kind of research did you do for the role? "Obviously, I watched the three X-Men movies to study Xavier's behavior and mannerisms and how he dealt with the other Mutants. Of course, that helped a lot, but I wanted to infuse my own interpretation of the Professor, too. Half the fun of this film is watching him grow into the Professor we know, really."
Is there any possibility or talk of any more sequels or additions to the X-Men franchise? Maybe a X-Men: The Middle Years? "I haven't heard anything, but if they do another film, Xavier's already there. He's already changed, and I think that by the end of this film, as much as he's gotten revenge and might be victorious and all of that it's not a 'Yeah!' kind of moment. He's sort of very messed up and quite unhealthy psychologically at the end of this film. So maybe there's something interesting about that, some darker place. I don't know, though. I'm probably speaking for the studio when I shouldn't be."
Before you did X-Men: First Class, I understand you had to get in shape for Wanted. Can you talk about the process of learning to get in shape for both Wanted and First Class? "There was a lot of physical training that went into both of them. I had done a lot of training, beforehand, for Wanted. It's quite the usual stuff that I suppose always happens on these movies where you go to the gym which isn't my bag at all. But I did that for quite a while and we did that for a long time and we maintained that throughout the entire shoot. There was a lot of fight training with the fight team. For Wanted, my stunt double was the three time world kickboxing champion and he took me for kickboxing sessions every morning and that was exceptionally cool. To be trained by a champion in anything is cool whether it's chess, checkers or kickboxing. I was lucky enough to have that latter. And you don't forget the basics, that's for sure." (laughs)
In First Class, you were in still good shape, but as Charles Xavier, you weren't able to show off your body. Did that bother you? "Well, I was in better shape than I've ever been. I was never Conan the Barbarian, but it was very important to me that I never did get like that. There's no point in casting me in this film if you're going to ask me to become something else. The strength of casting me in this film is that you do look at the character and the actor playing the character and hopefully the audience is instilled with a certain amount of dramatic tension, going, 'Really? Is that guy really going to do the things I saw in the trailer because I just don't believe it?' So it was important for me that he could believably be like that with his clothes on and it was also important to me that I didn't become one of those actors who jumped at their first opportunity to take their shirt off because they want to show off. I was quite happy to go through that whole movie clothed."
Can you talk about the satisfaction you get as an actor from doing something like First Class, compared to some of your other work? "The satisfaction that I get watching it is different because I find watching something like Atonement very difficult to watch probably because I'm very emotionally connected to that character still and what happens to him is so incredibly awful. Whereas watching something like this as much as some of the things that happen to him are incredibly awful it's so just entertainment and it's kind of hilarious watching myself do those things and be made to look much cooler than I could ever possibly be. But also watching sadder and more depressed than I could ever possibly be. Even that, were it a piece of drama it might be very upsetting, but it's almost comedic here and so it's fun. It's a much, much easier experience watching a film like this definitely."
The X-Men
The X-Men
Fox
But what about experience on the set, do you take the same joy out of this character as some of the others? "I don't know that I take joy out of what I do. I like what I do and I'm very lucky to do it, but I don't know. I applied myself in the same way and in the same level of seriousness, the same commitment. There is a lot more action in the film and that was actually quite satisfying to do because I've never done it before and so I felt like I was learning new things. I felt like I was in a new territory, but in terms of acting sometimes these scenes were less complex than other things that I've done. However, I felt that the character of Xavier was so truthfully written and because of that I had a real place to go from. That always gave me a good place as an actor. So I did get some satisfaction from it as an actor actually."
You have only had to do an American accent in a couple of your films. But you do an American accent so well. Does it come second nature to you? "My country only has five million people in it and we have a TV show called Taggart and we have a TV show called Take the High Road which was discontinued very recently and was replaced by a TV show called River City. Other than that we don't produce very much TV or film actually anymore. So we watch a lot of American film and television, an epic amount of that. We watch an epic amount of English film and television, too, and I think that's it. I think that's why we can do you and people find us hard. You don't hear us all the time, but we grew up listening to your accent everyday. You don't grow up listening to mine. That makes it really, really easy. Well, not easy. It wasn't an easy thing to do. It still presented challenges. The world girlfriend, I find, is really hard to say with an American accent and I ended up having to fix that in ADR if I'm being honest, but I think that's why we can do it, why some of us can do it."
As an actor, how easy is it to surrender to the science fiction genre when you have characters transforming into such strange creatures? "Easy, very easy. With the aid of CGI and Green screen anything is possible. I know what you mean. You have to disbelieve your suspenders a little bit. But then there's that in every film. We had to do that in Atonement even. That's a compromise that I think actors make on a daily basis and if you don't make those compromises you end up not filming the scene. You get in arguments with directors and eventually you just go, 'Wait a minute, you're right. If I win this argument it means that we don't film the scene.' So you just bite it really."
When I spoke with you last year, you said that you weren't one of those guys -- a sex symbol -- that girls would run across the freeway to get at. Has that changed since Wanted and perhaps when X-Men: First Class hit the screens or do you think it has it stayed the same? "Yeah, totally. I get recognized at home a fair bit, but quite often when people recognize me they don't say anything. I wonder if they don't like my films. Yeah, I'm fairly – I get left alone pretty much all the time. So nothing has pretty much changed. Touch wood."
James McAvoy in X:Men: First Class
James McAvoy in X:Men: First Class
Fox
So you can actually kind of fly under the radar without being hounded by the paparazzi? "Yeah, totally, and there is that kind of thing, but I don't get bothered by it too much. They kind of get you every now and again. I've been popped a couple of times outside of my house, but never that bad. The worst one I got…I'm not going to say it. I did a press conference in Germany and in Germany before you make the film, which is kind of strange, and I was told by one of the German press, 'Don't worry. You'll find we're much more intelligent than the British press.' Then the first question I got asked was, 'So, have you been to any nightclubs in Berlin yet?' So there are those pariahs, totally. I know that, but they've never been as bad as all that to me. Fingers crossed."
Have you thought about moving to L.A. so that you can be more involved in the business of the business? "It's not that important for me because, well, I'm sure it has an impact on what I do actually, but hopefully I do the best material that's available to me. So it's not that important. I live in Britain and I've never made a film here. I made a film that spent two weeks filming here once. So, to move here, which I've been asked quite a lot, instead of flying back and forth from Europe all the time, I don't really think about it too much."
Was it the Last King Of Scotland that put you over the top here in the States? If not, what was your breakout role? "Over here, people didn't really know who I was before Narnia really. So it might've been Narnia actually that introduced me to the market over here, but for me the breakout role -- I don't know -- was working with Stephen Fry on Bright Young Things kind of changed a lot of things for me professionally. That changed a lot."
When you go to see movies do you see the big blockbusters or the smaller type art films? "I do both. I do light and serious films. My favorite type of film is not the action film, to be honest, but I do like a really good action movie. When action movies are bad it can feel like being at the dentist, but when they're good they're really fun. I think the last one that I really, really enjoyed was Mission Impossible 3. I thought (director) J.J. Abrams did a great job of making you care and making you feel scared with all that action. It's really weird that you can drop someone off of a building and if you don't handle it good as a director you don't care. But you can film the exact same type of thing and just by being a good director you can make me care, make me excited, make me scared for the actor. So I do like the action films, but I go out for both."
I'd like to quickly point out too that you had your shirt off in Narnia. "That's right. I'm a shameless exhibitionist." (laughs)
Did you grow up wanting to act and how did you get into the business? "I think it was luck. I didn't want to be an actor when I got my first job. I hadn't considered that at all, but someone offered me an audition and I thought, 'Why not? They'll have to pay me if I get the job.' I was sixteen when that happened and then that gave me the idea to maybe do something and then I went to drama school for three years. So it was luck really. I would've never arrived at it on my own. I was never in drama class. We didn't have one at my school. So it was luck."
What was that first job? "It was a film called The Near Room which was directed by a Scottish director called David Heyman. It was about child prostitution and pornography."
How did you get that job or meet the director? "He very famously played Lady Macbeth at The Citizen's Theater in Scotland in Glasgow in the '70's and he lived next door to my English teacher and we were reading Macbeth at the time. So she asked him if he would come in and talk to us about the play and he did. We got introduced then. I just basically said, 'Thank you very much for coming along. That was very nice of you. Next time you make a film can I run errands for you and be next to you and stuff?' I thought that would be quite interesting. That's how I thought of it and then he suggested four months later that I come in and audition for a film that I was doing. He asked me if I could cry on call and I said yes. He said prove it and I couldn't. (laughs) He still gave me the part."
Is there a Hobbit in your future or are those just rumors you'll be in the upcoming Hobbit franchise? "There's no. Those are all rumors. It's all these discussions that have caught the imagination of some people, but not true."
Is must be flattering, though, that you'd be asked that because it's on the internet and believable enough to be true? "For people to think that someone like (director/writer) Peter Jackson that would at all be interested in me is very, very flattering. It would be more flattering if it was true, but unfortunately it's not. It's flattering, but you can't give it too much weight."
Do you enjoy having time off, and what do you during your downtime? "Yeah, I like country parks and stuff and mountains and hiking, forested mountains. Those are the kind of things that I like the most."
Now that you're doing better as an actor are you learning to throw your weight around, giving notes on scripts and things like that? "I've always done that. I'm quite opinionated. I always preface it by saying, 'Please, please tell me to fuck off if I'm overstepping the mark here. However, I think that this line is God awful.' Sometimes I do get told to fuck off. So, no, I don't feel that I'm doing anything different. That's kind of always been my way. Like, sometimes I think it's quite irritating for directors."
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Fox
X-Men: First Class Blu-Ray Bonus Features: 10 Marvel X-Men Digital Comics with exclusive X-Men: First Class; "Cerebro: Mutant Tracker" -- Interactive Mutant Database with interactive videos; "X Marks The Spot" -- Viewing Mode; "Children Of The Atom" - eight-part, behind-the-scenes featurette; "X-Men" - transformation through prosthetic make-up and costume design; "X Marks The Spot" - Interactive feature; Deleted and Extended Scenes; Composer's Isolated Score; BD Live Enabled: with additional Cerebro Mutant Tracker profiles; Live Extras & Live Lookup; D-Box Motion Code Enabled; Pocket Blu; Theatrical Trailer; and Digital Copy Of Feature Film.
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