Scotland's steamiest new import talks about becoming an action hero.
When I met James McAvoy last year at the junket for Starter for 10, I was neither particularly well-versed in his career, nor prepared for his magnetic charm. Then he started talking and I was hooked. He's smart, funny, polite and humble -- all to the extreme. And that accent, my God. I was sold.
In the ensuing year, the rest of the world has gotten a taste of McAvoy fever after he steamed up the screen in movies like Becoming Jane and the Oscar contender, Atonement. Now, he takes another step away from costume dramas and romantic leads that have been (understandably) his bread and butter to try on the role of action hero in this weekend's comic book-inspired thriller, Wanted. And not surprisingly that suits him well, too.
In Wanted, McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a sad sack Chicago office worker who has been veritably beaten down by life. "One of the things that really attracted me to the film was that it was a big, silly piece of entertainment, of course," he says, "but that the basis of the journey, and the basis from which we create this action hero, or anti-hero, is that he's this clinically depressed person. He's a real sufferer of post-modern depression and apathy and angst, and I thought that was a quite true and sad place to begin."
Although Wanted is based on a graphic novel of the same name by fellow Scotsman Mark Millar, the two stories diverge quite a bit. "I was a little bit freaked out because the character is so clearly, visually based on Eminem, and Angelina's character is so clearly, visually based on Halle Berry. I thought, 'This is f**king weird!'" McAvoy laughs.
While McAvoy's star is still rising, many of his Wanted cast-mates, such as the aforementioned Angelina Jolie, are squarely in the public eye. "Angelina, first and foremost, is a fantastic actress, but also just a chilled out lady and quite a normal person, and quite contrary to all the things that you're led to believe or that you imagine with all the hype" he tells us. "I'm an actor and I should know better, but you still fall prey to it, a little bit. She was really cool and really nice, and we got on well. She was totally capable of having a good laugh, at her own expense, at everyone else's expense, at the job, at the script, at the scene, at the director. It was good fun."
He was more than a little bit jazzed at the notion of getting to work with screen icon Morgan Freeman, as well. "When Morgan got cast, I was beside myself and quite nervous as well. Being on set with him is brilliant," McAvoy says.
But it's hard to be nervous about your fellow actors when you're also responsible for doing a lot of your own -- quite hefty -- stunt work. "That was quite a scary set," he says, explaining that while a lot of the stunts are green-screened, they still involved threats of their own. For example, shooting the bit where he and co-star Thomas Kretschmann (who plays Cross) are fighting it out while dangling between two train cars over a ravine was a little more real than one might imagine. "We were in a train carriage that was about 50 feet in the air, and that plate of glass that we were on was supported. When I shoot the gun and it drops, it really did drop about 30 feet," he describes. "I wasn't secured, so it was f**king terrifying!"
And the stunt where he jumps onto the moving car? Real. "There's a bit with a car going about 30 miles per hour, coming along the road, and I'm chasing after Thomas and he's getting really far ahead of me. I think, 'Well, I'll jump on here and pop a ride,' and then the thing stops and I go flying off the top, and something smashes into the side. That was all real. There were no wires. There was no fancy editing," he recounts. "We'd do it like 5 miles per hour, and then we'd do it again 6 miles per hour. We built it up 1 mile per hour each time, until we were up to 30 miles per hour. So, I felt really comfortable with all the action, but there's still a voice in the back of your head, going, 'Stop this now, you f**kin' idiot!'"
See James McAvoy get in touch with his inner bad boy this weekend in Wanted, opening in theaters everywhere.
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