After celebrating his 41st birthday on Tuesday, we look back of James McAvoy’s amazing career so far.
Whether he’s starring in blockbuster films or baking biscuits in lockdown, its safe to say James McAvoy is one of the industries best talents when it comes to acting.
McAvoy recently starred as the titular role in the National Theatres adaptation of Cyrano De Bergerac on the West End and has spent the last few decades building up a very impressive IMDb page with an equally impressive career.
Although his acting career kicked off in 1995 in David Hayman’s The Near Room, McAvoy’s big break was a guest role on the HBO series Band of Brothers. Even though he only appeared in one episode, this role kickstarted his career leading him to roles with the BBC as well as, in my opinion, one of his best roles ever and certainly the first time I encountered him.
Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Mr. Tumnus in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I never thought I’d have a crush on a half goat man – or “satyr” if you want to be clever – and yet 10-year-old me was in love! McAvoy’s role in this film, whilst small, further catapulted him into the limelight, winning the hearts of younger audiences and further cementing his British appeal.
Slowly but surely, McAvoy rose to even more prominence and critical acclaim when he starred in Joe Wrights period drama Atonement, opposite Keira Knightly in 2007. It tells the story of how McAvoy’s character, Robbie, falls victim of a false accusation based on a misunderstanding by his lovers’ sister and ultimately ends up fighting in the second world war. The film was awfully romantic and a little raunchy, itself receiving high praise from critics and the public, with McAvoy’s “heart-rending” performance which was celebrated and even earned him a Golden Globes nomination.
Now you could argue that James McAvoy is a household name worldwide, a claim helped by his performance in X-Men: First Class that shot him into international stardom. In my opinion, First Class is the best X-Men film by a long way but also the best prequel/ origin story I have possibly ever seen.
I realise these are very bold claims to make, but I stand by them, and though superhero films are a staple to the movie world at the moment, in 2011 they were only just starting to get traction. After years of mediocre superhero films (looking at you Green Lantern) X-Men First Class was a breath of fresh air. A great story with phenomenal performances, this film was made by the lead actors, one of which was McAvoy playing a young Professor X – a role previously performed by Patrick Stewart.
It is very difficult to step into the shoes of another actor, particularly one as acclaimed as Sir Patrick, but McAvoy did it with ease, making the character his own whilst still staying true to the original films.
Of course, the film on everybody’s minds in recent years is M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, which has been stated by many to be the best performance in his career. His character has dissociative identity disorder causing him to have 24 different personalities, all played by McAvoy in a “dramatic tour de force.”
Though the role was originally going to be played by Joaquin Phoenix, the 2016 film is absolutely a standout in McAvoy’s career, followed by other recent performances in It: Chapter 2, and the BBC Series His Dark Materials.
It’s safe to say James McAvoy has had an incredible career. Whilst there are many, many films I have left out (an honourable mention goes to Arthur Christmas), it’s safe to say he can only get bigger and better as he moves into his forties. On his own success, McAvoy remains aggressively humble. “I got so f***ing lucky,” he said in an interview with The Talks. “I got really, really lucky. It’s been a good ride for me.”
By Polly Harrison
Feature image: Sharp Magazine