James McAvoy was born on April 21, 1979, in Port Glasgow. He is an actor and mate his debut as a teen in 1995's The Near Room and continued to make mostly television appearances until the late 2000s. His notable television work includes State of Play, Shameless, and Frank Herbert's Children of Dune. Besides screen acting, James has appeared on stage with Three Days of Rain in 2009 and as the title character in Macbeth in 2013. He has also done voice work for animated films including Gnomeo & Juliet and Arthur Christmas.
In 2003, James appeared in Bollywood Queen which was followed by a supporting role in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. His performance in Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland garnered him several award nominations. 2007's critical acclaimed Atonement earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination and his second BAFTA nomination. He appeared opposite Angelina Jolie in Wanted. Since then, he is notable for playing Charles Xavier in the 2011 superhero film X-Men: First Class, a role he will reprise in X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014. James starred in the 2013 crime comedy-drama film Filth in which he won Best Actor in the British Independent Film Awards.
Early Life and Family
James was born in Port Glasgow, the son of Elizabeth, a psychiatric nurse, and James McAvoy, Sr., a builder. He was brought up as Roman Catholic. His parents divorced when he was seven, which he took hard, McAvoy's mother suffered from poor health and subsequently devided it was best that he lived with his maternal grandparents, Mary and butcher James Johnstone, in the nearby Drumchapel, in a terraced council house. His mother lived with them intermittently. The actor has regularly visited his grandparents. He has a sister, Joy, and a younger half-brother, Donald. James has not been in contact with his father since his childhood. He attended St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary in Jordanhill, Glasgow, a Catholic school, and briefly considered joining the Catholic priesthood. In a 2006 interview, James admitted that part of the reason why he considered becoming a priest was that he wanted to use it as an excuse to travel. During his education, he worked at a local bakery.
James' acting debut came at the age of 15 in The Near Room. He later admitted that he was not very interested in acting when joining the movie, but was inspired to study the craft after developing feelings for his co-star, Alana Brady. He continue dto act while he was still a member of PACE Youth Theatre. James eventually graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2000. Througout the early 2000s, McAvoy made guest appearances in television shows and began working on movies. In 2001, the actor appeared in a play entitled Out in the Open. His performance in the play as a gay hustler impressed filmmaker Joe Wright so much that he stayed on his radar and offered James parts in his movies, but to no avail, as the actor turned them down for years.
He also starred in Privates on Parade in the Donmar Warehouse, this time catching Sam Mendes' attention. Also in 2001, the actor appeared in Band of Brothers, an eleven-hour World War II miniseries by executive producer Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. It was shown on the HBO network. He gained the attention of critics in 2002's made-for-television adaption of the book White Teeth.
In 2003, James appeared in the SciFi Channel miniseries Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, adapted from Frank Herbert's novels. It is one of the highest-rated programmes ever to be aired on the channel. More cable work came for him when he accepted the role of an unprincipled reporter in 2003's State of Play. The well-received six-part British drama serial tells the story of a newaspaper's investigation into the death of a young woman and was broadcast on BBC One. Calling the programme a "must-see", the Chicago Tribune recommended State of Play for its cast's performance. In 2002, James shot scenes for Bollywood Queen, described as West Side Story meets Romeo and Juliet with bindis, the movie deals with star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of clashing cultures; it was shown as a special presentation at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and opened in UK theaters on October 17. In 2004, he acted in a supporting role in the romantic comedy Wimbledon, also featuring Kirsten Dunst as a co-lead. His next project was voicing a character named Hal in the 2004 English version of Strings, a mythic fantasy film. Another 2004 release for him was Inside I'm Dancing, an Irish production helmed by Damien O'Donnell. In it, the actor was cast as principal character, a maverick with duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Critical SuccessJames ended 2004 by appearing in the first two seasons of Shameless as Steve McBride, the moral hero of the BAFTA-winning Channel 4 programme, giving the actor a big break in his career. His public profile was raised in 2005 with the release of Walt Disney Pictures' The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. James starred in the fantasy adventure film made by Andrew Adamson and based on C.S. Lewis' children's novel as Mr. Tumnus, a faun who befriends Lucy Pevensie and joins Aslan's forces. It was given a UK release of December 9. At the UK box office, this movie opened at number one, earning around 8.7 million pounds at 498 movie theaters over the weekend. Worldwide, Narnia grossed almost 500 million pounds, making it the 41st highest-grossing film of all-time worldwide. That succeeding year he also accepted the principal role of Brian Jackson, a nerdy university student who wins a place on a University Challenge quiz team in the mid-80s, in Starter for 10. He was directed by David Nicholls, who adapted the film's screenplay from his own book. The British/American production was given distribution in the UK on November 10. 10 scored a rating of 89% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on a sample of 75 reviews. In spite of the positive buzz, the movie flopped at the box office, unable to recover its production costs of 5.7 million pounds.
Forrest Whitaker had suggested James to director Kevin Macdonald for the role of Nicholas Garrigan in 2006's Academy Award-winning low-budget The Last King of Scotland. James portrayed a Scottish doctor who becomes the personal physician to dictator Idi Amin while in Uganda. While the movie was based on factual events of Amin's rule, the details of the story are fictional and adapted from Giles Foden's acclaimed 1998 novel. James assessed his character to be a "completely selfish prick." An overwhelmed James fainted during his first take of what would be the hardest scene for him to shoot, Nicholas' torture. James was named Best Actor of the year by the Scotland's own BAFTA Awards, where the film swept the major categories, and received a nomination from the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The movie itself walked away with three wins, including the honor for Outstanding British Film of the Year. This was accompanied by praise for James' performance.Following that, he played Irish attorney Tom Lefroy and love-interest to Jane Austen in Becoming Jane, a 2007 historical movie inspired by the author's early life. Next up was Penelope, which premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. Also starring co-producer Reese Witherspoon, it generated polarized reviews. The breakthrough role in James' career came in Atonement, Joe Wright's 2007 adaption of Ian McEwan's novel of the same title. A romantic war film, it focuses on lovers Cecilia and Robbie's lives being torn apart after her jealous younger sister, Briony falsely accuses him of rape. Upon reading the script James said he thought "If I don't get the part I'm not reading the book, because it'll be devastating. It's an amaying role and I really wanted it." James has called the movie "incredibly sad" but considers it an uplifting experience. He also shared that he hoped viewers will be left "absolutely davastated and harrowed." Screenings of Atonement were held at 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was one of the most acclaimed films present, and Venice Film Festival. Atonement was a big award contender; it was nominated for fourteen BAFTAs and seven Academy Awards. Both James and Knightley were nominated for their performances at the 65th Golden Globe Awards, respectively. Additionally, the film was lauded by critics, with Metacritic reporting it to have an approval rating of 85. The Hollywood Reporter writer Ray Bennett said the duo gave "compelling and charismatic performances."
Wanted and AfterOne of the biggest highlights of James' carrer was starring with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman in Wanted, an action film where he portrayed Wesley Gibson, a young American slacker who learns he is heir to a legacy of assassins. When James screen-tested for the role, he was initially rejected because the studio was seeking an actor with conventional Hollywood leading-man looks and physique. He later recalled being considered the "runt of the litter" of those who tested, but ultimately got the role in late 2006 since the studio "wanted someone geeky." While shooting action scenes for Wanted, he suffered several injuries, including a twisted ankle and an injured knee. Nonetheless the actor said he had a "good time" doing the movie. James had never done this type of genre beofre and thought of Wanted as a chance to be more versatille. Loosely based on the comic book miniseries of the same name by Mark Millar, it saw a June 2008 release worldwide. It received favorable reviews from the press, who generally liked that it was fast-paced. At the box office, Wanted had a success, grossing $341 million against a $75 million production budget. Next was The Last Station, a biopic that details the final months of celebrated writer Leo Tolstoy and also stars James' wife. It was shown at a limited amount of screens in the US. Although most cirtics' awards paid attention to co-stars Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer, the Satellite Awards nominated James for Best Supporting Actor. In 2009, James voiced Angelina's father, Maurice Mouseling, in the television series, Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps.
He also appeared onstage in 2009 at Apollo Theatre's Three Days of Rain. He voiced the main titular character in Gnomeo andJuliet, an animated movie based on William Shakespeare's play Rome and Juliet. In Robert Redford's historical American drama The Conspirator, James played the role of an idealistic war hero who relucatantly defends a co-conspirator charged in the Abraham Lincoln assasination. It premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. While this movie garnered mixed reception, critics lauded the actor for his work. In Owen Gleiberman's assessment of The Conspirator, he found it "stiff-jointed" and tedious, but regarded James as "an avid prsence." In mid-2010, James was cast as telepatic superhero Professor X, leader and founder of the X-Men, in X-Men: First Class. He joined an ensemble that included Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon. Based on the Marvel Comics and a prequel to the film series, it is set primarily during the Cuban Missile Crisis and focuses on the relationship between Professor X and Magneto and the origin of their groups. James admitted that he was not familiar with the comics as a child, but was a fan of the cartoons since the age of 10. Released to the UK on June 1, First Class topped its box office with ticket sales of around 5 million pounds on its opening weekend. First Class was reviewed favourably. In 2011, James began filming the role of Max Lewinsky in the British thriller, Welcome to the Punch. He played the lead role in the Danny Boyle film, Trance.
In 2012, James was cast as Bruce Robertson in Filth, an adaption of Irvine Welsh novel of the same name. The film's ensemble cast includes Jamie Bell, Jim Broadbent, Eddie Marsan, and Imogen Poots. For his role, James won Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards in December 2013. It was also announced that he would co-star with Jessica Chastain in a double-feature film project, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. He performed the male lead in readio play adaption of Neverwhere written by Neil Gaiman.
James starred in Shakespeare's Macbeth on London's West End in early 2013. Macbeth was the first performance ath the Trafalgar Transformed, running from Febuary 9 until April 27. The production wad directed by Jamie Lloyd who also driected James in his last stint on the stage in 2009's Three Days of Rain. James will be reprising his role as Professor X in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse.
James dated Scottish actress Emma Nielsen for 6 years until 2003. While working on Shameless, James started the relationship with his character's love interest, Anne-Marie Duff, who is nine years his senior. When they first began dating, James and Duff agreed not to speak to the press about their relationship.
At the age of 27, he married Duff, then 36, on October 18, 2006 in a quiet ceremony. When asked by Ryan Seacrest during his radio show, if he wished he had waited longer to get married so he could exploit his fame better, James replied that he had married the woman of his dreams. "The world seemed less scary...and I started to like myself a little bit more."They have one child together, a son named Brendan. In interviews, the actor has opted not to discuss his son and have not announced their child's birth date, although he has stated "the little man keeps him up all night." James leads what has been called a modest life. Prior to marrying Duff, he purchased a second floor apartment in North London in 2006 for about 178,000 pounds. Also, he and his wife drive a 1990s Nissan Micra that is worth less than one thousand pounds. The couple enjoy a close relationship and rarely leave their apartment, choosing to instead read or do sudoku puzzles together. Of this lifestyle, the actor said it is "mundane, and I love it that way."
After James won an award from the BAFTAs, his estranged father spoke to the Sunday Minor, stating that he would love to get in touch with his son,but did not know how to reach him. Though the actor did not read the piece, he heard about it and was unmoved. He enjoys fantasy themes which he said started from the age of 11 with The Lord of the Rings. His big interest outside acting and scifi is soccer. He is a huge fan of Celtic Fooball Club, stating that his dream role would be to play Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone. James considers himself a spiritual person who no longer practices Catholicism. Speaking to Sky News, James said he believed that British filmmakers belittle and dumb down their productions to please American audiences. "It's like we're patronizing them and short changing ourselves," the actor commented. He had previously called 3D-films a "waste of money," accusing movie studios of using the effect to get more money out of their theater audiences.
James has stated that The Goonies is his favorite film.
At one point, James did a "terrifying" base jump from the world's tallest hospital building in a bid to help raise money for Ugandan children's charity Retrak, an organization which assists children on the streets. Additionally, James is a celebrity supporter of the British Red Cross with whom he traveled to Uganda to raise awareness of the projects there. He had become involved with the charity after shooting The Last King of Scotland there for several months and was shocked by what he saw. In February 2007, he visited norhtern Uganda and spent four days seeing projects supported by the British Red Cross.