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James McAvoy

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James McAvoy
James McAvoy 2015.jpg
McAvoy at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con
James McAvoy Jr.[1]

(1979-04-21) 21 April 1979 (age 39)
Glasgow, Scotland[2]
ResidenceLondon, England
Alma materRoyal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama
Years active1995–present
Anne-Marie Duff (m. 2006–2016)

James McAvoy Jr. (/ˈmækəvɔɪ/; born 21 April 1979)[1] is a Scottish actor. He made his acting debut as a teen in The Near Room (1995) and made mostly television appearances until 2003, when his feature film career began. His notable television work includes the thriller State of Play and the science fiction mini-series Frank Herbert's Children of Dune.

Besides screen acting, McAvoy has performed in several West End productions and received three nominations for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor. He has also done voice work for animated films including Gnomeo & Juliet, its sequel, Sherlock Gnomes, and Arthur Christmas.

In 2003, McAvoy appeared in a lead role in Bollywood Queen. This was followed by a supporting role, the faun Mr. Tumnus, in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005). His performance in Kevin Macdonald's drama The Last King of Scotland (2006) garnered him several award nominations. The critically acclaimed romantic drama war film Atonement (2007) earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination and his second BAFTA nomination. He appeared as a newly trained assassin in the action thriller Wanted (2008).

In 2011 he played the young Professor Charles Xavier in the superhero film X-Men: First Class (2011), a role he reprised in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), Deadpool 2 (2018) and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019).[3] McAvoy starred in the crime comedy-drama film Filth (2013) for which he won Best Actor in the British Independent Film Awards.[4] In 2017, he portrayed Kevin, a man with 23 personalities, in M. Night Shyamalan's Split, for which he received critical acclaim.[5][6]

Early life and family[edit]

McAvoy was born in Glasgow, Scotland on Saturday, 21 April 1979, the son of Elizabeth (née Johnstone), a psychiatric nurse, and James McAvoy, Sr., a builder.[7] He was brought up as a Roman Catholic.[8] His parents divorced when he was seven.[7] McAvoy's mother suffered from poor health and subsequently decided it was best that he live with his maternal grandparents, Mary and James Johnstone, a butcher who lived in a terraced council house in the nearby Drumchapel area of Glasgow.[9] His mother lived with them intermittently.[7] McAvoy has a sister, Joy, and a younger half-brother, Donald.[7] McAvoy has not been in contact with his father since childhood.[7] His mother died in early 2018 at the age of 59.

He attended St Thomas Aquinas Secondary in Jordanhill, Glasgow, a Catholic school, and briefly considered joining the Catholic priesthood.[10][11] In a 2006 interview, McAvoy said that he considered becoming a priest as a child because it seemed to be a way to explore the world via missionary work.[12] During his education, he worked at a local bakery.[10][11]


1995–2004: Early career[edit]

McAvoy's acting debut came at the age of 15 in The Near Room (1995). He later admitted that he was not very interested in acting when joining the film, but was inspired to study acting after developing feelings for his co-star, Alana Brady.[13] He continued to act while still a member of PACE Youth Theatre.[14][15] McAvoy graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2000.[16] Throughout the early 2000s, he made guest appearances in television shows and began working in film. In 2001, McAvoy's performance as a gay hustler in the play Out in the Open impressed director Joe Wright so much that Wright began offering McAvoy parts in his films. McAvoy kept declining them, however, and it was not until six years later that the two worked together.[16]

He starred in Privates on Parade in the Donmar Warehouse, this time catching Sam Mendes' attention.[7] In 2001, the actor appeared as Private James W. Miller in Band of Brothers, an eleven-hour World War II miniseries by executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.[17][18] He gained the attention of critics in 2002's White Teeth, a four-part television drama miniseries adaption based on the novel of the same name by Zadie Smith.[19]

In 2003, McAvoy appeared in the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, adapted from Frank Herbert's novels. It is one of the highest-rated programmes to be aired on the channel.[20] 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 newspaper's investigation into the death of a young woman and was broadcast on BBC One.[21][22] Calling the programme a "must-see", the Chicago Tribune recommended State of Play for its cast's performance.[23] In 2002, McAvoy 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 cinemas on 17 October.[24][25]

In 2004, he acted in a supporting role in the romantic comedy Wimbledon, also featuring Kirsten Dunst as a co-lead.[26] His next project was voicing a character named Hal in the 2004 English version of Strings, a mythic fantasy film.[27] Another 2004 release for him was Inside I'm Dancing, an Irish production directed by Damien O'Donnell starring alongside fellow Scotsman Steven Robertson. In it, the actor was cast as one of the two principal characters: a maverick with duchenne muscular dystrophy.[28] McAvoy ended 2004 by appearing in the first two seasons of Shameless as Steve McBride, the moral hero of the BAFTA-winning Channel 4 programme.

2005–2007: Critical success[edit]

His public profile was raised in 2005 with the release of Walt Disney Pictures's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. McAvoy starred in the fantasy adventure film made by Andrew Adamson and based on C. S. Lewis's children's novel as Tumnus, a faun who befriends Lucy Pevensie (played by Georgie Henley) and joins Aslan (Liam Neeson)'s forces. It was given a UK release of 9 December. At the UK box office, the film opened at number one, earning around £8.7 million at 498 cinemas over the weekend.[29] Worldwide, Narnia grossed £463 million, making it the 41st highest-grossing film of all-time worldwide.[30] 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-1980s, 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 10 November. In spite of the positive buzz, the movie flopped at the box office, unable to recover its production costs of £5.7 million.[31][32]

Forest Whitaker had suggested McAvoy to director Kevin Macdonald for the role of Nicholas Garrigan in 2006's Academy Award-winning low-budgeted The Last King of Scotland.[33] McAvoy portrayed a Scottish doctor who becomes the personal physician to dictator Idi Amin (played by Whittaker) while in Uganda. While the film is based on factual events of Amin's rule, the details of the story and the character McAvoy played are fictional and adapted from Giles Foden's 1998 novel. McAvoy assessed his character to be a "completely selfish prick".[12] An overwhelmed McAvoy fainted during his first take of what would be the hardest scene for him to shoot, Nicholas's torture.[34] McAvoy was named Best Actor of the year by Scotland's own BAFTA Awards, where the film swept the major categories,[35] and received a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The film received three awards, including the Outstanding British Film of the Year.[36] This was accompanied by praise for McAvoy's performance.[37]

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.[38] Next up was Penelope, which premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.[39] Also starring co-producer Reese Witherspoon, it generated polarised reviews.[40] The breakthrough role in McAvoy's career came in Atonement, Joe Wright's 2007 adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel of the same title. A romantic war film, it focuses on lovers Cecilia and Robbie's (Keira Knightley and McAvoy) lives being torn apart after her jealous younger sister, Briony (Saoirse Ronan) falsely accuses him of rape. Upon reading the script, McAvoy said he thought "If I don't get the part I'm not reading the book because it'll be devastating. It's an amazing role and I really wanted it."[41] McAvoy has called the film "incredibly sad" but considers it an uplifting experience. He also shared that he hoped viewers will be left "absolutely devastated and harrowed." Screenings of Atonement were held at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was one of the most acclaimed films present, and Venice Film Festival.[42][43] Atonement was a big awards contender; it was nominated for fourteen BAFTAs and seven Academy Awards.[44][45] Both McAvoy and Knightley were nominated for their performances at the 65th Golden Globe Awards, respectively.[46] Additionally, the film was lauded by critics, with Metacritic reporting it to have an approval rating of 85.[47] The Hollywood Reporter writer Ray Bennett said the duo gave "compelling and charismatic performances".[48]

2008–present: Wanted, X-Men and subsequent work[edit]

His next role saw McAvoy starring with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman in Wanted (2008), an action film where he portrayed Wesley Gibson, a young American slacker who learns he is heir to a legacy of assassins. When McAvoy 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".[49][50] While shooting action scenes for Wanted, he suffered several injuries, including a twisted ankle and an injured knee.[51] Nonetheless the actor said he had a "good time" doing the movie. McAvoy had never done this type of genre before and thought of Wanted as a chance to be more versatile.[52]

Loosely based on the comic book miniseries of the same name by Mark Millar, it saw a June 2008 release worldwide. It received favourable reviews from the press, who generally liked that it was fast-paced.[53] At the box office, Wanted was a success, grossing $341 million against a $75 million production budget.[54] Next was The Last Station (2009), a biopic that details the final months of celebrated writer Leo Tolstoy and also stars Anne-Marie Duff, McAvoy's wife at the time.[55] It was shown at a limited number of screens in the US.[56] Although most critics' awards paid attention to co-stars Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer, the Satellite Awards nominated McAvoy for Best Supporting Actor.[57] In 2009, McAvoy voiced Angelina's father, Maurice Mouseling, in the television series, Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps.

He also appeared onstage in 2009 at Apollo Theater's Three Days of Rain.[58] He voiced the male titular character in Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), an animated movie based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.[59] In Robert Redford's historical American drama The Conspirator, McAvoy played the role of an idealistic war hero who reluctantly defends co-conspirator Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) charged in the Abraham Lincoln assassination. It premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.[60] 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 McAvoy as "an avid presence".[61]

In mid-2010, McAvoy was cast as telepathic superhero Professor X, leader and founder of the X-Men, in X-Men: First Class.[62] 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 focuses on the relationship between Professor X and Magneto and the origin of their groups. McAvoy did not read comics as a child, but was a fan of the X-Men animated cartoon series.[63] Released to the UK on 1 June, First Class topped its box office with ticket sales of around £5 million in its opening weekend.[64] First Class was reviewed favourably, and McAvoy's performance was widely praised.[65] In 2011, McAvoy began filming the role of Max Lewinsky in the British thriller Welcome to the Punch.[66] He played the lead role in the Danny Boyle film Trance.

In 2012, McAvoy was cast as Bruce Robertson in Filth, an adaptation of an 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, McAvoy won Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards in December 2013.[67] It was also announced that he would co-star with Jessica Chastain in a double-feature film project, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.[68] He performed the male lead in radio play adaptation of Neverwhere written by Neil Gaiman.[69] In October 2016 McAvoy played the character Richard in the BBC Radio 4 production of Neil Gaiman's short story 'How The Marquis Got His Coat Back'.[70] Gaiman played the role of the Boatman.

McAvoy starred in Shakespeare's Macbeth on London's West End in early 2013. Macbeth was the first performance at the Trafalgar Transformed, running from 9 February until 27 April. The production was directed by Jamie Lloyd who also directed McAvoy in his last stint on the stage in 2009's Three Days of Rain.[71] In 2015, McAvoy won the Best Actor award at London's Evening Standard Theater Awards for his portrayal of Jack Gurney in The Ruling Class,[72] a revival of the Peter Barnes play directed by Jamie Lloyd. It ran at Trafalgar Studios from 16 January to 11 April 2015.

McAvoy reprised his role as Professor X in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), which grossed $747.9 million worldwide, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of the year 2014, and the second highest-grossing film in the X-Men franchise and in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse.[73] In 2016, he starred in the M. Night Shyamalan thriller Split as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a dissociative identity disorder sufferer with dangerous capabilities. His performance was praised by critics, with some hailing it as the best of his career.[5][6] McAvoy will be returning as Professor X in the 2019 film X-Men: Dark Phoenix and as Crumb in Glass (2019).[74][75]

McAvoy will play adult Bill Denbrough in the upcoming It: Chapter Two. The film is set to hit theaters in September 2019.[76]

Personal life[edit]

A black and white image of a blonde women wearing a stain dress and dark-haired male standing beside each other. She is looking to her left and holding a clutch purse with her right hand. He is wearing an all-black suit and smiling.
McAvoy with then wife Anne-Marie whom he married in November 2006. The couple announced their intention to divorce in May 2016.

While working on Shameless, McAvoy started a relationship with Anne-Marie Duff, who played his character's love interest, and they married on 11 November 2006 in a quiet ceremony.[77] They have one child together, a son named Brendan (b. 2010).[78] On 13 May 2016, McAvoy and Duff jointly announced their decision to divorce.[79] To minimise disruption to Brendan's life, they still share a home in North London when not working elsewhere.[80]

After McAvoy won the "Rising Star" award from the BAFTAs, his estranged father spoke to the Sunday Mirror, 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.[7] He enjoys fantasy themes which he said started from the age of 11 with The Lord of the Rings.[81]

McAvoy's big interest outside acting and science fiction is football; he is a huge fan of Celtic Football Club, stating that his dream role would be to play Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone.[82] McAvoy considers himself a spiritual person who no longer practises Catholicism.[11]

Speaking to Sky News, McAvoy said he believed that British filmmakers belittle and dumb down their productions to please American audiences. "It's like we're patronising them and short changing ourselves," the actor commented.[83] He had previously called 3-D films a "waste of money", accusing film studios of using the effect to get more money out of their theatre audiences.[84]


At some point, McAvoy 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 organisation which assists children on the streets.[85] Additionally, McAvoy is a celebrity supporter of the British Red Cross with whom he travelled 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.[86] In February 2007, he visited northern Uganda and spent four days seeing projects supported by the British Red Cross.[87] In 2015, McAvoy pledged £125,000 to a 10-year scholarship programme at his former drama school, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.[88]



Year Title Role Notes
1995 The Near Room Kevin Savage
1997 An Angel Passes By Local boy Short film
1997 Regeneration Anthony Balfour
2001 Swimming Pool Mike
2003 Bright Young Things The Earl of Balcairn
2003 Bollywood Queen Jay
2004 Wimbledon Carl Colt
2004 Strings Hal Tara Voice role
2004 Inside I'm Dancing Rory O'Shea
2005 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Mr. Tumnus
2006 The Last King of Scotland Dr. Nicholas Garrigan
2006 Starter for 10 Brian Jackson
2007 Becoming Jane Thomas Langlois Lefroy
2007 Penelope Johnny Martin/Max Campion
2007 Atonement Robbie Turner
2008 Wanted Wesley A. Gibson
2009 The Last Station Valentin Bulgakov
2011 Gnomeo and Juliet Gnomeo Voice role
2011 The Conspirator Frederick Aiken
2011 X-Men: First Class Charles Xavier / Professor X
2011 Arthur Christmas Arthur Voice role
2013 Welcome to the Punch Max Lewinsky
2013 Trance Simon Newton
2013 Filth Bruce Robertson
2014 Muppets Most Wanted Delivery Man Cameo
2014 X-Men: Days of Future Past Charles Xavier / Professor X Shared role with Patrick Stewart
2014 The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Conor Ludlow
2015 Victor Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein
2016 X-Men: Apocalypse Charles Xavier / Professor X
2016 Split Kevin Wendell Crumb / The Horde San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
Seattle Film Critics Society Award for Villain of the Year
Nominated — MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Actor in a Movie
2017 Atomic Blonde David Percival
2017 Submergence James Moore
2018 Sherlock Gnomes Gnomeo Voice role
2018 Deadpool 2 Charles Xavier / Professor X Uncredited cameo
2019 Glass Kevin Wendell Crumb / The Horde Post-production
2019 Dark Phoenix Charles Xavier / Professor X Post-production
2019 It: Chapter Two Bill Denbrough Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1997 The Bill Gavin Donald Episode: "Rent"
2001 Band of Brothers Pvt. James W. Miller Episode: "Replacements"
2001 Lorna Doone Sergeant Bloxham Television film
2001 Murder in Mind Martin Vosper Episode: "Teacher"
2002 White Teeth Josh Malfen 2 episodes
2002 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Gowan Ross Episode: "Payment in Blood"
2002 Foyle's War Ray Pritchard Episode: "The German Woman"
2003 Frank Herbert's Children of Dune Leto II Atreides 3 episodes
2003 State of Play Dan Foster 6 episodes
2003 Early Doors Liam 4 episodes
2004–05 Shameless Steve McBride
2005 ShakespeaRe-Told Joe Macbeth Episode: "Macbeth"
2009–10 Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps Mr. Maurice Mouseling (voice) TV series
2018 Watership Down Hazel (voice) Miniseries, in production
TBA His Dark Materials Lord Asriel TV series, in production


Year Title Role Venue
The Tempest Ferdinand Brunton Theatre
West Side Story Riff Courtyard Centre for the Arts Hereford
Romeo and Juliet Romeo Courtyard Centre for the Arts Hereford
Beauty and the Beast Bobby Buckfast Adam Smith Theatre
2000 The Reel of the Hanged Man Gerald Traverse Theatre
Lovers Joe Royal Lyceum Theatre
2001 Out In The Open Iggy Hampstead Theatre
2001 Privates on Parade Private Steven Flowers Donmar Warehouse
2005 Breathing Corpses Ben Royal Court Theatre
2009 Three Days of Rain Walker & Ned Apollo Theatre
Nominated—Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor
2013 Macbeth Macbeth Trafalgar Studios
Nominated—Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor
2015 The Ruling Class Jack Gurney Trafalgar Studios
Evening Standard Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor

Video games[edit]

Year Title Voice role
2016 F1 2016 Team Radio

Awards and nominations[edit]

List of awards and nominations.
Organization Year[a] Work(s) Category Result
Alliance of Women Film Journalists 2007 Atonement Best Seduction (with Keira Knightley) Won
ALOS Awards 2018 Split Best Actor in a Leading Role Won
British Academy Film Awards 2006
Rising Star Award Won
2007 The Last King of Scotland Best Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
2008 Atonement Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
British Academy Scotland Awards 2007 Atonement Best Actor in Film Won
2014 Filth Best Actor in Film Won
British Comedy Awards 2004 Shameless Best TV Comedy Newcomer Nominated
British Independent Film Awards 2006 The Last King of Scotland Best Performance by an Actor Nominated
2013 Filth Best Performance by an Actor Won
Cannes Film Festival 2007
Male Revelation Won
Central Ohio Film Critics Association 2018 Split Best Actor Nominated
Dublin Film Critics' Circle 2007 Atonement Best Actor Nominated
Empire Awards 2006 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Best Newcomer Nominated
2008 Atonement Best Actor Won
2013 Filth Best Actor Won
European Film Awards 2007 The Last King of Scotland European Actor Nominated
2008 Atonement European Actor Nominated
Evening Standard British Film Awards 2008 Atonement, Becoming Jane Best Actor Nominated
Fright Meter Awards 2017 Split Best Actor Won
Gold Derby Awards 2008 Atonement Best Actor Nominated
2008 Atonement Best Ensemble Cast Nominated
Golden Globes Awards 2008 Atonement Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Nominated
IGN Award 2011 X-Men: First Class Best Ensemble Cast Nominated
International Online Cinema Awards 2008 Atonement Best Actor Nominated
2017 Split Best Actor Nominated
Irish Film & Television Academy 2008 Atonement Best International Actor Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards 2017 X-Men: Apocalypse #Squad Nominated
London Critics Circle Film Awards 2005 Inside I'm Dancing British Actor of the Year Nominated
2006 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe British Supporting Actor of the Year Nominated
2007 The Last King of Scotland British Actor of the Year Nominated
2008 Atonement British Actor of the Year Won
2014 Filth, Trance, Welcome to the Punch British Actor of the Year Won
MTV Movie & TV Awards 2009 Wanted Best Kiss (with Angelina Jolie) Nominated
2017 Split Best Actor in a Movie Nominated
National Movie Awards 2008 Wanted Best Performance – Male Nominated
North Texas Film Critics Association 2018 Split Best Actor Nominated
OFTA Awards 2008 Atonement Best Actor Nominated
People's Choice Awards 2012 X-Men: First Class Favorite Movie Superhero Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society 2017 Split Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society 2017 Split Best Male Actor Won
Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2008 Atonement Virtuoso Award Won
Satellite Awards 2009 The Last Station Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
Scream Awards 2011 X-Men: First Class Best Fantasy Actor Nominated
2011 X-Men: First Class Best Superhero Nominated
Seattle Film Critics Society 2017 Split Best Villain Won
Teen Choice Awards 2017 Split Choice Movie: Villain Nominated
Women Film Critics Circle 2011 Gnomeo & Juliet Best Screen Couple (with Emily Blunt) Nominated


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  1. ^ Year in which awards ceremony was held.

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