James McAvoy

His many faces—and why we love them all

BY: Liz MacDonald

James McAvoy is nothing if not multifaceted. You might love him as telepathic superhero Professor X in the X-Men movie franchise. Or you rooted for him a soldier in Band of Brothers. Maybe he made you cry in Atonement. But you probably didn’t realize just how busy he’s been throughout his career: McAvoy landed his first movie role at age 15, and he’s been acting up a storm ever since. Even before his biggest roles, he’d already appeared in nine films, twelve television roles and nine plays.

McAvoy’s breakout roles came with The Last King of Scotland (2006) and Atonement (2007). And then in 2008 he made the transition into action movies, appearing alongside alongside Angelina Jolie in Wanted. McAvoy claims the studio only cast him because they  “wanted someone geeky” (possibly true—he barely made it through filming, suffering a twisted ankle, hurt knee and other injuries).

As Professor X, leader and founder of the X-Men, McAvoy is at the very heart of the epic superhero franchise. He’s also the character who changes the most by the story’s end (the much-anticipated next installment, X-Men: The New Mutants is in pre-production now). And a psychic mutant does seem like the perfect part for an actor who’s able to change so much with every project. As is McAvoy’s critically acclaimed performance as Kevin, the creepy persona who morphs through various personalities throughout M. Night Shyamalan’s hit psycho thriller Split. 

This summer James McAvoy will be back to action—for Atomic Blonde he’s in international superspy mode, battling through Berlin with Charlize Theron. And then he’s transitioning once again, because McAvoy’s following project is with legendary auteur Wim Wenders. He’ll be playing a captive Brit in the intense romantic drama Submergence, due out sometime in 2017.

We’re looking forward to seeing whatever James McAvoy does next. As busy as he’s been, it seems like he’s only just getting started. As he says himself of his work, “I always feels like I need to take a challenge.”