When you think of Professor X, the follicular challenged, wheel chair bound leader of the mutant superhero team the X-Men, you certainly don’t think of a buttery, brogue-gushing mane of youthful enthusiasm like James McAvoy. If you were to ask him, he’d say the same.
“I looked really closely at Sir Patrick Stewart’s performance,” he says referring respectfully to the cultural icon, “where he was chaste I was randy.”
Professor X, randy? McAvoy, with star turning roles in Wanted and Atonement certainly has charm and charisma but making Professor X randy is a tricky one.
“I was a little surprised,” he says referring to the call to play the young, progressive Xavier, “I didn’t see myself as Jean-Luc Picard.”
Neither did anyone else. But that’s not stopping McAvoy from presenting his own spin on Xavier ethos, one he realized he could execute successfully after absorbing the script for the first time.
“I read the first forty pages and I realized we could make the character more fun.”
X-Men: First Class is a film that chronicles Professor X and Magneto’s (Michael Fassbender) storied relationship, one that eventually results in the kind of beef that rivals the likes of Darth and Luke, Superman and Lex, Schwarzenegger and monogamy. Its also one that on-set required the help of his fictional, magnetic arch-enemy turned backstage adversary.
“I fell into Michael on the first day, (laughs), we got on very well.”
Fassbender and McAvoy’s leader through this thing was Matthew Vaughn, the director of Kick-Ass and Layer Cake, and no stranger to the kind of kinetic action McAvoy experienced in Wanted.
“There’s a rapport (talking of the production and on screen talent), and that chemistry translates onscreen. One of the things with the X-Men movies is that you have to get through 5,000 characters in two hours and I think Matthew did a great job of telling everyone’s stories well.”
It’s no secret that the last two films, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were critical bombs. They dented the grandiose mythos created by Stan Lee’s comics and Bryan Singer’s films in extraneous fashion; an almost critical blow to a blockbuster franchise that left Fox and Marvel scrambling for a way to recover.
Recover they did. First Class is surely a positive departure from the last forays; this is a summer film with bang for your buck and when McAvoy first saw the film he nearly jumped from his skin.
“I phoned Michael within a half hour,” McAvoy relayed to his cinematic counterpart, “You’ll be relieved, you’ll go to the toilet again properly!”
Of course he was speaking of his initial reaction to the film, one that carried a jubilee resonant with relief.
“These things sometimes are a nightmare to make,” he says of big budget spectacles, “And, its well documented it was, no point to hiding it.”
Despite the difficulties in production, one thing is for sure; McAvoy is more than thrilled with the final product.
“We thought this thing could be really different and really brilliant or really bad and really different. It’s turned out really good.”