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James McAvoy takes over the role of mind-reading Mutant leader Professor X in X-Men: First Class, a prequel directed by Matthew Vaughn. (Patrick Stewart played the role in the previous movies.) Read THR’s review here.
Here are six facts about the actor:
1. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his parents divorced. McAvoy was born in Port Glasgow, Scotland, to a psychiatric nurse and a builder, who divorced when he was 7. He still has contact with his mother but told the U.K.’s Guardian that he has not spoken to his father since childhood.
2. As a teenager, he considering becoming a priest. McAvoy attended Catholic school and considered the priesthood as a teen — but not for the right reasons, he admits. “I wanted to be a missionary, but it was only because I wanted a free ticket to go and explore the world,” he told the U.K.’s Telegraph. “I realized I was using God and religion to get my kicks so I knocked that on the head. I suppose I’m still spiritual but not in a Catholic way any more.”
3. He met his while working on a U.K. TV show. McAvoy met Anne-Marie Duff while both were working on Shameless, which premiered in 2004. (An American version debuted on Showtime in January.) The couple married in 2006 and have a son, 1-year-old Brendan. They also co-starred in 2009’s The Last Station, but McAvoy says he’s hesitant to work with her again. “You have to weigh it up against how much of a headache it would be. It exposes you to a lot of questions,” he told USA Today. “I’m very big in saying that I don’t agree that if you put yourself in the spotlight, you have to accept it. I do think that if you work together as husband and wife, you’re kind of asking for it.”
4. He got his first big break in HBO’s Band of Brothers. The 2001 World War II miniseries was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. It starred Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Donnie Wahlberg, Matthew Settle and Scott Grimes, among others.
5. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for Atonement. In the 2007 movie, directed by Joe Wright, McAvoy played the doomed lover of Keira Knightley’s character. He also earned critical notice for his role in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland, opposite Forest Whitaker.
6. He wanted the X-Men role because the film was shooting close to his house. “It was in London, 30 minutes from my front door,” he quipped to USA Today. “That’s always nice.” But he admits that he felt a huge responsibility to get the character just right, despite the fact that he doesn’t take his job too seriously. “You’re playing with people’s affections and there’s trust as well, in you,” he said. “That’s a big responsibility. But at the end of the day, it’s entertainment.”
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