Well, James McAvoy called me via satellite from London today. And he was as cool as a cucumber in “Sunny London” as he described it. And I told him it was 100 degrees in New York, and I said “I feel like I’m hell!” But then we quickly changed the subject back to his super-hot hit “X-Men:First Class” which just made $56 million dollars at the box-office in this, its’ first weekend! “And all that money comes to ME!” he joked.
I’ve interviewed James over and over again. Seems like every time I turn around, there’s James! Always funny, always perky, always ready to entertain “the punters” as they call audiences in Blighty.
And entertain them he does. Especially this weekend. And although he’s made many, many distinguished films in his short career, he’s still not a household name. At least in American households, but “X-Men:First Class” which is #1 at the box-office right now, is gonna change all that. He’s so good(and the picture’s so good) that he’s gonna to be forever identified by the masses of movie-goes as Professor X, the nice guy. The hero.
And “X-Men:First Class” plays to all James’ strengths. He’s compassionate. He’s intelligent. He’s admirable. And he also, like James, is funny, too.
“I wanted to put a bit of humor in him, ” he says, “Also a bit of ego. I didn’t want him just to be somebody who’s standing in front of all those special effects”
Professor X is a mutant, which is what distinguishes this franchise from all the other comic-book, super-hero, blow’em up, shoot’em tent poles. And as James put it to me “He’s someone who can see all the other mutants on the earth.” He was telepathic powers. He can read people’s minds.
“And he sees that they are the next front of evolution. And he wants to unite them all, to band them together” Because singly they are all treated as society’s rejects. And are very isolated. And discriminated against because they are different. Professor X believes that in unity there is strength.
So James is playing a leader, too.
But he’s used to playing leads. In the first British film I interviewed him for “Starter for Ten” at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006, he was the lead in a shy guy, coming-of-age story.
I caught up with him again around Christmas the following year for Focus Features big Oscar push for “Atonement.” And again, in “Atonement” he was the good, heroic guy, which he said he found hard to play. “He didn’t have any flaws” I remember him telling me at the time.
Then last year he was again front and center with the Oscar-seeker “The Last Station” and I interviewed him again. All these interviews and soon, the one I just did today, are on my You Tube channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow
He got no Oscar recognition for “The Last Station” but it garnered co-stars Dame Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer Oscar nods. For “Atonement” he was also unjustly passed over for a very beautiful, sensitive performance.
“X-Men: First Class” isn’t going to be in the Gold Derby this year on any level. Gold Derby is what my equally Oscar-obsessed colleague Tom O’Neil calls the Awards race. But I’m SO SURE an Oscar will one day be in James’ future.
Right now, he’s literally over the moon with the ecstatic critical and box-office reaction that “First Class” is getting.
“I hope the audiences like it enough for us to be able to do another one,” he puts it humbly. He seemed genuinely surprised, relieved and over-whelmed at the same time.
And judging from the wildly applauding audience I saw it with at a public screening, they will, James. They will. I predict you’ll be doing “X-Men” for at least a decade.