Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Who is James McAvoy?

James McAvoy is a well-known Scottish actor who appears in films, TV, as well as on stage. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, McAvoy made his film debut as a teenager in 'The Near Room' where he played a minor role. He came to popularity after his role in 'Bollywood Queen' a British Indian remake of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ where he played a lead role. He has appeared in several TV shows as well. He has received nominations for the 'Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor' three times. McAvoy also gained prominence for his role in three films of the X-Men series where he played Professor Charles Xavier, a mutant with the ability to read and control minds. He was latest seen in the American spy thriller 'Atomic Blonde' in a lead role. McAvoy is known for his charitable works. He is involved with the British Red Cross with whom he has travelled to Uganda to help raise awareness about their projects.

Early life

McAvoy was born on 21 April 1979 in Glasgow, Scotland, to Elizabeth (née Johnstone), a nurse, and James McAvoy senior, a bus driver. He was raised on a housing estate in Drumchapel, Glasgow by his maternal grandparents (James, a butcher, and Mary), after his parents divorced when James was 11. He went to St Thomas Aquinas Secondary in Jordanhill, Glasgow, where he did well enough and started 'a little school band with a couple of mates'.

McAvoy toyed with the idea of the Catholic priesthood as a child but, when he was 16, a visit to the school by actor David Hayman sparked an interest in acting. Hayman offered him a part in his film The Near Room (1995) but despite enjoying the experience McAvoy didn't seriously consider acting as a career, although he did continue to act as a member of PACE Youth Theatre. He applied instead to the Royal Navy and had already been accepted when he was also offered a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD).

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images


McAvoy's first roles were in David Hayman's The Near Room in 1995 and then as Anthony Balfour in Pat Barker's Regeneration in 1997. He received his first big break with a role in the Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries Band of Brothers. His first international starring role was as Leto Atreides II in the 2003 Sci Fi Channel miniseries Frank Herbert's Children of Dune (adapted from Frank Herbert's novels).

The same year, he also appeared in several episodes of the BBC sitcom Early Doors and co-starred in Paul Abbott's acclaimed thriller serial State of Play. In 2004, he starred as Steve McBride in another Abbott-written drama series, Shameless on Channel 4, for which he was nominated for the British Comedy Award for Best TV Newcomer.

He also appeared in two other productions: Wimbledon as Paul Bettany's obnoxious brother, Carl Colt; and he played disabled character Rory O'Shea in the Irish film Inside I'm Dancing. In 2005, he starred in three productions: he played Ben in the Royal Court Theatre's production Breathing Corpses and an adaptation of Macbeth in the four-part BBC production ShakespeaRe-told; he also portrayed Mr. Tumnus, the Faun, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Max/Johnny-2008 in Penelope.

In 2006, McAvoy starred alongside Forest Whitaker as Dr. Garrigan in The Last King of Scotland. The film is an adaptation of Giles Foden's novel of the same name and gives a fictionalized account of the regime of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin during the 1970s, as seen by his (fictional) personal physician and adviser.

The character of Garrigan is a composite of several men who were close to Amin, most notably Englishman Bob Astles, who was a top adviser to Amin during his regime and became known in Uganda as "The White Rat".

That same year, McAvoy took the lead role in Starter for 10. The film, which was adapted from the novel Starter for Ten by David Nicholls, follows the exploits of the nerdy Brian Jackson as he navigates his first year at Bristol University during the mid-1980s. McAvoy won the new Mary Selway/Orange Rising Star Award at the 2006 BAFTA Awards for his role. He also completed filming of Penelope in 2006, but due to distribution problems the film was not put in wide release until 2008.

In 2007 McAvoy appeared in two critically acclaimed films: Becoming Jane, a fictional romance inspired by the life of Jane Austen, alongside Anne Hathaway, and Atonement, an adaptation of Ian McEwan's award-winning 2001 novel. McAvoy was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in Atonement. During this time he workshopped scenes for the film Three Way Split for directors Neil Hunter and Tom Hunsinger, but will not take part in the actual film.

McAvoy's film, Wanted, was released on 25 June 2008. Loosely based on the comic book miniseries by the same name, McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a twenty-five year old everyman who is offered the opportunity to avenge the death of his father, who was an assassin.

The character is then trained by his father's partner, Sloan (Morgan Freeman), and by Sloan's second-in-command, Fox, played by Angelina Jolie. McAvoy appeared in the 2009 film The Last Station, based on the 1990 novel by Jay Parini, about the final year of Leo Tolstoy's life; the film co-starred McAvoy's wife, Anne-Marie Duff. McAvoy is currently working on Robert Redford's The Conspirator.

McAvoy was set to star in the upcoming film Live With It, which will be directed by Nicole Holofcener and produced by Seth Rogen, but dropped out and was replaced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. McAvoy has expressed interest in returning as Wesley Gibson in Wanted 2, which is currently in pre-production. He is also said to be highly considered for the part of Kurt Cobain in the upcoming biopic Heavier than Heaven.

On screen, McAvoy has appeared as corrupt cop Bruce Robertson in Filth (2013), a part for which he received a Scottish BAFTA for Best Actor, a British Independent Film Award for Best Actor, a London Critics Circle Film Award for British Actor of the Year and an Empire Award for Best Actor. More recently, he reprised his role as Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019). He began his depiction of Kevin Wendell Crumb, also known as The Horde, a man with an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder in M. Night Shyamalan's thriller Split (2016) and continued it in the sequel, Glass (2019). Also in 2019, he played Bill Denbrough in It Chapter Two (2019), the horror sequel to It (2017).

McAvoy and Jamie Lloyd look set to continue their collaboration in December 2019, with a production of 'Cyrano de Bergerac' at the Playhouse Theatre in the West End, London. The project has been on the cards as long ago as 2017, when McAvoy posted a picture of him reading the script and wearing a false nose.

Personal life

Photo: Hollywood
Photo: Getty Images

While working on Shameless, McAvoy started a relationship with Anne-Marie Duff, who played his character's love interest; they married on 11 November 2006. They have a son named Brendan (born 2010). On 13 May 2016, the couple jointly announced their decision to divorce. To minimise disruption to their son's life, they initially shared a home in North London when not working elsewhere. Since 2017, McAvoy has been in a relationship with Lisa Liberati, an American production assistant whom he met on the set of Split.

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 contact him. Although he did not read the piece, McAvoy heard about it and was unmoved.

McAvoy considers himself a spiritual person who no longer practises Catholicism. He enjoys fantasy themes, which he said started from aged 11 with reading The Lord of the Rings.

McAvoy's other passion is football; he is an avid fan of Celtic FC, stating that his dream acting role would be Celtic player Jimmy Johnstone.

Speaking to Sky News in 2011, McAvoy said he believed that British filmmakers belittle and dumb down their productions to please American audiences. He had previously called 3D films a "waste of money", accusing film studios of using the effect to get more money out of cinema audiences.

Major Works

Photo: Syfy Wire - Youtube
Photo: Syfy Wire - Youtube

‘The Last King of Scotland’, is one of the hit films James McAvoy has appeared in during his career. The film was directed by Kevin Macdonald and it starred McAvoy in a lead role. Other actors included Forest Whitaker, Kerry Washington, Simon McBurney and Gillian Anderson. The film revolves around the story of a young adventurous doctor, who travels to Uganda, and becomes the personal physician of the new president. The film shows the brutality of the new ruler, through the eyes of McAvoy’s character. The film was a commercial success.

'X-Men: First Class’ is one of the most important and successful works in McAvoy’s acting career. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, the film was the fifth movie of the X-Men film series. The film featured McAvoy in a lead role, where he portrayed Professor Charles Xavier, a powerful telepath. Other actors in the film include Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, and January Jones. The film was a commercial success and also won a few awards. Reviews were mostly positive.

One of McAvoy’s most recent works was in the 2017 spy thriller ‘Atomic Blonde,’ where he played a main role. The film was directed by David Leitch, and along with McAvoy, the film also starred actors such as Charlize Theron, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella and Toby Jones. The film received mostly favorable reviews.

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Awards & Achievements

For his amazing performance in the film ‘The Last King of Scotland’, James McAvoy won the BAFTA rising Star Award, as well as the BAFTA Scotland Award in 2006.

His performance in the 2007 romantic war drama ‘Atonement’ won him an Empire Award and a London Film Critics Circle Award, for ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Supporting Actor’ respectively.

His role in ‘X-Men: First Class’ won him the IGN Award for ‘Best Ensemble Cast’ in 2011.

He won the ‘London Film Critics Circle Awards’ three times for British Actor of the Year, for his role in the films ‘Welcome to the Punch’, ‘Trance’ and ‘Filth’, all in 2013. His performance in the film ‘Filth’, won him three more awards as well, including the ‘British Independent Film Award’, ‘The Empire Award’, and the ‘BAFTA Scotland’ Award, all three for Best Actor.

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Is James McAvoy in a relationship?

James is indeed in a relationship with the former PA to director M.Night Shyamalan, who is now the Social media manager for the real estate app Jove, Lisa Liberati. The pair were first linked back in 2017, and James recently opened up about spending lockdown with one another.

He told The Daily Mail: "We are in London and it’s all good. We’ve just moved into a nice, slightly bigger house but we were in a tiny flat before. Around about April we built a makeshift studio in my spare bedroom. Our only spare bedroom which was full of moving stuff was rammed and just full of this James made recording studio."

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