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James McAvoy Biography


Home > Actors > M > McAvoy, James > Biography


Birth Name: James McAvoy
Born: 04/21/1979
Birth Place: United Kingdom


Born April 21, 1979 in Glasgow, Scotland, McAvoy was raised by his maternal grandparents after his parents divorced in 1986. Growing up in the 1980s, McAvoy soaked up the archetypal American popcorn movies of the period, including "St. Elmo's Fire" (1985), "Top Gun" (1986) and "Back to the Future" (1986). A self-described film lover and "sci-fi geek," McAvoy's dreams of becoming an actor became a reality, when at age 15, the lad met Scottish actor David Hayman at a school-sponsored career day. Impressed by the youth, Hayman remembered McAvoy and gave him a call four months later to see if he would like to audition for a role in his latest film, "The Near Room" (1986) - a dark thriller about child prostitution. McAvoy's tiny role in the movie - as the son of a pimp - won him a spot at the Royal Scottish Academy of Dance and Music.



After graduation, McAvoy moved to London, where he shared a tiny flat with four roommates and a Chihuahua. Working at a bakery for his day job, the frustrated McAvoy nearly gave up on acting and seriously considered joining the Royal Navy, until he landed a small role in the World War II miniseries, "Band of Brothers" (HBO, 2001). From there, McAvoy sprung to worldwide attention with his role in the science-fiction miniseries, "Children of Dune." Adapted from the works of Frank Herbert, the three-part, six-hour miniseries was produced in Germany and boasted an international cast. As the young adult Leto Atreides II, McAvoy made his debut in the film's second chapter and remained an instrumental figure in part three. The up-and-comer next turned up in a supporting role in the critically acclaimed British crime serial, "State of Play" (BBC-1, 2003). His well-received turn as hard-nosed journalist Dan Foster led to another popular television engagement - this time in the off-beat British comedy, "Shameless" (BBC-2, 2004-05). During the filming of this program, McAvoy met an actress nine years his senior, Anne-Marie Duff. The two fell in love and eventually married in October of 2006.



Despite McAvoy's growing fame in the U.K., the actor remained largely unknown stateside until the release of the big-budget fantasy blockbuster, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe." Cast as the good-hearted faun, Mr. Tumnus, McAvoy delighted longtime fans of the C.S. Lewis classic with his poignant portrayal. Capitalizing on the public's hunger for epic fantasy-adventures following the monster success of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "Narnia" scored huge at the box office, earning nearly $750 million worldwide.



McAvoy's most celebrated role to date, however, was a year later in "The Last King of Scotland" - the directorial debut of respected documentarian, Kevin McDonald. Based on journalist Giles Foden's 1998 novel of the same name, "The Last King of Scotland" starred McAvoy as Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, the head physician to Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (played expertly by Forest Whitaker). McAvoy's character, Garrigan - a fictionalized composite of several real-life figures - embodied the sort of character McAvoy played best: ambitious, flawed, but unquestionably human.



With a total of six films under his belt in a span of just two years, McAvoy showed no signs of slowing down his breakneck pace. In 2007, McAvoy starred in "Starter for 10," a coming-of-age romantic comedy set in the mid-1980s about a working-class lad from Essex enrolled at prestigious Bristol University trying to maintain his ties to home while looking to make the university team that's appearing on a popular quiz show, all the while dividing his romantic interests between two very different co-eds (Alice Eve and Rebecca Hall). He next starred in "Atonement" (2007), playing the Cambridge boyfriend of a young woman (Keira Knightley) whose frolicking about the family estate gets twisted by her mischievous sister (Saoirse Ronan) into an outrageous lie that has repercussions upon all involved for decades to come.



Shifting to Hollywood action fare, McAvoy starred with Angelina Jolie in the fast-paced comic-book adaptation "Wanted" (2008) and then went for a completely different mood, appearing in the biographical drama "The Last Station" (2009), which featured Christopher Plummer as Leo Tolstoy. In 2011, McAvoy voiced lead roles in two major animated movies, "Gnomeo & Juliet" and "Arthur Christmas," and had his first turn at playing a young Charles Xavier in the superhero hit "X-Men: First Class." Taking a short break from the screen, he returned in 2013 with a number of overlooked projects, including the Danny Boyle thriller "Trance." Meanwhile he reprised his part as the telepathic mutant Xavier in "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014), which turned out to be the highest-grossing film in the series.