JAMES McAVOY (Wesley Gibson) was born in the Scotstoun area of Glasgow, Scotland, in 1979 and is a graduate of the prestigious Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. In his short career, he has tested himself with a wide variety of work, on stage, television and film, and is regarded as one of the U.K.’s most exciting acting talents.
Although he cut his teeth with small parts in high-profile projects like the World War I drama Regeneration (alongside Jonathan Pryce and Dougray Scott) and the hugely successful HBO series Band of Brothers (produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg), McAvoy first came to prominence in the U.K. with the role of Josh in the Channel 4 adaptation of Zadie Smith’s popular novel “White Teeth,” with Geraldine James, John Simm and Naomie Harris. This brought McAvoy to the attention of Hollywood and, in 2002, he was cast as Leto Atreides II in the Emmy Award-winning massive hit miniseries Children of Dune, directed by Greg Yaitanes and co-starring Susan Sarandon and Steven Berkoff.
As McAvoy’s body of work grew, the roles being offered to him grew more and more significant, and he soon found himself playing the role of Dan Foster in the BAFTA-winning BBC One political-drama series State of Play, with Bill Nighy, John Simm and Kelly Macdonald. Written by Paul Abbott and directed by David Yates, the series ran in the U.K. in autumn 2003 and on BBC America in 2004 and became one of the most successful U.K. television exports of recent years.
While impressing on the small screen, McAvoy also proved to be a hit on the big screen, when Stephen Fry’s much anticipated comedy Bright Young Things was released in October 2004. The film had an all-star international cast, including Emily Mortimer, Dan Aykroyd, Peter O’Toole, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant and many more. Bright Young Things was released in the U.S. in August 2005.
McAvoy’s popularity in the U.K. grew with his portrayal of the car thief Steve in the BAFTA-winning Channel 4 series Shameless, which began in the U.K. in early 2004. Once again written by Paul Abbott, the series tells the story of the fortunes and misfortunes of a family living on a Manchester council estate. McAvoy was nominated in the Best Comedy Newcomer category at the 2004 British Comedy Awards for his performance.
In 2004, McAvoy took his first feature film lead role in Inside I’m Dancing (U.S. title: Rory O’Shea Was Here). Directed by Damien O’Donnell and co-starring Romola Garai, the film tells the story of Rory, a young Irishman with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, who leads his cerebral palsy-stricken friend in a fight for physical and emotional freedom. The film received great critical acclaim, with McAvoy’s performance being especially noted; he received a nomination in the British Actor of the Year category at the 2005 London Film Critics’ Circle Awards. The film was released in the United States in February 2005.
December of 2005 saw the long-awaited arrival of Disney’s big-budget The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, filmed in New Zealand over the second half of 2004. McAvoy played Mr. Tumnus the Faun in this adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic, directed by Andrew Adamson and co-starring Tilda Swinton. The film became a massive international success and is one of the 20 highest grossing films of all time. McAvoy won the Rising Star Award at the 2006 BAFTAs, and he was nominated in the British Actor of the Year in a Supporting Role at the 2006 London Film Critics’ Circle Awards for his performance.
In the summer of 2005, James traveled to Uganda to take on the lead role in The Last King of Scotland, directed by the Oscar®- and BAFTA-winning Kevin Macdonald. The film tells the story of Nicholas Garrigan, a Scottish doctor on a Ugandan medical mission, who becomes irreversibly entangled with one of the world’s most barbaric figures, Idi Amin, played by Forest Whitaker. McAvoy was nominated for a BAFTA, a European Film Award, a BIFA and a London Film Critic’s Circle Award for his performance.
Upon returning to the U.K., McAvoy started work on his lead role in the adaptation of the hugely popular David Nicholls book, “Starter for 10,” for HBO Films. The film was directed by Tom Vaughan and produced by Tom Hanks; McAvoy’s co-stars included Alice Eve, Rebecca Hall, Benedict Cumberbatch and Catherine Tate. The film was released in the U.K .in October 2006 and premiered at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival before a February 2007 U.S. release.
The actor’s next project was Penelope, directed by Mark Palansky and co-starring Reese Witherspoon, Christina Ricci and Richard E. Grant. McAvoy played a man called upon to save a young woman cursed with the snout of a pig. Penelope began filming in London in February 2006 and premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival ahead of a February 2008 U.S. release.
In April 2006, the ever-busy McAvoy moved to Dublin to start work on Becoming Jane, directed by Julian Jarrold and co-starring Dame Maggie Smith and Julie Walters. McAvoy played the brilliant and roguish Irishman Tom Lefroy, whose affair with Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) inspired her to write “Pride and Prejudice.” The film was released in the U.K. in March 2007 and in the U.S. in August 2007.
From Dublin, McAvoy returned immediately to the U.K. to begin work on Atonement. An adaptation of the popular Ian McEwan novel, the movie is directed by Joe Wright and co-stars Keira Knightley, Brenda Blethyn and Romola Garai. McAvoy played Robbie Turner, a Cambridge graduate falsely accused of rape, who goes on to fight in World War II with the accusation hanging over him. Atonement had its world premiere at the 2007 Venice Film Festival ahead of the September 2007 U.K. and December 2007 U.S. releases. McAvoy received Golden Globe and BAFTA Best Actor nominations and won awards from the London Film Critics’ Circle, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the U.K. Regional Critics for the role.
In April 2008 James moved to Germany to begin filming The Last Station, a historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things; the film is directed by Michael Hoffman.