James McAvoy is a Scottish actor. In a career spanning over two decades, he has appeared in numerous television shows, theatrical productions and over 30 feature films. Notable among his film credits are the historical drama The Last King of Scotland (2006), the critically acclaimed romantic drama Atonement (2007), Wanted
(2008), Filth (2013) and the X-Men film series, where he portrayed Professor Charles Xavier. For his performance in Atonement, McAvoy was nominated for BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor. He has also won two BAFTA Scotland Awards (for Filth and The Last King of Scotland) and a British Independent Film Award (for Filth). The actor has been a prominent figure in the British theatre since the early days of his career, having received multiple Laurence Olivier Award nominations for his performance in plays like Macbeth, Three Days of Rain and The Ruling Class.
James McAvoy was born into a Catholic family in Glasgow, Scotland, to Elizabeth Johnstone and James McAvoy, Sr.. Following the divorce of his parents, McAvoy spent most of his childhood with his maternal grandparents. As a teenager, he had considered joining the Catholic priesthood or the Royal Navy, but was drawn into acting following the visit of actor David Hayman to his school. McAvoy has a younger sister named Joy, and a half-brother, Donald.
In 2006, McAvoy married his Shameless co-star Anne-Marie Duff
. They have a son named Brendan. After ten years of marriage, the couple filed for divorce in 2016.
McAvoy made his acting debut at the age of 16, with a minor role in the thriller The Near Room (1995). Initially, he was reluctant about committing to projects since a career in the movies was never among his top priorities. The actor, however, continued to appear in theatrical productions and remained an active member of PACE Youth Theatre. After a string of low-profile movies, the actor appeared in Stephen Fry
`s Bright Young Things (2003), an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh`s 1930 novel Vile Bodies. The movie was well-received, and McAvoy followed it up with a supporting role in the romantic drama Wimbledon (2004), which was a moderate box office success. The comedy-drama Inside I`m Dancing, which came out in the same year, saw the actor taking on the lead role of a disabled man whose free-spirited nature changes the lives of those around him for the better. Despite the mixed critical reception, the movie was well-received by the audience and has since steadily gained followers and grown in popularity.
The actor then portrayed Mr. Tumnus in the fantasy drama The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), which went on to become a critical and commercial success, grossing over $740 million at the box office. In 2006, McAvoy appeared alongside Forest Whitaker in the historical drama The Last King of Scotland,
which told the story of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin`s brutal regime, as seen through the eyes of his personal physician. The movie opened to universal critical acclaim and both the actors were hailed for their stellar performances. While Whitaker went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, McAvoy received Best Supporting Actor nominations at the BAFTA Awards, European Film Awards and British Independent Film Awards. He also won the BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan.
Critical and commercial success continued to favour McAvoy in subsequent years, courtesy of the comedy-drama Starter for 10 (2006), the biographical romantic drama Becoming Jane (2006) and the romantic-comedy Penelope (2007). One of the most memorable roles in the actor`s career came in 2007, when he played Robbie Turner in the romantic drama Atonement
(2007). Besides finding a place in many prestigious Top Ten Movies of the Year lists, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards, won the BAFTA Award for Best Film and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama. McAvoy`s nuanced portrayal of Robbie Turner was lauded in all circles, and besides earning Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations, he won the London Critics Circle Film Award for British Actor of the Year. In the following year, the actor appeared alongside Angelina Jolie
in the action thriller Wanted
. The movie was his first big blockbuster in a starring role, raking over $340 million at the box office. McAvoy then appeared in a supporting role in the historical drama The Last Station
(2009), which recounted the final days of writerLeo Tolstoy
(played by Christopher Plummer
In 2011, the actor appeared in Robert Redford
`s historical drama The Conspirator and in a voice role in the animated romantic-comedy Gnomeo and Juliet
. In the same year, McAvoy made his debut in the superhero genre when he played Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men: First Class
, a prequel to the franchise. The stakes were high as he was entering a franchise that was already popular and portraying the younger version of Patrick Stewart
`s Professor X. Despite this, McAvoy won over the audience and the critics alike, thereby establishing himself as a regular in the X-Men series. The animated Christmas fantasy Arthur Christmas (2011), where McAvoy played the titular character, was also generally well-received.
In 2013, McAvoy appeared in Danny Boyle
`s psychological crime thriller Trance, where he played an art auctioneer whose involvement in an art heist comes with gruesome consequences. This was followed by the black-comedy Filth, which saw McAvoy in the role of a corrupt, drug-addicted cop who tries to manipulate his way into a promotion. Both these critically acclaimed performances proved his range as an actor, and won him a British Independent Film Award, a London Critics Circle Film Award and a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor. McAvoy reprised his role as Professor Xavier in X-Men: Days of Future Past
in 2014, where he shared the part with Patrick Stewart
. The movie opened to overwhelmingly positive reviews and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year, but lost to Interstellar. In the same year, he starred opposite Jessica Chastain
in the romantic drama The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. The film, which was divided into three parts - Him, Her and Them - received praise for the performance of its lead actors and its elegant storytelling.
In 2015, McAvoy starred alongside Daniel Radcliffe
in the sci-fi fantasy Victor Frankenstein - a retelling of Mary Shelley
`s 1818 novel Frankenstein. Despite the hype, the movie was a critical and commercial failure. This was followed by his third outing as Professor X, in X-Men Apocalypse (2016), which did well at the box office despite the mixed reviews. M. Night Shyamalan
`s psychological thriller Split (2016) saw McAvoy taking on one of the most challenging roles of his career - as a man with dissociative identity disorder who manifests as many as 23 distinct personalities. The movie was a critical and commercial success, and the actor received widespread praise for his portrayal of a complex character. The romantic thriller Submergence and the spy-thriller The Coldest City are some of the actor`s projects in 2017. He reprised his role as Charles Xavier in Deadpool 2 (2018) and Dark Phoenix
(2019). Other 2019 credits include a leading role in the psychological superhero drama Glass
and horror film IT: Chapter Two
McAvoy made his television debut in 1997 at the age of 17, with a guest role in the police procedural drama The Bill. In 2001, he appeared in the critically acclaimed war drama miniseries Band of Brothers, which had Steven Spielberg
and Tom Hanks
as executive producers. Notable television credits in the subsequent years included Lorna Doone, White Teeth and Foyle`s War. In 2003, McAvoy appeared in the crime drama State of Play, where he portrayed Dan Foster, an unscrupulous reporter. Both the series and his performance were well-received, and the show was later adapted into a movie starringRussell Crowe
, Rachel McAdams
and Ben Affleck
. The sci-fi miniseries Frank Herbert`s Children of Dune, which came out in the same year, was also well-received.
McAvoy`s performance in the acclaimed adult comedy-drama Shameless earned him a British Comedy Awards nomination for Best TV Comedy Newcomer in 2004. Since then, he has appeared in ShakespeaRe-Told (2005) and the miniseries adaptation of the novel Watership Down (2017).