James McAvoy has come a long way since his role as ‘Kevin’ in the long-forgotten thriller The Near Room in 1995. Now one of Britain’s biggest and most respected stars, the 37-year-old Scot is next seen in M. Night Shyamalan’s (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable) new horror-thriller, Split, in which he plays a kidnapper with 24 different personalities.
So to commemorate his critically acclaimed and chilling performance, we take a look at how this brilliant actor has continually reinvented himself...
Mr. Tumnus, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
When he popped up as the kindly faun Mr. Tumnus in the first Chronicles of Narnia film, McAvoy was best known for his role as Steve McBride, Fiona Gallagher’s medical student squeeze from noughties TV smash Shameless. His Mr Tumnus is one of the movie’s most memorable characters, and it’s a shame he never reappeared in the two sequels.
Nicholas Garrigan, The Last King of Scotland
This adaptation of Giles Foden's 1998 novel about a young Scottish doctor who becomes the personal physician of Ugandan President Idi Amin was praised on its release in 2006. Though Forest Whitaker took all the main plaudits (he nabbed the Oscar for Best Actor, among countless other awards), it was the film that helped make James McAvoy a bona fide movie star.
Brian Jackson, Starter for 10
Amazingly, back in 2006, Starter for 10 wasn’t thought to be a particularly starry film. But now – 11 years on – it looks as a-listy as any Ocean’s flick. So who’s there? James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, Dominic Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Catherine Tate, James Corden, Alice Eve, Mark Gatiss… It’s a stupendous cast, headed up by McAvoy as the Bristol University student who wins a place on a University Challenge quiz team.
Robbie Turner, Atonement
Macca described his character in Atonement, Robbie Turner, one of the most difficult roles he had ever played, "because he's very straight-ahead". The actor was widely praised for his role in this awards-guzzling adaptation of Ian McEwan's 2001 novel. And what about that twist ending, eh?
Wesley Gibson, Wanted
James McAvoy as action hero? Back in 2007, the fresh-faced Scot’s reinvention as a gun-toting action star was quite a shock. Here he plays a meek 24-year-old office drone, who, after learning that he is the son of a professional assassin, decides to join the Fraternity, a secret society in which his father worked. Starring alongside Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman in this adrenalised adaptation of Mark (Kingsman) Millar’s comic book series, McAvoy is perfectly cast and makes a moving journey from geek to hitman.
Professor X, X-Men: First Class; X-Men: Days of Future Past; X-Men: Apocalypse
Though he doesn’t look much like Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy proved pitch-perfect casting as the young Charles Xavier (AKA Professor X) in this X-Men prequel trilogy. In fact, he probably gets more to do with the character than even Stewart did, playing him from fresh-faced university graduate to being paralysed to his self-destructive breakdown in Days of Future Past to losing his hair in last year’s Apocalypse. Have we seen the last of McAvoy as Professor X though? The jury’s out on that one...
Simon Newton, Trance
James McAvoy co-stars with Vincent Cassel in this uber-stylish Danny Boyle headscratcher. He plays Simon, an art auctioneer who joins forces with a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to recover a lost painting. If that makes it all seem quite straightforward, it really ain’t!
Bruce Robertson, Filth
McAvoy reportedly downed a half bottle of whisky every night in order to play dysfunctional detective Bruce Robertson in this sizzling adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s nicotine-stained novel. Eyebrows were raised when McAvoy’s name was attached to the part, but he’s fully convincing as the sweary, drug-guzzling, womanising screw-up.
Victor Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein
Sadly, and bafflingly, this steampunk reimagination of Mary Shelley’s goth evergreen stumbled big time at the box office and remains little seen. Directed by Sherlock’s Paul McGuigan, it stars McAvoy as the titular bodysnatching medical student and Daniel Radcliffe as his hunchbacked bud Igor. “Crackling with energy and fizzing with ideas,” wrote Empire, “this fresh take on Frankenstein is a thrilling adaptation that reinvigorates a well-worn tale.”
Split, which many critics are saying is a massive return to form for M. Night Shyamalan, opens in Cineworld on 20th January. What James McAvoy roles can you not live without? Tweet us your essentials @Cineworld.