I discovered James McAvoy in 2003 when he played Leto in Children of Dune, the son of Paul Atreides who transforms into a sand worm. A good friend in the UK recorded all the British TV he did in the next couple of years and mailed me the tapes, which included State of Play, Early Doors, and Shameless. When I went to London in March 2005, I had no idea he was appearing in a new play at the Royal Court in the tiny Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. I almost missed the listing, so when I stumbled across it, I was falling over myself to get to the theatre. I was able to get the last seat at a special matinee for school groups, even though I hardly qualified.
I stood outside the theatre after getting my ticket at the box office, stunned at my good fortune and wondering how to pass the time until the play began. I saw a very familiar face headed toward the theatre, so I called out a friendly hello. It was McAvoy, clearly in a rush, but he stopped to meet me and give me a big smile. I’m sure he could see how excited I was, and I suppose having enthusiastic fans was still a novelty back then. He said he’d look for me at the stage door after the performance, and then he went inside. I went down the street to a card shop and bought some blank cards with envelopes for the autographs that I hoped to get.
People often say when they meet an actor that he looks shorter/taller/different than onscreen. McAvoy looked exactly the way you’d expect. We are the same height, so I was eye to eye with him. His Scottish accent is delightful, and it’s a shame that he rarely gets to use it in his movies. He usually adopts a British accent, which is fine, but I want more Scottish!
The play was Breathing Corpses by Laura Wade. It explores the way finding a dead body affects a series of people, and the first character to find a body ends up being the last corpse in a chain of deaths. McAvoy played a guy whose girlfriend is abusive to him, both verbally and physically, but he doesn’t fight back until his girlfriend abuses his dog. The other cast members included Tamzin Outhwaite, Paul Copley, and Niamh Cusack.
The Jerwood Theatre is an intimate studio space with only 85 seats, and I sat in the third row center. During the curtain call, McAvoy saw me and winked. There was a Q & A with the cast onstage after the performance. Unfortunately, Paul Copley couldn’t stay for it, so I missed meeting him at the stage door later. He appeared in one of my favorite miniseries, Horatio Hornblower, so I regret not getting the chance to talk to him.
I can’t complain, though, because McAvoy came out the stage door to find me. I had him all to myself, since none of the students stayed around. He signed several autographs for me and some of my friends who are also fans. He also posed for several photos. Too bad I didn’t have my good Nikon, just a cheap pocket camera, so that’s why my photos are rather poor. McAvoy was warm and open, and he told me he was going to Africa next to film The Last King of Scotland. He talked about Shameless and his recent vacation travels. Then he had to go meet his grandparents for a meal, so he said good-bye. I left the Royal Court feeling completely satisfied.
I don’t have to say that James McAvoy’s career has exploded since I met him. The Last King of Scotland, The Chronicles of Narnia, Becoming Jane, Atonement, and Wanted are just some of the major films that have kept him working hard over the years. This weekend Gnomeo & Juliet opens (he voices Gnomeo) and this summer he stars in X-Men: First Class, as a young Professor Xavier. I’ve read some recent interviews with him, and he’s become more guarded, which makes a lot of sense to me. Keeping your life private these days has got to be a challenge. McAvoy has earned his success, and I look forward to watching him in many more films. I hope to see him accepting an Oscar one of these days. It’s only a matter of time.
(Click on photos to scroll.)
The second in a series of stage door fan encounters. See the first here.
All photos ©2005 The Ugly Bug Ball. Please do not post to other sites without permission.