James McAvoy passed on playing the part of a grieving young dad in the film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby in 2010, an easy decision for the actor to make back then. “I’d just had a kid, and I didn’t want to touch a script about a couple that loses a baby,” he says. Two years later, the Australian actor Joel Edgerton was attached to the role, then fell off the project. Director Ned Benson approached McAvoy once more. “They had four or five days to save the financing,” McAvoy says, “and it was two years on from having my kid. It wasn’t as raw, and it didn’t seem so horrific to me at that point.”
Despite his stealthy upward career arc, the fact that McAvoy is now in a position to help secure funding for a sensitively handled major commercial picture comes as some surprise to the actor. “Honestly? If you’d have told me about my career as a wee boy, I’d have been really fucking surprised,” he says. “I wouldn’t have believed you. I didn’t even think about acting until I was acting.”
McAvoy, a 35-year-old with a sandy complexion and handsome physique, fits comfortably into the transparent 21st-century fame model. He is neither showy nor defensive on the subject of his talent and possesses enough quiet, internal self-confidence to back it up. He left drama school in Glasgow at the end of the ’90s, a time when his native Scotland was precipitously attracting Hollywood’s interest, post-Trainspotting. That he’s never played a relative of Ewan McGregor’s seems like a shortcoming on the part of all casting directors; however, he did get to play the lead in the recent, underappreciated Filth, based on Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh’s 1998 novel about a misanthropic, coke-snorting Scottish policeman.
McAvoy and I spend an afternoon talking in the churchyard of a grand, decaying chapel in the East End of London. It’s a scorching, sunny day. He arrives on a motorbike and says his recognition factor is low enough to get away with sitting out in the sun without interruption. This turns out to be true, though he’s partially disguised behind tortoiseshell-framed Ray-Bans. He’s genial to a fault, swears a lot during conversation, and is never stumped for either anecdote or opinion. It’s almost impossible to gauge whether he would be of any use in a fight, a personality trait that has surely proven handy for a dramatic portfolio that has had him racing between playing tough and tender, hero and heartbreaker.
On September 11, James McAvoy attended the official Academy members screening of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, along with co-star Jessica Chastain and direct Ned Benson. Thanks to the lovely Luciana we have HQ images from the Q&A in the gallery.
Last night was the Cinema Society and Prada screening of James McAvoy’s latest film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and thanks to our dear friend Luciana we have over 130 HQ images in the gallery from both the screening and after-party.
Perhaps Andy Warhol’s famous saying holds true that “one’s company, two’s a crowd, and three’s a party.”
At least, if you ask Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy the stars of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, in theaters on Friday, and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her, opening Oct. 10.
Them tells the tale of the couple, and the fallout from their breakup, while Him focuses on the story of Conor and Her focuses on the same story but told from the perspective of his wife, Eleanor.
It’s the combined version of the first two films, Him and Her, each of them focusing on the demise of a relationship from the point of view of a grieving husband and a suicidal wife. They gambol, flirt, frolic, and then, appear to self-destruct in very disparate ways. The horrifying cause is revealed midway through the film, in a scene that’s breathtaking in its candor and simplicity.
There’s a fine line between turning a romantic film into something unique and letting it slip into the void of Hallmark cheese. Thankfully, “The Disappearance Eleanor Rigby” aims for the former. In order to separate it from other like-minded projects, writer-director Ned Benson got risky. He split the film into two separate narratives, titling them “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him” and “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her,” respectively. The finished product gives us a glimpse at the depths of heartbreak. Overall, it’s a tragic, emotional and ambitious project, anchored by two wonderful performances from actors Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. (For those un-interested in watching the full 202-minute version of the movie, a combined two-hour cut, entitled “Them,” is also getting a release this week.)
I spoke with McAvoy (the film’s ‘Him‘) in New York recently about the film(s). We discussed everything from the story’s dark material to the difficulties of shooting two scripts at the same time (something McAvoy didn’t realize was happening until he got on set) to his upcoming role in “Frankenstein.” I also shamelessly asked the Scottish-born actor about the enduring legacy of “Braveheart” in America, which seems to be shown every weekend on TNT.
I feel like we mostly hear you do English accents on screen. It was fun hearing you with an American accent in this film.
Yeah, when was the last time I did an American one?
“The Conspirator,” I think?
“The Conspirator.” And “Wanted.” I think that’s the only other one. Oh and “Band of Brothers.”
James McAvoy and Eleanor Rigby director Ned Benson are set to do a live interview tonight with the Huffington Post, and you can listen to it over on their site. You can also tweet your comments and questions to James and Ned via that page.
James McAvoy & ‘Eleanor Rigby’ Director LIVE
He’s starred in hits like “Shameless,” “Wanted” and the “X-Men” franchise, and now James McAvoy joins HuffPost Live along with writer/director Ned Benson to dish on their new drama “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” co-starring Jessica Chastain.
Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love, get married, start a family, confront a crisis, split apart. It’s one of the oldest stories ever told, and writers and filmmakers are always searching for new ways to tell it: exactly the challenge that the screenwriter and rookie director Ned Benson faced in making “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” which opens Friday.
Though it was not his intention when he started nearly a decade ago, Mr. Benson ended up making not one film but three, each of which uses the same cast to tell the story of Eleanor Rigby and Conor Ludlow, played by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, from a different point of view. “Her” is the version of their romance, breakup and attempt at reconciliation as experienced by Eleanor, “Him” is Conor’s account, and “Them” is a kind of condensed hybrid, with both viewpoints synthesized into something more neutral and detached.
“The point is perspective and subjectivity,” Mr. Benson, 37, said last month, seated on a bench in Tompkins Square Park, just yards from the spot where the films’ final scenes were shot. “With ‘Him’ and ‘Her,’ I wanted to show their separate experiences, and the disparate ways they perceived that,” whereas “ ‘Them’ is more a straight-up two-handed love story.”
Hollywood actors James McAvoy , and Martin Compston will join One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson as well as Downtown Abbey’s Tom Cullen and comedian Jack Whitehall at a Scots charity football match.
The star fuelled game takes place next Sunday at Celtic Park, and has been organised between the Celtic FC Foundation and the Rio Ferdinand foundation, with proceeds being split between the UNICEF and War Child charities.
Tickets are still available for the Paul McStay’s Maestros Charity Match, sponsored by Flip and Magners, on 0871 226 1888, by visiting the Celtic Ticket Office or the Club’s retail outlets at Argyle Street, Sauchiehall Street, Clydebank, Coatbridge or East Kilbride.
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