Are you still trying to figure out who you want to be as a movie star as opposed to the actor you’ve been up to now?
I’ve never really tried to figure out who I want to be, ever. I just go along with the situation. I think if I tried to be a particular person too hard, even a good person, I’d probably fuck it up.
How did you react to the script for Atonement when you were handed it?
I was blown away. It really is the best script I’ve ever read. I thought the character [of Robbie] was just beautiful, and beautifully drawn. But then there was Joe Wright, who I think is a bloody great director. I screen-tested opposite Keira, too, who just blew me away. She showed me the potential this movie had.
Is it true you found Robbie to be the most difficult character you’ve ever played because he’s too good?
I found him quite difficult, because I didn’t really believe characters like his existed. It wasn’t until I convinced myself that somebody like him could exist that I thought I could play the character well. It wasn’t until two weeks into rehearsals that I figured him out, actually. He’s just such an idealized version of humanity.
Next up is the comic-book adaptation Wanted, your first big-studio movie as the lead. Is this the end of James MCAvoy, independent-movie star?
Hey, I haven’t made an independent film in a very, very long time. Atonement, The Last King of Scotland, Penelope, Becoming Jane — none of them was an independent film. They were all studio pictures.
We don’t generally consider them studio movies on this side of the pond.
Studios have gobbled up the independent markets to make you think you’re watching an independent film, but they’re still studio pictures.
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