When approached for the role of Wesley Gibson in "Wanted," the new Timur Bekmambetov film based on the Top Cow graphic novel by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones, actor James McAvoy had his doubts. "I thought I was probably bad casting for it but I also thought, the action movie can be just really seamy and can be really bad," he told CBR News. Opening June 27 in the US, "Wanted" co-stars Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Common and Terence Stamp, and tells the story of a young man who discovers he is the son of a brilliant assassin, who himself had been assassinated, and is given the chance to seek revenge.
A fan of the action genre, McAvoy says the bad ones can be "a waste of time." In the case of "Wanted," however, a few things intrigued him, starting with being asked to take the lead. "The fact they were willing to cast somebody like me, which I thought might be a bad idea, was interesting," he explained. "The fact that they were giving the job to somebody like Timur [Bekmambetov]. That "Wanted" does not court a wide family audience also appealed to him McAvoy. "They were making this a very violent R-rated film for adults and I've not seen that a lot lately," he said.
Though from Glasgow, the same Scottish city as "Wanted" co-creator Mark Millar, McAvoy says he did not read the comic bok until he took the role. He found the character of Wesley Gibson as presented in the book difficult to utilize as an actor. To start, McAvoy was taken aback by the character's appearance. "He's physically and visually based on Eminem, which is kind of weird for a start," said the actor. "To start reading it going, 'That character looks like Eminem.' He really looks like Eminem." As McAvoy continued reading and saw other characters clearly resembling actors, it gave him pause.
However, the "Wanted" film itself is such a different take on the story, it did not hold back his performance. "The first 30 minutes of the film [and the comic book story] share a real common genesis and then they kind of go off in tangents," he explained. Though the book and film have major differences, McAvoy feels they still share a common tone. "It does still have the sensibilities of the graphic novel, I think." The actor then considered the difference and said, "Slightly less nihilistic [than the comic], but not that much." McAvoy also mentioned Millar is "really, really pleased" with the film.
Though "Wanted" is an action piece, McAvoy believes his character comes for a familiar, mundane reality. "The character starts in a very truthful, sad place," he said. "He's a proper sufferer of postmodern depression and apathy. I think that's a condition, man, that's all too evident amongst young men and women who've got fine lives; who can't bring themselves to smile or feel better about their 'horrible' existence, and I thought that was quite an interesting place for your everyman to start from."
McAvoy admits he had a few mundane jobs in his time. He worked as a banker for two years and trained to be a confectioner. "The guy standing beside me -- who was the grand master confectioner -- he would, in a very kind of Zen fashion, make big cream cakes and wedding cakes and birthday cakes and things like that. I'd happily jam my sponge [into the cakes], then cream a thing. I did that and that was like a conveyor belt of cream cakes and jam cakes. It was very banal."
On the physical side of the role, McAvoy says he did fifty or sixty percent of his own stunt work. Luckily, he suffered no major injuries. "I had a couple of sprains and a couple of twisted knees and ankles and stuff but nothing more than I'd get playing football," he said. One stunt in particular, in which he jumps on a car hood, left him surprised. "There's a car coming along at 30 miles an hour and I kind of rendezvous with it in the middle of the road and jump on the [hood] and then it hits the breaks and I go flying off, and another car smashes into the back. That was all real. There was no wires, there was no mats. I was padded up but that was all real."
While the stunt is straightforward to explain, it is the sort of stunt a lead actor generally does not do. McAvoy continued, "I can't believe they let me do that because they wouldn't let me jump through a pane of sugar glass window, which would scratch my face at most, maybe not even that, and they wouldn't let me do that but they'd let me jump on a moving vehicle. So beyond anything I could understand. The insurance people were out of their mind, I think, that day. But I didn't argue with them. I just thought I'd give it a bash. But then just before they'd say action, you are kind of like, 'I can't believe they're letting me do this. I'm slightly terrified now.'"
McAvoy also preferred the actual fight scenes. "There's nothing better than going, seeing two people physically touch each other. That's great fun. A gun's like 'pyow pyow.' I'm behind this table and you're behind that wall. 'Pyow pyow.'"
He also enjoyed playing the panic attacks from which the character suffers early in the film. "It was scenes like that that made me think, well, I think the actor in me is not going to be unemployed for four and a half months while I do action, do you know what I mean?" he said.
Addressing rumors he might be playing Bilbo Baggins in Guillermo Del Toro's "The Hobbit," McAvoy said he has not heard from either Del Toro or producer Peter Jackson. He also said his interest in the part would depend on the script. "From what I hear them saying, they don't even have a script," he explained, "So you'd have to see if you're right for the part, although I'm sure if I was wrong for the part, they wouldn't even bother asking so who knows. We'll see."
Asked if he was looking forward to superhero roles he might offered in the wake of "Wanted," McAvoy responded truthfully. "No, I don't think so. I hope not. I hope it doesn't become all I get offered," he said. "I did this film for a challenge and something different, something new and so hopefully, the next thing I do will be again an example of that and something different, new and challenging. But again, not just different from 'Wanted,' hopefully different from the other stuff I've done as well."
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