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This was going to be mental
Feeling Wanted with James McAvoy and Timur Bekmambetov
1.Jan.79, Glasgow, Scotland
BOLLYWOOD QUEEN (2002)
SWIMMING POOL (2001)
THE NEAR ROOM (1995)
25.Jun.61, Atyrau, Kazakhstan
THE IRONY OF FATE 2 (2007)
THE ARENA (2001)
PESHAVAR WALTZ (1994)
|B Y R I C H C L I N E
James McAvoy clearly knows how lucky he is. After quietly rising through the ranks of young British actors, shining in films like Bright Young Things and Inside I'm Dancing, he began to make his mark in more widely acclaimed British movies like The Last King of Scotland and Atonement. And after a pivotal role in the first Narnia movie, Hollywood has granted him action-man status with the lead role in the full-on summer blockbuster Wanted. Opposite Angelina Jolie, no less.
Dressed in a black jumper and jeans, the 29-year-old Glaswegian is a lean, hyperactive 5-foot-7 with an almost disarming frankness and a relaxed sense of humour. He doesn't take himself seriously, but he tries to answer questions thoughtfully before cracking a joke in his native brogue, which seems almost alien after seeing him so convincingly play an American in Wanted. (He says he perfected his accent by watching lots of US television, mainly Battlestar Galactica.)
Next to him is his unassuming director, Timur Bekmambetov, also in black and happy to just watch the media storm around him. At 46, he looks more like a pastry chef than the director of those eye-catching Russian thrillers Night Watch and Day Watch. And he seems bemused to be on the international press circuit, promoting his first big Hollywood movie, which will certainly give him more clout to make the third part in his trilogy (Twilight Watch) into something even more impressive than he ever imagined.
But why, after Atonement, would James decide to step into an action movie? "It was just an incredible change of pace, style and everything for me," he says. "That's why I did it. I always look for a challenge - a new acting style and a new genre. And after looking at Timur's other work, I knew this was going to be mental!"
From the start, it was Timur's plan to cast an actor who wasn't the usual action hero. "The first time I read the script I didn't know how it could become a movie. Then the studio explained it to me as a comic book adaptation. So when I read it with a sarcastic tone, I saw that it had a great central character. But it was important to have someone like James, because he could create a good character who can carry you through the journey."
James liked the everyman aspect of his character, especially in the film's earlier scenes. "I think he represents a part of society that's new," he says. "Life is fine for him, but he can't bring himself to smile. And that's a great point from which to build a hero or antihero."
Meanwhile, James doesn't seem to have been put off by all the physicality. "It's good to have a reason to go down to the gym," he says. "That was exciting. And for the first few weeks, before we started filming, it was great. I was loving it. Then a few days into filming it started to get tough. My trainer had to force me to keep doing it."
So how did Angelina Jolie cope with the demands of the job? "She says, 'If you can't have fun making an action movie, you shouldn't be doing it.' So when it was painful and I was complaining about it, she'd tell me to just shut up and enjoy it," he says.
But then she was usually the one inflicting pain on him in the movie. "Yes, and I felt undermined as a man! So I added that line, 'I'm going to kick your effing arse!' But she just beats me up even more."
James says he did about half of his own stunts, including some of the train rooftop shots: "The rest of the time, I had a great stunt double who made me look really good. But the strangest scene for me was lying in a pool of hot wax. When I got out, I had an ear infection for two weeks!"
Both of them are clearly happy that they have made a movie for an adult audience, rather than tone it down to a PG-13 like most summer films. Timur acknowledges that the studio didn't ask him to cut anything out. "In fact, when they asked me for the deleted scenes for the DVD, we didn't have any," he says. "Everything we shot is right there in the movie. We didn't cut anything."
And it was of course Angelina who added a bit of responsibility to the carnage. "She had the idea that every bullet has a back story; every shot fired in the movie is its own story," says Timur, before smiling wryly. "Well, except for the big scene when James kills 200 people."
When asked about the persistent rumour that he will be playing Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming Hobbit movies by Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro, he deflects this as "not true, an internet rumour and nothing else". But a flicker of those blue eyes says that he's more than a little interested in the idea.
As for a sequel, Timur gives the standard response: "If enough people see this, then we will make a sequel." But James is more outspoken on the subject: "If no one goes to see this and it gets great reviews, I'll still be happy. Although it's not helping me to say that!"
To which Timur replies, "For me a big audience is important. It's energy and it gives me motivation to make something new. I'm not doing these movies for myself!"
And it's true that Timur's movies have been groundbreaking. "I never think about how to change the world," Timur says. "Actually, there's no time to think about that - you just have to figure out how to make the movie work."
DORCHESTER, LONDON, 12.JUN.08
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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