Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

When You Get a Character Right You Feel It in Your Throat, Your Face, Your Shoulders. Your Bum; James McAvoy Is Not One to Shy Away from Tough Gigs, but a String of 'Careerdefining' Roles - the Latest Being in M. Night Shyamalan's Split - Have Left Him at a Career Crossroads. GEMMA DUNN Finds out More ON THE SCREEN

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

When You Get a Character Right You Feel It in Your Throat, Your Face, Your Shoulders. Your Bum; James McAvoy Is Not One to Shy Away from Tough Gigs, but a String of 'Careerdefining' Roles - the Latest Being in M. Night Shyamalan's Split - Have Left Him at a Career Crossroads. GEMMA DUNN Finds out More ON THE SCREEN

Article excerpt

Byline: GEMMA DUNN

THERE'S no challenge too great for James McAvoy. The Scottish actor won over American audiences with his critically acclaimed breakthrough performances in The Last King Of Scotland and Atonement; he drew rave reviews for his gruelling 88-show portrayal of Macbeth in the West End; put in a breathtaking performance as a drug-fuelled cop in Filth - a film so shocking it almost didn't get released - and gained heart-throb status as Charles Xavier in the X-Men series.

Attacking every role with gusto is the McAvoy way, but James' latest showcase - M. Night Shyamalan's big-screen comeback, Split - expends everything he's got.

Returning to the captivating grip of the director's The Sixth Sense, psychological thriller Split delves into the mysterious recesses of one man's fractured, gifted mind.

Suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Kevin, played by James, has evidenced 23 personalities - expect to meet Barry, Dennis, Miss Patricia, nine-year-old Hedwig, and others - to his trusted psychiatrist Dr Fletcher (Betty Buckley). But there remains one still submerged, who, once materialised, is set to dominate all the others.

So, that's basically 24 characters James is tackling then.

"I knew it was a challenge, but I generally think I can do anything!" the 37-year-old declares, laughing, before quickly adding, "Well, not anything, but when I'm reading a script, if I'm getting loads of ideas, I feel confident.

"There are two scenes in it I didn't feel confident about - one of them because it made me feel bad when one of the guys was doing something bad to one of the women in it, and then another scene where I have to portray eight of the personalities that live within one body all coming out in a moment of high anxiety.

"That was pretty devilishly difficult," he admits. "But unless it says: 'He walks into the room, he's 6ft 5in and he's built like a brick s**thouse, you know, then I'm fine. I feel like I can do whatever."

James - sitting crosslegged in black jeans, a maroon sweatshirt and casual jacket - is on good form. While there's little small talk from the notoriously private star, he's instantly likeable. Business-like maybe, but charming too.

As anticipated, personal questions are strictly off-limits (only last year, James announced his separation from wife and former Shameless co-star Anne-Marie Duff, with whom he has a son), but ask the Glaswegian - his groomed beard doing little to mask his youthful looks - about his art, and he lights up.

He lists Split's many twists and turns, M. Night Shyamalan's bold commitment to creating and self-funding the project, plus the opportunity for an actor "to radically change what James as his character's personas you're thinking, who you are and what makes you in a moment", as the appeal for signing up.

As for his tour de force of physical transformations between one character and the next - bulging veins, rippling muscles and an impressive female posture for Miss Patricia - he says he simply went with his gut. …

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