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By Will Lawrence, In London
With the exception of his notable role in the X-Men films, Scottish actor James McAvoy's most recent characters, on stage and screen, have all proved rather sinister.
Earlier this year, he starred in London's West End, playing the blood-hungry Macbeth in an all-Scottish stage production, while his performance in Danny Boyle's hypnotic film Trance, shown earlier this year, evolved into the sociopathic.
He is at it again in his next two films - the violent crime-thriller Welcome To The Punch, which opens in Singapore tomorrow, and an adaptation of the delightfully grimy novel Filth, by Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh. In both works, he plays characters with dubious morals.
"It feels like a big year because there is a lot coming out at once," he says.
"Acting-wise, it just feels as though my career is going along as it always has, but I am enjoying playing the dubious or just downright bad people at the moment.
"In Welcome To The Punch, we do deplorable nasty things to each other and I hope we keep the audience guessing. It is a really dark film, but really satisfying."
Some might say that the charming 34-year-old Glaswegian is playing against type - he made his name starring as the affable fawn Mr Tumnus in 2005's The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, before moving on to heroic roles in The Last King Of Scotland (2006), Starter For 10 (2006), Atonement (2007), Wanted (2008) and X-Men: First Class (2011).
Welcome To The Punch is a tough two-hander between McAvoy and the ever-busy English actor Mark Strong, 49, playing two men with a shared past operating on different sides of the law.
McAvoy plays the policeman, but his morals are askew.
Speaking to the media on the East London set of the film, which is the second feature from writer-director Eran Creevy, he says: "I love the epic nature of this particular movie, which is not something you often see in a British crime thriller.
"We do make gangster flicks in Britain, which we have seen coming out quite a bit, and they're great, don't get me wrong, but they are also parochial in a way. I don't mean to be dismissive, but they are often very site-specific and they have a definite style."
The specificity of Welcome To The Punch is "less important", he adds. "It is a bit more universal and, as I say, there is a lot of moral f****d-up-ness in it."
His third film of the year, Filth, also casts him as a police officer, although this time around he goes to more lurid extremes.
It charts the mental disintegration of the cocaine-addled Detective Bruce Robertson with a mixture of classical narrative and the occasional heightened, almost surreal interlude.
McAvoy says of the film: "It will be a surprise for the audience, I think, because you start off going, 'I am going to be watching a guilty pleasure', and then as the film goes on you go, 'f***, he is not well'. And then you start to realise how unwell he is."
Thankfully for McAvoy, his own home life is much more settled and happier than Bruce Robertson's. He met Anne-Marie Duff, 42, while the two were working on the TV serial Shameless and they married in 2006. They have a son, Brendan, born in 2010.
His career took off following a chance meeting with director David Hayman, who went to his school to give a talk and ended up casting a 15-year-old McAvoy in his gritty child prostitution drama, The Near Room (1995).
After his parents split up when he was seven years old, his father drifted away, though he has reached out to his son through the papers.
This is a subject that remains off-limits during interviews. On other subjects, McAvoy is effusive and accommodating. Trading his anonymity for his success is "a fair trade", he says.
"I guess it's not the worst thing in the world," he says of celebrity. "Here I am talking to the press, saying, 'Will you please go see my film?' I will do the red carpet for movies that I am in. I'll turn up at award ceremonies if I am nominated or if they ask me to present.
"But other than that, you have got to keep your nose clean. I didn't plan my career or go and look for a path to where I am at this point. A lot of luck is involved."
That said, he hopes to direct films one day.
"I don't know what, but I would like to direct. I am enjoying my acting, so I think I don't want to move away from that too soon, in a couple of years maybe.
"I have got a directorial eye in the way that I act. I do keep an eye on the audience. And I keep an eye on what I want to do to the audience. I keep an eye on the narrative at all times and the effect that the film and I want to have on the audience."
After Welcome To The Punch and Filth, he will be seen at the end of the year in The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby, a two-part drama written and directed by Ned Benson.
He is also rumoured to be in talks to star in a remake of The Crow, the cult gothic action-horror starring the ill-fated Brandon Lee, who died of a gunshot wound during filming.
Then of course, there is the biggie, the new X-Men movie, Days Of Future Past.
"I'll be going back to playing Professor X soon and he's a very different cup of tea from all these dark characters."
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29 October, 2013 | By Michael Rosser
Eran Creevy, the writer/director behind Shifty and Welcome to the Punch, picked up the London Screenwriters’ Festival’s first British Screenwriter Award.
Upcoming writer/director Eran Creevy has been awarded the inaugural British Screenwriting Award by the London Screenwriters’ Festival.
Creevy’s low budget debut, Shifty, was critically acclaimed and his recent follow-up was Welcome to the Punch, starring James McAvoy and executive produced by Ridley Scott.
Basic Instinct screenwriter Joe Eszterhas presented the award (an ice-pick) and praised Creevy for his ‘writing talent, courage and chutzpah.
Creevy, who first got into the industry by working on Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake, is now in pre-production in his third feature, Autobahn.
Creevy said: “I am so honoured to be receiving the London Screenwriters’ Festival’s first screenwriting award and from Joe, a complete screenwriting legend and having him share his experience here with all of us filmmakers has been beyond words.”
Eszterhas spent the weekend with writers from film and television talking about the craft of writing screenplays and his experiences in film working with directors Paul Verhoeven, Richard Marquand and Costa-Gavras as well as a forensic separate script and screening session deconstructing 1992 thriller Basic Instinct.
Other prizes were awarded at The Pitch Factor pitching session to writer Phoebe Gibson for making the best pitch with her project One More Day and Tom Alexanderwho received the best project prize for Love Reset.
The festival, now in its fourth year, was attended by nore than 600 people including more than 100 speakers.
Held at the London School of Film, Media & Performance in Regent’s Park (Oct 25-27), festival sessions included the writers of films, TV shows and games including The Fall, Broadchurch, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, The Borgias, The Constant Gardener, Waking the Dead, Primeval, EastEnders and Skins as well as film writers David Hare, David Leland, Gurinder Chadha and Jeffrey Caine.
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