|Ah am a hairree goat," is almost the first thing he declares in an entertainingly Scottish accent. And hmmm, yes actually, you can just imagine it.
WHAT REALLY GETS MY GOAT by the NZ Herald - October 9th 2004 -
(1164 total words in this text)
Despite the fact that actor James McAvoy has been described as "the next Hugh Grant", it is true that today, in this Auckland hotel, he also has the makings of a decent goat-*****-guy. Otherwise known in fairytales as a faun.
McAvoy has been in New Zealand for four months shooting scenes for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
In the movie version of the first book in the Narnia series, he plays the wily faun, Mr Tumnus.
The errant half-goat, half-man is supposed to deliver the adventurous children, who have stumbled into the fantasy land of Narnia, to the evil White Witch but decides he likes them too much to do so.
And on this rainy Tuesday morning, with his boyish frame, his tousled dark hair, a ready smile on his mildly cherubic face and the beginnings of what will eventually become a two-pronged, faun-ish ginger beard, you can just imagine this Glaswegian lad nimbly prancing on set, devouring crumpets and cracking jokes.
Luckily for him (and possibly us) his hairy legs, complete with hooves, will be computer-generated.
But before they get to see this bestial version of McAvoy in action, viewers are more likely to catch him on the big screen in a new romantic comedy, Wimbledon.
Made by British production company Working Title, who are also responsible for similarly nice films such as Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's Diary, this is the story of a low-ranking British tennis player (Paul Bettany) who finds his love of the game refreshed when he starts dating an American tennis superstar (Kirsten Dunst).
McAvoy plays the low-ranking Briton's younger brother, Carl, a lovable rogue who does cheeky-but-forgivable things such as picking up girls by trading on his brother's name.
"It's not a huge role but it was a fun one."
"It was a great laugh," he says in his mellow Scottish tones which come as a surprise because on-screen he usually plays middle-class Englishmen.
"I got a lot of freedom. Carl was definitely the comedy character but we weren't sure if it was working. So we really worked on him as we went along."
Although McAvoy got to wear some lovely spandex cycling outfits in Wimbledon - because his character doesn't like tennis and goes cycling instead - he's realistic about this particular feature.
"It's a Working Title romantic comedy and they are what they say they are. They've got a formula, they do it really well - and I think that's fantastic.
"Working Title is just about the only British production company consistently producing movies in Britain, employing British people and they do that really well. And for every mainstream Working Title film, they've got a Billy Elliott or an I'm Dancing Inside which are very different kinds of films."
Indeed when it turns up here I'm Dancing Inside will show yet another facet of McAvoy's repertoire. He plays a wheelchair-bound, muscular dystrophy sufferer with a rock'n'roll attitude.
The role was challenging, both in emotional terms as he learned how sufferers cope with the prospect of an early death, as well as in the physical requirements of filming his character as almost completely paralysed and he had to sit virtually motionless in a wheelchair for weeks.
"It was a struggle from the first day to the day we finished," McAvoy candidly admits. "But I really believe that through adversity you come up with better work. I think humanity is at its best when it's striving, when you're forced to be resourceful, to get over obstacles.
"Y'know, I might not work as hard or be as good if I wasn't thinking 'I don't know if I can do this'."
McAvoy is 25 and since he left drama school in 2000 he's been employed as an actor - a credible track record for a formerly aimless young fellow from Glasgow who worked as a baker in the local supermarket between college and drama school.
His film roles have been varied - from a desperate aristocrat in the movie Bright Young Things to the impudent young reporter in the BBC's critically acclaimed media-political thriller State of Play (a role he reckons has made most journalists he meets well disposed toward him).
And all of the above is probably why he doesn't worry too much about being typecast as the brazen young charmer or being described as the next Hugh Grant.
"Yeah, usually I do play quite cocky characters," he agrees. "But I don't mind because, well, at least I'm working.
"And really, those are just the characters that are getting noticed at the moment.
"I've been doing this for five years and it's not always been like that. I've done a lot of different things, too, and I am satisfied professionally."
As for that Hugh Grant thing, McAvoy thinks it's probably just the floppy, brown hair and the middle-class English accent he does so well.
"I think people have a tendency to label you and they do that by comparing, which is fine.
"Personally I don't think I'm anything like Hugh Grant," he says, laughing.
"I do think he's brilliant but if at any point I felt like I was doing an impersonation of another actor, well, I'd probably just have to give up."
And after a brief conversation with this good-natured faun-like creature with the big blue eyes, you start to think that maybe the real secret of his success is the combination of a workmanlike attitude to the craft of acting and down-to-earth smarts.
McAvoy thinks the character he has played that is most like himself would have to be a bloke called Liam, in Early Doors, a TV programme about a local pub that New Zealand viewers have yet to see.
"Sitting in the pub, smoking fags and drinking beer - that's pretty close," he jokes, despite the fact that last week, during a break in shooting, he went hiking and climbing in the Coromandel, even getting up at 4am so he could sit on Hot Water Beach in a sandy hole and watch the sun rise.
"Hopefully I'm a good actor," McAvoy says, when asked about the secret of his early success.
"But it's been luck, also. I just met the right people at the right time in the right frame of mind. Because I do think this is just a job and that we should all treat each other with respect, none of this status bullshit where you treat people like shit because that's how you become a star or whatever.
"I believe in karma and I think that if you treat people well, it comes back to you."
WHO: James McAvoy, Scottish actor
BORN: Glasgow, Scotland, 1979
WHAT: In New Zealand filming The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe; starring in Wimbledon (screening now)
PAST ROLES: State of Play (television series), Bright Young Things