“I introduced [the cast] to Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, now Dowager Duchess,” Fry adds. “Her sister was Diana Mitford, to whom the source novel, Vile Bodies, is dedicated, and she knew Evelyn Waugh and the world of the film. Every time I bump into her now, she asks after James, with whom she was particularly smitten—‘I did like that handsome Scottish boy. What’s he doing?’ she always says.”
What McAvoy’s doing now, having established himself as a working British actor, is taking his shot at Hollywood stardom. After Atonement, the first film really to position him as a proper leading man, McAvoy will next appear alongside Christina Ricci in Penelope, due out this winter. He also recently wrapped his first big-budget action role, opposite Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, in Wanted. McAvoy is hard-pressed to describe the movie’s plot in much detail, other than to note that it’s “trippy,” but he says that he plays a young man whose father is murdered and who is given the opportunity to avenge his death. What remains more vivid for him is the intensity of the action sequences, with tons of stunts, fighting and shooting of “ridiculously large weapons.”
“I’ve never done anything so entirely physical before,” says McAvoy. “I felt more like a professional footballer rather than an actor sometimes, but I’ve always wanted to be a professional footballer and so it was a dream come true. It’s a lot of Angelina beating the s--- out of me.”
He doesn’t have his next job lined up; he was cast in his upcoming films before the release of Last King and has yet to move on the flood of offers that have come in since. “I feel like I might be wasting a potentially valuable time for me,” says McAvoy, who lives in London with his wife of one year, actress Anne-Marie Duff, “but I need to step away a little bit—it’s come too much, too quickly.”
McAvoy notes that his back-to-back work schedule has not permitted him time to simply putter around the house. “I haven’t sat on my ass for a while,” he says.