In case you weren’t around back when I wrote the entry about my favorite films, which started at 10 and then expanded into a whopping 100 (which I didn’t publish in my blog but did send to a friend, complete with notes on why those films made the list), then you should know that I am something of a movie geek. I have a weird ability to remember even the most obscurest facts about films and am never so happy as when I can sit around and listen to someone talk about the process of film-making. Yes, I am one of those people who actually enjoy the commentaries on DVDs. I even have a favorite cinematographer: John Seale. (For the record, I want to write his biography, so if anyone knows how I can get in touch with him….)
So when I saw that James McAvoy was coming to TimesTalks, which is a sit down interview series put on by the NYTimes, there was really never any question of ‘would’ I go. The only question was, how early should I get there to ensure a decent seat, since seating is on a first come first serve basis. Turns out one hour was just about perfect. There were maybe 30 people ahead of me in line, so I wound up center stage 4 rows back, just at eye level with the interviewer and Mr. McAvoy. (Can I call him James? ‘Mr.’ sounds very formal, which he wasn’t, but James sounds like he’s my friend from down the hall…) He was there to promote his new movie “X-Men: First Class”, in which I have little or no interest, but also to talk about his career and other films.
Let me also say that whenever I go to such an event, I am acutely aware that there are an alarmingly large percentage of attendees who seem…how shall I put this….a bit unstable? Like the guy a few people in front of me in the line who thought “The Conspirator” (about the conspiracy to kill President Lincoln and his Cabinet) was the greatest movie he’d ever seen and then went into a long and very loud diatribe about how he lives near Fords Theater in Washington and the building that was the boardinghouse where the conspirators met is now a Chinese restaurant and it’s really weird to think that HIS neighborhood is where the assassination of President Lincoln was planned and how the film got every detail right, including but not limited to the costumes, the hairstyles and the landscape which he himself has researched and so he knows what a good job they did! (And that was kind of how he told us – in one long never-ending sentence.) Or the two guys in line behind me whose motives in being there were a mystery until they started reciting lines from graphic novels back and forth amidst cries of “Classic!” and “Dude that was so lame.” Aaaah, it’s the die-hard X-Men fans… (or Aaaah! It’s the die hard X-Men fans!!)
And all the while I’m thinking, “Oh god, please don’t let me sound like that when I talk about films!”
Thankfully once we were in the theater and seated, I was next to two very pleasant people who, like me, know James McAvoy’s entire filmography but who seemed like normal enough fans, if there is such a thing.
Anyway, the interview was great. Very light and funny and fascinating. At one point when they were discussing “The Conspirator” James said he was drawn to the piece because he didn’t know anything about the story, even though he’d known who Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth were since he was a kid (and that’s saying something, considering he’s Scottish). He then said that he thinks the affinity he’s always had for America stems from the fact that it is maybe the only country in the world that was created entirely on purpose with a specific set of idealistic goals in mind, and then has spent the subsequent 200+ years of its’ existence more or less successfully pursuing those goals. Other countries have evolved over a long period of time, sometimes purposefully and sometimes almost by accident.
They talked about many of his films, but not my favorite, so when they opened up a Q&A at the end, I didn’t hesitate. Turns out most of the people who were talking in the line, expounding on their extensive knowledge of all things McAvoy didn’t have anything to say when given the opportunity. But here’s another fact about me – give me a microphone and I’m a happy camper. So I got to go first, and asked him a question about one of his early films “Rory O’Shea” in which he plays a young man with muscular dystrophy. I asked him how he prepared for the role, in which he was basically paralyzed from the neck down, and he answered thoughtfully and at length. And I wish I could have recorded it because then I’d remember it better. (Although the interview was broadcast live on the web – maybe I can find it and listen to his answer again.)
So it was a good evening. It’s nice to know that James McAvoy is not only a great actor, but a funny, self-deprecating and humble guy. Maybe I will see that new X-Men movie after all.