Want to know a big reason why “Arthur Christmas” should be on your must-see list for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend? Let one of the animated film’s leading voices, James McAvoy, explain to you how the “quality” of the script made him jump at the chance to join the project.
“It’s one of the funniest things I’d read that year and just the opportunity to work with Aardman Studios. Y’know, they made ‘Wallace & Gromit’ and ‘Chicken Run.’ I think they are a really good idiosyncratic voice out of Britain and to get to work with people like that is something that’s very exciting,” McAvoy says during a quick phone interview. “And, in fact they offered it to me without making me audition. That was nice.”
(Of course, that last part is just the always charming McAvoy throwing in one of his typically self-deprecating zingers.)
As the title character, McAvoy infuses Arthur, son of the current Santa Claus, with the big goofy heart he needs to keep the Christmas spirit alive among an increasingly modern and technological “mission.” It turns out director Sarah Smith was lucky enough to have most of the acclaimed cast record their dialogue together.
“I got to record with Billy Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Jim Broadbent. If you had told me I was going to work with them I would have said yes without even reading the script,” McAvoy says. “I’ve worked with Bill a couple of times before, he’s played my dad. This was the first time I’ve worked with Jim and Imelda though. Great fun.
It’s a credit to McAvoy that most audiences won’t even recognize his voice as Arthur. It’s not just that the Scot is speaking in a broader English accent either.
“It’s the same with every character you play, even a Scottish character,” McAvoy says. “I just recently played a Scottish guy in Danny Boyle’s new film. He doesn’t sound like me, it’s just a different thing. I don’t really think about it. When you start to play someone who isn’t you your voice just starts to change automatically and I know I’m gonna put on an English accent when I put on Arthur, but it’s almost like a subconscious glide into a different character.”
Moreover, the father of two doesn’t mind the fact he’s added another family film (after “Gnomeo & Juliet”) that will play to kids to his resume.
You want to see your audience laugh and smiling and having a good time,” McAvoy says. “When that audience is a bunch of kids that’s a great thing. I’ll be available for both birthday parties and Bah Mitzvahs.”
In regards to that Boyle film he mentioned previously, “Trance,” McAvoy the production is wrapping after one last day of shooting in Paris this week. Co-starring Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel, McAvoy notes, “It’s about an art heist that goes wrong. It’s a psychological thriller, really, but it’s a crazy, mental, strange film in all the best kind of a way. He’s just an exceptional director. Really, really interesting. Always pitching things. Always looking for a different angle. Really, really special director.”
While the 32-year-old actor has starred in box office hits such as “Wanted” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” McAvoy has been so busy this year in front of the camera it turns out he hasn’t really been able to feel the love for this summer’s surprise hit, “X-Men: First Class.” Or, perhaps he just doesn’t know whether to believe all the fans who were inspired by his turn as a much younger Prof. Charles Xavier.
“People come up on the street and friends tell you they really liked it and things, but you really never know whether to take that seriously or not. I’ve been in films that are really bad and people say they really like them,” McAvoy says. “[“X-Men”] seems to have done really well critically and it did damn well [at the box office]. We’re just feel really lucky it worked out that well.”
“X-Men” fans, however, are hoping for more of the retro-themed mutant saga. With McAvoy, co-star Michael Fassbender and director Matthew Vaughn all highly sought after talents, it appears a second installment will come down to – yikes – scheduling. An issue that has hindered a long rumored sequel to “Wanted” as well.
“We have talked a little bit [about a second film],” McAvoy admits. “Michael and I are very much up for doing it and have some good ideas. The director is exceptional and we just need to write the script then. We’ll all sit down, maybe Michael, I, the director and maybe Simon Kinberg who was hired to write the script and I think did some consulting on the last one. He’s a very clever guy. If we could get a hold of those two with me and Michael we could get things sorted out quickly. It’s whether they might do that or write a script behind closed doors. I dunno.”
“Arthur Christmas” opens nationwide on Wednesday.
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