Under the Circuit: James McAvoy

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Most Known For: “X-Men: First Class,” “Wanted,” “The Chronicles of Narnia”

Snubbed For: “Atonement,” “Filth” (TBD)

James McAvoy portrays the young Professor Charles Xavier in the “X-Men” franchise, but unfortunately that mind-control capability doesn’t translate into the real world to use to sway Academy voters. McAvoy’s star continues to rise thanks to his part in the superhero franchise, but despite a strong debut in some award-winning films the actor has been absent from most award conversations. A big 2014 could help to change that, however.

McAvoy made his name in England in the original British version of “Shameless,” playing Steve, who is portrayed by Justin Chadwick in the U.S. version. McAvoy’s run on the show however only lasted two years. Shortly after his departure from the show American audiences would get their first good look at McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” That film’s surprise success was a contributing factor to McAvoy becoming a household name, but it was two award-winning films that firmly established McAvoy’s stock.

2006 would see McAvoy star alongside Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland.” McAvoy would be shown some awards love by BAFTA, scoring a Best Supporting Actor nod and a Best Actor win from BAFTA – Scotland, as well as a British Independent Film nomination. Across the pond though, McAvoy’s co-star Whitaker earned all the praise and would eventually snag the Oscar for Best Actor.

mcavoy-in-atonement1Despite top-billing the following year in Joe Wright’s “Atonement” a similar fate would await the Scot. He was strong in the romantic tale as his character gets run through the ringer and gets a great scene toward the end of the film. However, despite a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, it was another co-star who would catch the Academy’s eye, a young Saoirse Ronan.

McAvoy’s turned in solid performances since, but the actor may have a couple of golden opportunities to snatch a little golden man of his own. First up is the dark comedy “Filth.” Released in 2013 overseas, McAvoy was already received some recognition for one of his best performances as a foul-mouth cop, winning the British Independent Film award for Best Actor. Despite all that going for him, it would be a long shot for McAvoy to receive any major recognition here in the states. A May limited release with little fanfare will keep this performance a hidden gem, though Gotham and Indie Spirit nominations are always possible.

680x478The more likely of the two to gain traction is a film that has been stirring buzz at Cannes, “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them.” Ned Benson’s feature debut premiered back at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, where the Weinstein Company picked up the rights and made the decision to combine the original two films on a couple’s tragic break-up to one. McAvoy is said to give a spectacular performance, but again, his co-star may get in his way. Jessica Chastain has the biggest buzz from the film; already an established commodity with the Academy, Chastain may be the better bet. But if the film proves to be both an indie darling and one of the Weinstein’s premiere awards faire, don’t be surprised to see a strong push for McAvoy.

At 35, McAvoy has firmly established himself into Hollywood and will be around for a long time. If he can continue his solid work with big studio films like “X-Men” and the indie circuit here and abroad, it isn’t too difficult to see him eventually breaking through with the Academy. Whether he’ll get that chance in 2014, though, well it could be a storyline worth paying attention to.