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Frankly My Dear...

    Frankly My Dear...

    James McAvoy makes it his duty to voice any film animated in the UK

    Posted: 19 Nov 2011 10:10 AM PST

    "The Last King of Scotland" (2006) made Scottish actor James McAvoy a film star, and "Wanted" (2008) made him a bankable Hollywood name. He does most of his work, these days, in American projects such as "X-Men: First Class" and "The Conspirator."

    But he's not forgetting where he came from. At 32, he's starring in his fellow Brit Danny Boyle's heist picture, "Trance." And any time there's a bit of animation to be done in the UK, count him present. From the sleeper hit "Gnomeo and Juliet," which made him into a garden gnome Romeo, to the new 3D animated "Arthur Christmas," which has him playing Santa's passionate but accident-prone son, McAvoy is making his mark as just a voice actor, as well.

    The film's already opened in Britain, to great reviews, and The Hollywood Reporter praises it as "agreeably subversive."

    We caught up with McAvoy at his London flat.

    Q: So is it your patriotic duty to sign on to anything animated in Great Britain?

    McAvoy: Hahah! It's my FINANCIAL duty, I think. But I've been dead lucky at picking these parts, haven't I? I love doing movies that kids can watch [He and wife Anne-Marie Duff have a toddler].

    Q: 'Arthur Christmas' is a particularly British cartoon, isn't it?

    A: Well, it's Aardman Studios [the "Wallace & Gromit" movies]. They're a fantastically idiosyncratic studio. I know they made this for Sony, but the film has their British heart –a very British sensibility. And even over here in the UK, their humor is just odd and distinct.

    I think there's an integrity to the characters, as well. The film is arguably about the fight to maintain the integrity of Christmas. That's what Arthur stands for, making sure not one gift isn't delivered.

    Q: When animators come calling, what qualities do they tell you they're looking for in your voice? Because you don't do a Full Monty Scots accent in these.

    A: I ask every time, and I don't know. You don't audition for them. They've auditioned you by taking some animation and putting your voice from other movies onto it. They look at a lot of actors that way, to see which one fits. You've got the job, but you don't know how you got it. I always want to know "Which incarnation of my accent and voice are you wanting?"

    Q: Holidays in America are all about the traditional movies and TV shows families re-watch during the season, from 'A Christmas Story' to 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' Were there movies your family made sure to watch every holiday season way up there in Scotland?

    A: Oh, I loved 'The Nightmare Before Christmas.' But you know, in Scotland, 'Star Wars' was on TV every Christmas. Loved that. And I don't know if it was a good movie or not, but I loved 'Santa Claus: The Movie,' with Dudley Moore, when I was a kid.

    Q: Do you finish "Trance" in time to be home for the holidays?

    A: Oh yeah, I've got one more day, in France, on "Trance," and then it's home to the family, with too much food, lots of Christmas films on the telly and too much cheap chocolate!