Scotland Week: James McAvoy on the Irvine Welsh Adaptation “Filth” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Scotland Week: James McAvoy on the Irvine Welsh Adaptation “Filth”

Not Afraid to Get Filthy

Sep 01, 2014 Issue #50 - June/July 2014 - Future Islands Bookmark and Share

James McAvoy may be best recognized in the U.S. for his dramatic turns in acclaimed period films such as Atonement and The Last King of Scotland, and for playing the heroic Professor Charles Xavier in the two most recent X-Men films. The character he plays in Jon Baird’s wildly stylized Filth lies on the opposite end of the spectrum.

“My agent called [the producers] up and said, ‘I’ve read this script and think it’s really good. Have you thought about casting James McAvoy?’” recounts the Scottish actor. “And they said ‘No, not really, are you fucking mad?’ It’s not a part that people would say I’m an obvious piece of casting for.”

In Filth, McAvoy stars as the foul-mouthed, misogynist, homophobic, alcoholic, drug-addicted Bruce Robertson, a corrupt detective in the Edinburgh police force.

“There was a lot of effort and a lot of sweat that went into it, but artistically speaking it was one of the easiest jobs I’ve ever had,” says McAvoy. “I’m not saying that I’m some sort of tortured, messed-up individual inside and I’m just letting that all out, because I’m really not. But we’ve all got our shit, we’ve all got our fucked-up-ness, and it was just very, very easy to take mine and to give it to Filth.”

In the film, a promotion is offered up in Bruce’s department, and he vies for it not by solving the murder case he’s been tasked with, but by destroying the reputations of his fellow detectives. Bruce is not above wrecking his colleagues’ home lives to get one step ahead of them. Filth was adapted from the novel by Irvine Welsh, the same author who gave us the gritty Trainspotting. Though the film has many (mostly sordid) laughs, McAvoy and Baird keyed in on several of the story’s darker elements to give it surprising depth.

“I think lots of people were coming in and thinking this is a proper gross-out comedy that the guys are going to love, with lots of tits and dicks and fucking and shagging and drugs,” says McAvoy. “I thought it was a story about a guy who is very unwell.”

Though he plays an absolutely repugnant human being whose every action is despicable, McAvoy focused on the character’s deeper-rooted issues. The film never explicitly spells out Bruce’s afflictions, but he appears to suffer from paranoid delusions, and from bipolar and split personality disorders.

“The actual voice of the piece, for me, is mental illness,” says McAvoy. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a serious, somber, sober, worthy piece of social commentary on mental illness, by any means. It’s a piece of art and entertainment that is fueled by mental illness.”

McAvoy won Best Actor for this performance from the British Independent Film Awards, which can likely be chalked up to his ability to turn such an objectionable character into one with whom audiences can empathize. For the actor, it was the character’s damaged mind that attracted him to the part.

“That mind has got to be pretty strange, but it’s certainly going to be dynamic and colorful,” says McAvoy. “The whole film is like that.”

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s June/July print issue (Issue 50). Filth is out now on DVD and Blu-ray and comes to Netflix September 11. Check out our extended Q&A with James McAvoy here.]

Link: “Check out our extended Q&A with James McAvoy here.” to here:


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