MCAVOY HAS NINE LIVES
James McAvoy doesn’t just dent his English gentleman status in psychological thriller Split ... he tears it apart and leaves it for dead
Some actors describe acting as the ultimate high because they can be different people. In Split you had nine characters to play with ... It was definitely a very exciting experience. Acting can be a real high and I love it. I love performing and I love it when you are playing somebody who is just all in your imagination. There is something about that, when it takes over and when it seems to just have its own life and you don’t feel like you are playing the character anymore. I always remember Ian McKellen talking about playing the piano for a performance. He said that for a few brief moments he couldn’t tell if the music was coming from the piano or if the music was coming from the person playing piano. Sometimes playing a character feels a bit like that. Did you have any hesitations to play nine, challenging, disturbing characters in just one film? Of course it was a bit scary. But the only way to not do that is to play safe and basically just play the same character all the time. I enjoy being able to not play safe roles and I hope that continues. Also, the fact that something has the potential to be really terrible or really good and nothing in-between, I think that’s a good signal that you should do it. The movie is extremely entertaining, yet it contains several deeper layers. It talks about people with serious mental issues with great respect. The characters that you play are not caricatures, but there is a sense of humour. How did you achieve that? A lot of the tone and of the humour was in the script and I could tell that it was supposed to be funny at times. I checked that with the director and he confirmed that he really wanted the movie to be funny and disturbing and then funny and sad and then funny and horrific and then funny. The humour is a way of being truthful to the people that we are playing. Some of the people, of the different personalities, are enjoying themselves and they are enjoying being out. Three of them had been ostracised for such a long time and not allowed to express themselves because they represent parts of Kevin’s overall personality that aren’t seen as desirable. So it’s almost like they are getting a chance to perform a bit as well. What the character Dennis does to the three girls is awful. Did you ever feel uncomfortable? Yeah I did. I also felt uncomfortable reading at some points. I didn’t want to be in a film about a guy kidnapping three girls to rape them, unless it’s got some massive twist or turn coming up. Then of course a page and a half later, there was a massive twist and turn, when suddenly I am dressed like a woman, Patricia. But, yeah, I was really worried at some points reading the script. There is a whole uneasy first few minutes in the movie where I guess the audience is thinking the same way. How do you interpret the line about purity and the broken being more evolved? Well it’s the idea that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Unless you have suffered great pain and you haven’t been tempered and you haven’t been straightened and tested. Going through the crucible made you stronger. At its heart, it is the same idea as a superhero movie. For instance, “My parents were killed in front of my eyes, it’s the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it made me the Batman.” (The director) is just enjoying playing with that idea in a slightly different way. This film has an innovative way of narrating the story. Usually something terrible happens to the lead character in the first few minutes of the film and then we spend the rest of the film seeing how that led him to become what he is now. In this film, it kind of proceeds backwards. By the end, you realise that you are watching an origin story or a superhero story or the birth of a super villain. And that is amazing because Casey is the hero and Kevin is the villain. Yet they are both the same thing and they are both people who suffered greatly and who are stronger because of it. Split is in cinemas from today.