And yet McAvoy is not as earnest as he can sometimes project. He races cars and motorcycles when time allows, ties one on now and again, and relishes playing the occasional psychotic scoundrel. This month, American audiences can see that twisted side in theaters, as he portrays a depraved Scottish cop descending into madness in Filth, the critically lauded adaptation of Irvine Welsh's novel. And for all his bafta wins and nominations and highbrow roles, McAvoy still relishes his lead role in the 2008 hit action flick Wanted.
JM: It is amazing, seriously, and I am thrilled about it. [Laughs] I kissed fucking Angelina Jolie. Yes, we had a bit of a snog.
MF: [Laughs] Back again, James! Back again! Oooooh!
DETAILS: And how do you think Brad Pitt feels about this snogging?
JM: I am sure he's deeply unthreatened, deeply unmoved, and probably reassured in his masculinity. Probably.
JM: I felt the second movie was much more chilled-out than the first.
MF: Yeah, you're right, it was. Totally.
JM: The first one was quite fraught. In a good, positive way, but we were all still relatively new to the blockbuster kind of thing. So we stressed a lot over First Class.
MF: Yeah, we did, we did, we did.
JM: Whereas this one, we were all a bit like, "You know what, it's going to be all right. We'll still work really hard to make it good, we'll still sweat for it, but we won't cry for it." Do you know what I mean?
MF: Yeah. I'm going to take a pee, but . . . the BB guns.
JM: Well, Michael and I decided that we were going to go and buy BB guns. So we bought about 12 BB guns, and me and Jen—
DETAILS: Jennifer Lawrence and you?
JM: Jen's a demon, man.
DETAILS: Just generally or with a BB gun?
JM: She's a demon, period. She can throw a punch, she's got a good shot, she can drink. She's proper. I like that girl.
DETAILS: So was she the third amigo with you and Michael?
JM: Yeah, man. Well, her and Nick—Hoult—they're amazing. And with them and a few others, there was an ongoing BB war for about two months. Every time you stepped out of your trailer, you were pretty much guaranteed that if you weren't careful, you were going to get hit in the face. And probably get your skin broken as well. But there was a time where Michael was in his trailer and me and Jen were trying to kick the door in, trying to get in through the skylight. So . . . yeah . . . this second movie was a lot more chilled-out than the first one. Big-time. Massively.
the smoke clears
MF: I think I'm a little crazy, but he's full-on
JM: No, I think it's because I have all my crazy suppressed, and when it comes out, it just goes like that.
MF: I remember the first time we got in the golf buggy to get between the studio and base camp on the first film. James was cutting through the car park and missing parked cars by millimeters and inches, and I was hanging off the back thinking, "Jeez, this guy can drive!" Then I realized that he's just crazy, because he crashed right into the back of a parked Lexus. Smashed it up and got himself thrown off the golf cart.
JM: And when I looked up, I was about 10 foot away, and from there I saw Michael in the driver's seat.
MF: I was thrown over the back seat, banged my head off the steering wheel, and ended up in the driver's seat. I was like, "If I'm here, where's James?" Next thing, he was on the ground going, "Are you all right, mate?"
JM: Well, you've got the scar to show for it.
Fassbender sets down his glass, slaps his arm on the table, rolls up his sleeve, and shows me a knotted scar on his forearm. He then hikes up his pant leg to reveal an inch-long gouge in his shin.
MF: That's the bigger one. I'm proud of that.
JM: You've got the two. Oh.
In short order, McAvoy makes noises about having to depart soon for home, where he has his son to look after. But first, he and Fassbender start planning a date for their next adventure: a track day, to race motorcycles. ("We're great on two wheels, just not so much on four," Fassbender reassures me.) Soon, they say, after Fassbender returns from a trip to Ireland.
JM: I'm up for it.
As we drain our fourth round of pints, I excuse myself to take a piss—much to the amusement of my drinking companions.
MF: Hey, should we just leave? Just leave and he comes back and there's only the tape recorder.
JM: [Laughs] Actually, could I have a cigarette? Are you smoking?
MF: I don't have any fags. You know this is all being recorded here.
JM: We're going to look so cool.