James McAvoy, we're happy to report, is just as charming as you'd hope — yesterday Times Carpetbagger Melena Ryzik talked to him about his acting career, "the destructive force that is the backpacker," and the politics of silly accents.
The TimesTalk was part of the New York Times Arts and Leisure Weekend, which also featured interviews with Carrie Fisher, Gabourey Sidibe, and others. McAvoy and Ryzik weren't the most natural fit, and their talk got off to an awkward start. Ryzik had some clunky questions, like whether McAvoy thinks about a specific person when he's doing a love scene, but McAvoy mostly handled them deftly — in romantic situations, he said, "the other person in the scene is my muse." He was appealingly self-effacing about his career, saying that if he hadn't gotten into drama school he'd be "doing something else," and that he was chosen for the part of Nicholas Garrigan in The Last King of Scotland because "there were very few young Scottish actors who were the right age and quite experienced and were still cheap." His acknowledgment of the serendipitous nature of his early working life wasn't just false modesty — it was also a good reminder that much success, especially in creative fields, involves a certain amount of luck.