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In 2016's Split, James McAvoy pulled off quite an ambitious performance -- he played a criminal with Dissociative Identity Disorder with 24 distinct personalities, including a terrifying "Beast" revealed in the third act to the teenaged girls he kidnaps.
There was applause a lot on the set of the movie. Jaw dropping. And our dailies, we would have every day, the crew was just packed in there because they all wanted to see what James did. It was amazing to watch. Take after take, just amazing specific performances. The other actors, too, were in awe. He is something else. He gave a performance for a generation for me. I mean, just [a] singular non-duplicable performance.
If you've seen Split, this isn't too much of a surprise. The actor flipped from one identity to the other uniquely and seamlessly. When James McAvoy portrayed 9-year-old Hedwig you could see the innocence in his eyes; and as Patricia, you can easily imagine how the identity might see themselves when they look in the mirror.
If it wasn't for Split falling into the horror genre, James McAvoy could certainly have earned some awards attention for playing Kevin Wendell Crumb's many personalities. The fact that the cast and crew couldn't look away from the early footage of the actor's performances certainly informs how amazing his performance was.
Before Split, James McAvoy was certainly an accomplished and respected actor known for the X-Men prequels, Wanted and Atonement. But his work with M. Night Shyamalan opens up a new depth to his acting chops that Shyamalan couldn't have predicted. Here's what he told me:
I expected a craftsman, a theater trained actor so he could handle the commitment, and I expected a very empathic actor who would bring humanity to each of the parts, to the female, to the child, to the animal, to everyone. I really thought he would bring empathy, and he did do that. What I didn't expect was that he was so buoyant and funny and entertaining and I hadn't seen that in his work like that where he was, you know, almost Robin Williams-esque in his vibrancy.
Split only scratches the surface. While James McAvoy takes center stage in the 2016 film, he portrayed 11 personalities then. In Glass, he takes on 20 and at a much quicker rate in many scenes. This time around, McAvoy also got jacked to reprise the role to play a more believable and frightening "Beast".
Excited for James McAvoy's performance in Glass yet? As revealed in the conclusion of Split, the M. Night Shyamalan movie is also a sequel of his 2000 film Unbreakable. It followed Bruce Willis' David Dunn, the sole survivor of a trainwreck who is approached by a comic book gallery owner who goes by Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson). Mr. Glass convinces David he has superpowers and later reveals he is the sworn villain to his hero.
Glass will intersect the Unbreakable story with Split with James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis' characters finding themselves at the same high-security hospital that diagnoses their supposed illness in the belief they are comic book characters. Glass hits theaters on January 18, 2019.