"Atonement" star James McAvoy has an impressively humble attitude toward the cruel snub he suffered at the last Oscars. Even though he had the most screen time and the most lines in "The Last King of Scotland," his costar Forest Whitaker won the Academy Award as best lead actor and McAvoy wasn't even nominated.
When we had tea up at the Toronto Film Festival in September, I asked McAvoy how he felt about that. You can hear our chat (and the clanging of tea cups and spoons) in this podcast — CLICK HERE to Download the MP3 File and Listen. Note: You May Need To Hold Down Your Computer's Control Key While Clicking.
"If I felt that I was, pound for pound, matching Forest Whitaker on screen in terms of what I was achieving as an actor, then fair enough," he said. "But when you read that script, you knew what the score was. I never once thought for a single second, 'Aha! I have the dominant role here! I can go off and get lots of awards!' . . . . It was my first prominent lead role in a motion picture that did well. It changed my career and brought me to the view of the business and the industry in America. I understood my role and I was so grateful for everything that happened. I'm really not grumpy about that one at all."
No one upstages McAvoy in "Atonement" in which he and Keira Knightley portray doomed lovers torn apart when he's wrongly accused of rape. Again, he gets the most screen time, even far more than Knightley, in a top Oscar contender, this one with a serious shot at winning best picture. As the film opens, he's a lower-class chap in love with an uppity gal on the estate where he works, then off he goes to prison, and even to war, eventually getting stuck at Britain's disastrous battle of Dunkirk.
"The war is going on around him, but he's slightly oblivious to it," McAvoy notes. "He's just moving toward north, to Cecelia (Knightley). She's a compass point for him. She's magnetic north.
"I hope there's a healthy market for this movie because I do think it's an intelligent film and it's also a brilliant example of what non-patronizing filmmaking is all about," he adds. "Other movies don't give the audience the credit of intelligence, but I think this film does do that and then some. One hand it's a huge, epic romantic tragedy, but at the same time it really demands that the audience engage their intellect or otherwise they get lost and left behind. And that's not something you usually get in your romantic tragedy period film."