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STARSTRUCK SUPERSTAR; people Eloise Parker talks to James McAvoy.

Byline: Eloise Parker

ON a rare break from a hectic schedule that's involved back-to-back movies over the past few months, James McAvoy has finally grabbed the chance to sit down and relax in the pub with a pint.

The football's on TV in the background and, as a life-long Celtic fan, the 27-year-old Glaswegian is in good spirits. And so he should be.

Having picked up a Bafta Rising Star award this year, McAvoy has enjoyed an uncommonly varied mix of roles recently in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, The Last King Of Scotland and as a naive student in his new Brit comedy, Starter For Ten.

Now he's finally getting a six-month break to enjoy his favourite pastimes of "hiking, camping and cooking" and to spend some quality time with his fiancee, Shameless co-star Anne-Marie Duff.

McAvoy tackles his biggest role yet in Starter For Ten. "I'm really proud (of the film)," he says.

"Apart from being the opportunity to do a romantic comedy for British people by British people, I felt it had a truthful voice as well as being light and fun and romantic."

And as Brian Jackson, a working-class student starting his first year at Bristol University circa 1985, McAvoy perfectly captures the self-conscious awkwardness of his character's transition into a new life away from home.

"We've all been there. Becoming an adult and trying to take control of your life is a terrifying thing," reflects McAvoy, who experienced his own coming-of-age when he left school to attend Glasgow's Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

"I suppose the drama school environment was even more alien," he muses, admitting he drew on his own experiences for his portrayal of Brian.

"I don't think I was ever quite as inept socially as Brian, but I was slightly like a fish out of water and I did make a few mistakes trying to fit in to this very odd environment."

It's a scenario replicated to great comic effect in the film when Brian nervously attends his first university party, only to be met with awkward conversation and a warm beer.

"It's a funny film, but you've got to be able to believe it enough to find it funny. That was the biggest challenge," says McAvoy, who fortunately had the comic genius of Catherine Tate on board to help things along.

"I'm a huge fan of Catherine," he says. "When I found out she was playing my mum, I was so, so excited! She managed to make it really funny at the same time as being truthful and heartfelt and actually conveying a sense of love and care and maternal affection."

But despite being a huge fan of The Catherine Tate Show, James kept his impressions of her iconic characters to himself. But he admits he doesn't always manage to remain so cool.

"Now and again, I get really star-struck. I just met Emma Thompson at the Toronto Film Festival and I got really shaky and quite silly and nervous," he says, adding Tom Hanks, who produced Starter For Ten, has a similar effect on him.

"He kind of always makes me nervous even though I've met him a good few times now."

PROFILE ...

real name James Andrew McAvoy

birthdate January 1 1979

significant other Shameless co-star and fiancee Anne-Marie Duff

career high scooping the prestigious Rising Star gong at this year's Bafta awards

career low living on bit parts in TV dramas before finally getting his big break in Shameless

famous for his turn as the half-man-half-goat Mr Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Starter For Ten opens on Friday

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James McAvoy with Starter for Ten co-stars Alice Eve (left) and Rebecca Hall (right)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 4, 2006
Words:627
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