Whatever James McAvoy did, it sure ended up working in both his and the film’s favor.

"He's a good guy, I couldn't make him a bad guy": With One Little Adjustment James McAvoy Nailed the Role of Professor X After Replacing Patrick Stewart

James McAvoy knew just what needed to be done to make his mark in the X-Men franchise as Professor X after Patrick Stewart’s unforgettable performances.


The best thing about bringing comic book characters to life is that they are not limited to just one actor. Over time, many actors have replaced each other in order to bring our favorite superheroes to life. However, sometimes a person is so perfect for a role that you cannot ever imagine someone else in their shoes. The best example to support this statement is Patrick Stewart and his run as Charles Xavier a.k.a. Professor X.
Sir Patrick Stewart's Professor X in X-Men: The Last StandSir Patrick Stewart’s Professor X in X-Men: The Last Stand
The actor has become synonymous with the role, having played him in several X-Men films, except X-Men: First Class. In this film, James McAvoy took over the responsibility of playing a younger Professor X. Needless to say, the bar was set quite high by Patrick Stewart, which intimated James McAvoy. However, by making one adjustment to the role, the actor was able to perfectly play the character.

James McAvoy Decided to Do Things Differently Than Patrick Stewart

James McAvoy as Professor XJames McAvoy as Professor X in X-Men: First Class
Matching Patrick Stewart’s performance in the X-Men film series was not going to be an easy task. Clearly, James McAvoy knew this all too well and decided not to do what Stewart did, and instead, create his own version of the character.
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During a conversation with Collider, the cast of X-Men: First Class was asked about their initial reactions to finding out they had been cast in an X-Men film. To this, McAvoy replied,

“I was a little bit surprised. I didn’t see myself as the archetypal Sir Patrick Stewart, bald, Jean Luc Picard professor of the Starship Enterprise. That was quite difficult to get my head around.”

He then recalled how he came up with the idea of giving Professor X his own little spin.


“I read the script, or the first 40 pages that existed at the time, and I realized we could take the character in a whole different direction. Have a lot more fun with him, make him a little bit more silly, a little bit more drunk, a little bit more randy. And that was good fun.”

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Actors giving their own two cents to the characters is always a fun little treat to watch as a viewer!

Why Did James McAvoy Choose to Go in a Different Direction?

James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart in X-Men: Days of Future PastJames McAvoy and Patrick Stewart in X-Men: Days of Future Past
During the conversation, the actors were asked about their preparation for the role and if they took some pointers from the O.G. actors. McAvoy revealed that while he had a fun session with Stewart where they worked on the character, it didn’t last too long.

“I felt a lot of ways the same. We talked for a brief couple of minutes in rehearsal about mimicking the voices and all that, and we had a good laugh about that, but it didn’t stay too long.”

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He then recalled how he studied Stewart’s performance in detail, and even though he loved it, he decided to go in another direction. Why? Well, according to him, change is an important element when it comes to validating the large number of superhero films that are constantly in the making.


“I looked really closely at Sir Patrick’s performance, which I really enjoyed, but to validate just making these movies you have to make the characters different, otherwise it’s just the same performances with sexy suits. I tried to take the key points of his character and flip them. He’s a good guy, I couldn’t make him a bad guy, but where he was wise I was unwise, where he was chaste I was randy, and so on.”

McAvoy’s efforts did not go in vain as X-Men: First Class received positive reviews from the critics, and he was also praised for his portrayal of Xavier. StarTribune, in their review of the film, rightfully stated that since First Class was a film “dependent on character dynamic” the lead actors had to put their best foot forward. The review went on to praise McAvoy, stating that he was “superb a Charles, playing the patient, good-humored idealist with delicacy.”

Needless to say, the little alteration McAvoy did to Professor X ended up working in his favor.

You can stream X-Men: First Class on Disney+.