Just a few short years ago, James McAvoy was best known to audiences for his role as the half-human, half-goat Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. However, in the years since, the Scottish actor has seen his career expand from Oscar bait like The Last King of Scotland and Atonement to big-budget Hollywood fare like Wanted and X-men: First Class.
That eclectic mix of films indicates that McAvoy has little worry about becoming typecast and is willing to take on a risky, even controversial project without a second thought. In his career, he’s already tackled political drama, period romance, high-octane action and superhero spectacle. However, despite risking fanboy ire by taking on the role of young Professor Charles Xavier, McAvoy is now set to take on his most divisive project to date.
According to Variety, McAvoy is in talks to star alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in Dreamworks’ untitled Wikileaks film. The actor would play Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the author whose book Inside Wikileaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website serves as the basis for the film. The studio acquired the rights to both that book and Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, and both will serve as inspirations for the film’s screenplay.
Since McAvoy’s character is responsible for one of several books on Assange – whom Cumberbatch will play – it’s looking likely that the relationship between the two will serve as the emotional centerpiece of the film. A German tech expert, Domscheit-Berg was recruited by Assange to join the whistle-blowing website in 2007 and ultimately became its spokesperson. Expect the film then to focus on the falling-out between these two former friends, as an ideological difference pushes them in opposite directions.
Given the tenuous friendship between its two leads, the Wikileaks project sounds like it shares a similar character dynamic to that of Professor X and Magneto in X-men: First Class. It makes perfect sense then for the studio to turn to McAvoy, who has proven he can fold complex characters arcs into beautifully understated performances. His growing star power probably doesn’t hurt, either. If the Wikileaks film turns out right, it could prove to be an awards contender and critical darling like The Social Network was in 2010.
Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Dreamgirls) will direct the Wikileaks film, and while The Hurt Locker scribe Mark Boal was reportedly in the running to adapt the aforementioned books to screen, Variety reports that Josh Singer will handle scripting duties. Singer has written several episodes of shows like Fringe, Lie to Me and The West Wing.
Production will begin sometime next year, according to McAvoy’s schedule. The actor recently finished filming two-part drama The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby with Jessica Chastain and is signed to return for Bryan Singer’s X-men: Days of Future Past.
Stay tuned for further details on the Wikileaks film (including an official title) as this story develops.