James McAvoy on Cross-Dressing in His Indie ‘Filth’ and ‘X-Men’

'I did walk very slowly and gingerly'

James MacAvoy Filth
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

After “X-Men,” James McAvoy sheds his inhibitions — and most of his clothes — in “Filth,” which Magnolia releases May 30, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, about a misanthropic cop with a secret.

“Filth” lives up to its name. 
I knew what kind of performance I wanted to give. It’s the best script I’ve ever read, bar none. And I was not certain if we would pull it off. Even less challenging things fall by the wayside during filming.

Did the director think of you?
When I met Jon [S. Baird], I thought they had come to me. But I found out a couple months ago that my agent went to them, to which they replied, “Nope!” I’m not obvious casting for the part. I didn’t audition. I just chatted. I understood the character, and they offered me the part that afternoon.

Do you feel like you’ve been typecast?
I don’t ever really feel like I’ve been typecast, but I’ve played a lot of nice guys.

Was it the first time you ever cross-dressed? 
I think it might be. But I enjoyed it.

How were the heels?
A little bit dodgy, especially on the cobble streets of Edinburgh. I nearly twisted my ankle a couple times. I didn’t fall, thank God. But I did walk very slowly and gingerly.

How did you gain weight for the role?
By eating too much and drinking too much shit.

Is there more freedom in independent films?
It can be more adventurous. Not necessarily more fun, since I’ve had great times doing big-budget studio movies. I think the fact that we didn’t have a distributor meant we had more freedom.

Were you glad to return to “X-Men”?
I was really excited because my biggest fear playing Charles at all when I took on “First Class” was that at the end of it, when he gets paralyzed, it would be difficult to enter any action sequences. I thought that would be uncool. Not just for me as an actor, but also for what it says. I was pleased they focused on the character in this one and gave me a lot of obstacles to get over.

Have you talked to Bryan Singer since the lawsuits were filed against him?
No, I haven’t.

Do you think he’ll direct the next one?
I don’t know really.

What’s he like as a director?
He’s come up with “X-Men.” He knows it inside out.