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James McAvoy on Professor X's hard journey in 'Dark Phoenix'

The "Atomic Blonde" star teases the next X-Men movie and reveals his idea for a Bond villain.

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Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Watch this: James McAvoy promises 'harder' Professor X in 'Dark Phoenix'

 As James McAvoy returns to the big screen playing a ruthless spy in the Cold War action flick "Atomic Blonde," it's inevitable the conversation turns to the ultimate secret agent: 007.

"I don't think I'm James Bond," McAvoy says of his chances of ever playing Mr. Shaken Not Stirred "I'd love to be a villain... the main baddie." And his Bondian villain gimmick would be? "A Pokemon!"

I met with McAvoy to talk about how he shrugged off a (real) broken hand to star opposite Charlize Theron in "Blonde." McAvoy plays David Percival, a British spy whose extended exposure to the intrigue, backstabbing and double-crossings of Cold War-era Berlin turn him into what McAvoy describes as "a weird, feral dude". That's a stark contrast to McAvoy's signature role, the urbane and cultured Professor Charles Xavier, the telepathic mutant leader from the X-Men movies.

Despite the action and effects of the blockbuster X-Men films, McAvoy sees the Xavier part as a character study, even more so than his roles in films like "Atonement". Signing on to play Professor X for the first time in 2011's "X-Men: First Class", McAvoy regarded Xavier as "a character who was on such a massive journey. I thought, I'm gonna have fun playing him." 

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Xavier's journey will continue in "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" in 2018. "He's a different person every time we meet him," says McAvoy. In the new film, the actor promises a "harder" Professor X.

One thing McAvoy's "Atomic Blonde" character does have in common with Professor X is his minimalist approach to hairstyles.

"The next two movies I do, I'm going to have a shaved head again," McAvoy says. "It seems to be my bread and butter ... me and Bruce Willis, going up against Patrick Stewart and Ed Harris."

McAvoy will soon be heard in the animated film "Watership Down" on Netflix, his first foray into episodic TV since leaving "Shameless" more than a decade ago. Would he consider a proper return to television?

"I'll do anything, mate", he quips.

"Atomic Blonde" is in UK cinemas starting Wednesday.

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