X-Men Apocalypse: James McAvoy Returns As Charles Xavier — Here Are Five Things You Didn’t Know About Him Before He Took On Epic Role [Video Trailer]

X-Men: Apocalypse, with James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Michael Fassbender, hits the big screen this Friday to kick off what is sure to be a big Memorial Day Weekend at the box office. James McAvoy will be returning to reprise his role as Charles Xavier, the wheelchair-bound leader of the mutants who desires to peacefully co-exist with humans, even though the latter often view mutants with suspicion.

But in anticipating of the newest installment of the X-Men franchise, here are five things you probably didn’t know about McAvoy.

1. As a boy, James McAvoy wanted to be a priest.

Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, and raised by his grandparents after his parents’ divorce, McAvoy desired to be a Roman Catholic priest. As he told The Guardian, he desired that so that he could be “a missionary” who could “go to Africa and save people.” But when he realized the church went against some of his beliefs, in particular regarding contraceptives, he changed his mind. As The Guardian said, The Catholic Church “was not really the sort of company he wanted to work for.”

2. McAvoy was first inspired to act by a teenage crush.

That is, until he realized at 15 that the girl of his dreams was into acting.

“I liked a girl on the set, Alana Brady, and I followed her to a drama group,” McAvoy told Digital Spy. “From that I got a tiny bit more work and realized I could make a career out of drama.”

The two went on to co-star in The Near Room (1995).

“It’s nice that he remembered,” Brady said of McAvoy years later. “We did both like each other but we were just teenagers. It was a long time ago.”

3. X-Men: Not the first time McAvoy and Fassbender worked together.

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, who played Xavier and Magneto in the first round of X-Men movies, had great on-screen chemistry. Since McAvoy and Fassbender do as well, one might conclude that they must have worked together previously.

As a matter of fact, they did. In 2001, when neither McAvoy nor Fassbender was a household name, the two starred together in Band of Brothers, Steven Spielberg’s epic World War II miniseries, according to IMBD.

Incidentally, other well-known actors, including Donnie Walhberg (Blue Bloods), David Schwimmer (Friends), Jimmy Fallon (The Tonight Show), and veteran actor Tom Hanks also appeared in Band of Brothers.

4. McAvoy’s commercial breakthrough cam when playing a mythical fawn.

In 2005, McAvoy had a supporting role in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, the Christian-themed fantasy stories by C.S. Lewis. McAvoy played Mr. Tumnus, a fawn (part human, part goat) who went derelict in his duties when he failed to report that he saw a human to the White Witch. Instead, he bravely helped Lucy, the youngest of the Pevensie children, to return home to England through the wardrobe.

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, the first of three movies about Narnia, grossed over $291 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo.

5. McAvoy starred in The Last King of Scotland with Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker.

This fact is surely already known by fans of James McAvoy. But what may not be known is that McAvoy was cast at the recommendation of Whitaker, according to DVD commentary of the film.

James McAvoy at the premiere of The Last King of Scotland
James McAvoy at the premiere of The Last King of Scotland, co-starring Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin. [AP Photo/Sayyid Azim]

While Whitaker won the Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal of brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, McAvoy was also noted for his role as a fictional journalist befriended by Amin; he won best actor for the Scottish BAFTA awards, as reported by BBC News.

X-Men Apocalypse opens in theaters this Friday, May 27. Check your local listings for time and location.

[Photo by Vianney Le Caer/AP Images]