James McAvoy to Play Professor X in X-Men Prequel

From a sharp-shooting assassin in “Wanted,” James McAvoy is switching to a mind-reading mutant in his next film. The 31-year-old Scot has signed on for “X-Men: First Class,” a prequel to the franchise’s three previous films. McAvoy will play Charles Xavier, who ultimately became the recognized leader of the mutant group X-Men as Professor X.

The film will focus on the friendship between the young Professor X and Erik Lensherr, or Magneto, and how they became archenemies in the later parts of their lives. Magneto will eventually form the Brotherhood, a group of mutants who will clash with Professor X’s X-Men. “Star Trek” star Patrick Stewart played the bald Professor X in the previous three X-Men films.

McAvoy’s first big role was in the Steven Spielberg HBO series “Band of Brothers.” He went on to appear in several films, most notably in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” where he played the faun, Mr. Tumnus. He also received critical acclaim for his roles in 2006’s “The Last King of Scotland” and 2007’s “Atonement,” for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. He last appeared in 2009’s “The Last Station,” which chronicles the last years of famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. “X-Men: First Class” is set for a June 2011 release.