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James McAvoy Refused to Campaign for ‘Atonement’ Oscar Because it ‘Felt Cheap’

McAvoy's experience helping his "Last King of Scotland" co-star Forest Whitaker campaign for an Oscar soured him on the process.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 02: James McAvoy attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

James McAvoy

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With award season in full swing, the stars of this year’s best films are spending an increasing amount of their time socializing with Academy  members as they seek to secure Oscar nominations for themselves. Most actors and filmmakers have accepted award campaigns as part of the film promotion process, but not every actor is willing to participate.

James McAvoy, for one, won’t be mounting an Oscar campaign any time soon. In a new interview with GQ UK, the actor revealed that he refused to campaign for an Oscar nomination for his role in “Atonement.” Though his performance in Joe Wright’s 2007 film was warmly received, he felt uncomfortable with the level of self promotion it required.

McAvoy made the decision after helping Forest Whitaker successfully campaign for an Oscar for “The Last King of Scotland” the year prior. Though he was happy to support his co-star, the experience soured him on the process as a whole.

“[During the ‘Last King of Scotland’ campaign], it was made clear to me that I was doing it for the benefit of other people,” McAvoy said. “And I was totally down with that. But by the time ‘Atonement’ came along, I was 26 or 27, and I was just like, I can’t do it, I’m not doing it, I don’t wanna do it.”

McAvoy explained that he is not opposed to promoting his films when they first come out, he just doesn’t want to actively seek awards for himself.

“I didn’t want to play that part. I’ll push the film, I’ll try and get bums on seats. But the campaign, I felt… I felt cheap.”

The aversion to award season is part of a larger shift in the way McAvoy thinks about life in Hollywood. The actor explained that he is trying to work less, only prioritizing projects that truly excite him.

“I love doing it, but I don’t love the daily grind of the film and telly business,” he said. “Even if it’s a good script, I certainly can’t rationalise going to work at five or six in the morning and staying out till eight o’clock at night. If my character hasn’t got an interesting part in telling that story it’s quite soul destroying. More and more I’m looking for interesting experiences.”

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