James McAvoy To Star In ‘X-Men: First Class’

Actor has been cast as a young Charles Xavier.

The X-Men are coming back, but not the way most know them. Fox is prepping “X-Men: First Class” for a June 3, 2011, release, and the big news is that James McAvoy will star as a young Charles Xavier, better known by his superhero name, Professor X.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news Thursday, though there’s no word yet whether McAvoy’s younger X will sport the older character’s trademark baldness. Previous “X-Men” movies, which have drawn characters directly from the comics, feature an older Charles Xavier played by Patrick Stewart.

In “X-Men: First Class,” the story rolls the mythology back to a time long before Cyclops, Jean Grey and the rest of the crew lived and learned under the tutelage of Stewart’s Professor X. Next year’s movie will instead focus on the relationship between Charles Xavier and Eric Lensherr, the mutant who one day becomes supervillain and X-Men arch-nemesis Magneto.

Before they parted ways, Xavier and Lensherr were close friends and allies. According to Fox’s description, “First Class” finds the two working together “with other mutants (some familiar, some new) to stop the greatest threat that the world has ever known.” These events directly inform their split, with Xavier going off to form his crime-fighting mutant X-Men while Lensherr assembles the more militant, human-hating Brotherhood.

For McAvoy, “First Class” isn’t exactly new territory. The actor previously starred in “Wanted,” Timur Bekmambetov’s slick action movie loosely adapted from the Mark Millar comic books. Next year’s “X-Men” will be directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also has some recent comics experience, adapting Millar’s “Kick-Ass.” The story for “First Class” comes from “X-Men” and “Superman Returns” director Bryan Singer, who will produce with Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg.

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