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Video: McAvoy is a ‘Wanted’ man

updated 6/23/2008 11:57:59 AM ET 2008-06-23T15:57:59

Most men would throw themselves at the opportunity to share a kiss with Angelina Jolie under any circumstances. But for James McAvoy, her co-star in the new action thriller “Wanted," it turned out to be a bit ... awkward.

The 29-year-old Scotsman told Ann Curry on TODAY Monday he had to do a make-out scene with the larger-than-life Jolie on her first day on the set. “It was her first day, it was her first scene,” McAvoy recalled. “I had been on the set for two weeks — it was like, ‘Hey, how you doing, nice to meet you, I’m James, oh, we’re going to do a kissing scene now!’ ”

It’s not as if McAvoy is an amateur at on-screen kisses: He gained fame for his passionate love scenes with Keira Knightley in the Oscar-nominated “Atonement.” But he says that love scenes — with Jolie, or anyone else — might look like great fun for the actors, but are usually the hardest part of the job. “You’re meant to do the kissing last thing, but you end up doing it first thing, just after you’ve had your breakfast and you’re all funky in the mouth.”

“I rarely manage to be fully in the moment ever when I do a kissing scene or the sex scene,” he told Curry. “If I were truly in the moment, then I would worry that I was molesting someone.”

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The big-screen heartthrob then turned his charm on Curry, telling her, “If in this interview, it was written in that we had to have a kiss, I would hope we would be professional about it and that we wouldn’t get off on it.” The blushing Curry recovered enough to tease McAvoy back, telling him, “I would totally throw you to the ground.”

McAvoy is climbing out of his “Atonement”-style period-piece comfort zone in “Wanted” to play a timid accountant who joins Jolie to avenge the death of his assassin father. He recently told People magazine that despite starring with — and kissing — one of the world’s most famous women, he got to see the person behind the persona.

“She’s just a very chilled-out person, and a good, fun person,” he says. “That shouldn’t be surprising, because movie stars are normal people, and even actors get taken in by the hype.”

But even though actors may be normal folks, they often have to do extraordinary things to earn their extraordinary paychecks. In making his first major popcorn movie, McAvoy revealed he “took some punches from Angelina” that caused bruising, and he even fainted on the “Wanted” set.

“My character has these panic attacks, and for the panic attacks they increased my blood pressure and let all the blood go to my head,” he explained. “I did it a little bit too much and I passed out.”

But despite such downsides, starring in an action film alongside Jolie left McAvoy feeling satisfied “for the 14-year-old in me,” and seeing the audience reaction during the film’s Los Angeles premiere left his mouth agape. He said the audience cheered and clapped throughout the film, something he isn’t used to in his native Scotland or his current home in England.

“People don’t do that back home, you know,” McAvoy said, adding that the thunderous reaction was “very nice, very strange.”        

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