Playing one character can be challenging enough. So taking on a big screen character that has 20 personalities is no small feat, writes
Playing one character can be challenging enough. So taking on a big screen character that has 20 personalities is no small feat.
But it’s a role James McAvoy has been happy to return to.
The Scottish star is back reprising the character Kevin Wendell Crumb, who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), in director M Night Shyamalan’s Glass.
It’s a character audiences first met in 2016’s Split, and Glass is the much-anticipated sequel to that film and the 2000 thriller Unbreakable starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson.
“Kevin is a guy who was abused horribly by his mother, and as a result his mind fragmented and dissociated.
"From that, 23 other people were born,” McAvoy explains.
Ask him if he has a favourite personality and there’s no hesitation in his answer.
“I love Patricia. She is probably my favourite character to play, partly because no matter what is happening to her, she’s always got a thought in her mind.”
In Split, audiences were also introduced to another personality: The Beast. For Glass, the return of The Beast required McAvoy bulk up even more than he did in the first iteration of the character.
The 39-year-old Glasweigan says playing The Beast for longer periods this time around was physically demanding.
He explains: “He’s so physically tense and on the edge of pouncing because he’s so animalistic that I find it hurts me, physically, to play him.
After I play him for a few days, my collar bone and neck are killing me for days afterward.
On Split, it didn’t matter as much because I only did it for a couple of days for that shoot, but this time I’m playing The Beast a lot more frequently.”
Audiences will also once again meet his other personalities: Barry, Dennis and nine-year-old Hedwig, to name but a few.
“Dennis came all from this one guy I’ve known my whole life who breathes in a particular way, very considered and slow. Dennis isn’t like that person, but I copied his breathing and it kind of gave me the rest of Dennis.”
The film marks the first time all three characters — Crumb, Willis’ character David Dunn (known as The Overseer) and Jackson’s character Elijah Price (also known as Mr Glass) — star alongside each other.
Director Shyamalan, famed for his psychological thrillers like The Sixth Sense and The Village, says it was all about balance in having the trio of characters together for the first time.
Shyamalan’s smiles when asked if the trio are the “thinking man’s superheroes”. He’s passionate as he talks about creating characters that challenge the audience. He says:
“I think for me, and I’ve been thinking about it a ton, the passive art form of cinema is not something I’m OK with, where as a storyteller I will do everything for you and then it’s easier for you and in many ways more enjoyable for you."
A returning favourite is Jackson, whose character Elijah Price — also known as Mr Glass, was last featured in Unbreakable. Now permanently confined to a wheelchair due to his brittle bone disease, there’s something of the underdog about Jackson’s character.
The film flashes back to a trauma suffered by each of the main characters in their lives.
Given they’re now all viewed as “extraordinary people”, have they turned that trauma into something to grow from?
“You hope that’s a message that resonates, that life tries you in a lot of different ways and you are tested in a lot of different ways and some people rise to the challenge and some people don’t," says Jackson.
“But to understand that there are experiences that make you stronger, and ask you to tap into a resource that you haven’t tapped into and if you open yourself to that possibility there is a chance that you can succeed, overcome and become extraordinary because of it”.