From X Men to BreX-it Man? McAvoy as Cameron: Inspired Casting. You Know it!
In case you had not noticed, former UK Prime Minister, DAVID CAMERON, has a book out. FOR THE RECORD.
It is a truly fascinating read (or listen, if using audio book format). This is a political memoir but also a philosophical reflection. I have certainly enjoyed it, despite the somewhat surreal experience of hearing stories that feel fresh and recent, even youthful, relative to the usual association between the clarity of an historical retrospective and lengthy distance of time from the events depicted. Some of it is, of course, an exercise in self justification, verging on vanity. And there are moments of sheer gloss and the occasionally out of place piece of gossip /celebrity anecdote.
But at its HEART? The book is a VITAL character study. Its pages offer a substantial account of what it means to be both a man and leader; Prime Minister yet still a loving husband /father/son; and optimistic citizen yet pragmatic politician. That makes it an unmissable text, whatever your particular, personal political colours.
Cameron is still a young (ish) man; who should if anything be starting his tenure as a PM, rather than pondering legacies from the political wilderness. At the very least, his actual tenure could and indeed should have lasted longer and also, would have done, but for that Euro shaped Dumbo in the room..’Brexit’. The decision to hold THAT referendum and therefore, now, sadly, the mess of its botched attempts at execution /delivery, will forever seem to be the millstones around the neck of Cameron’s historical reputation.
Is that fair? Prima facie: Yes. He pursued a radical policy, against some trusted allies’ advice and by its nature, there were dramatic ramifications, whichever result emerged.
And yet this is not a villain or an ‘essay crisis’ PM, as caricatured. Indeed, if anything, the book betrays quite how OVER thought and considered were many of Dave’s decisions.
And, given the ongoing implications of his policy choices, it’s only a matter of time before the book gets the MOVIE treatment.
In which case, there is only ONE actor for the job. JAMES MCAVOY! Indeed: David Cameron is in effect, a real world Professor X, but specifically, of the First Class to Dark Phoenix variety.
Allow me to explain..
- Elitism vs Egalitarianism
McAvoy’s Charles Xavier captures a real sense of class war struggle. He comes from money and he clearly enjoys the trappings of aristocratic class or its closest American counterpart? Oxford graduate, too: just like all the greatest heroes! 😉
But he is also teased for his privilege.
Michael Fassbender’s MAGNETO and Jennifer Lawrence’s MYSTIQUE regularly wind Charles up about his lack of struggle in his impossibly comfortable and civilised upbringing. And yet, nobody can doubt that Prof X feels pain, both his own and that of others.
Psychologically, he can read minds and absorb your saddest memory. Physically, the bullet that paralyses him represents the character’s innate need to somehow reconcile the disparate ‘mutants’ to their human cousins. Prof X genuinely seems to think that he can unite groups, against the odds and that love and respect are always ready for engendering.
And in the same way? ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron has a genuine sense of duty, community and family. That comes at a cost: breathtaking naivety, verging on an almost self destructive myopia. You CANNOT be all things to all people!
But in just about every chapter, there is a sense of Cameron feeling almost tortured by a vocation to preserve traditional conservatism, whilst integrating and accommodating as many interest groups as possible AND somehow having the grit to be radical and ruthless.
It is why he misjudged the loyalty of Michael Gove: who campaigns for Brexit, despite otherwise cherished friendship with the Camerons and a seemingly limitless power in the Court of Downing Street.
David, if you demote or sideways move the man you otherwise groomed to all but succeed you, then they WILL come and crush you. Like, d’oh?! Same way Prof X misjudges MAGNETO!
- European and Proud?
For the Record contains a passionate defence of the decision to hold THAT referendum. It’s as much about the fact that Cameron loved Europe and Britain within that unit, as it was in any way about any concern even verging on euro-scepticism or appeasement of the UKIP brigade (something he denies, vehemently, as a tactical motivation).
David is complimentary of Nicolas Sarkozy at a personal level (the French leader went to great lengths to ensure the Cameron family were accommodated in France for the death of David’s beloved father). Clearly has an almost grand-maternal memory of Angela Merkel.
But it is also clear that the European machine was not kind to Cameron. Especially as they seemed to see him as an impertinent collaborator with an a (then) impatient and un-sympathetic President Obama.
Cameron’s attempts to negotiate new deals or even approach delicate financial negotiations were treated with scorn and contempt, it seems. That is not why he issued a referendum by any means.
There is, nonetheless, a linear and logical sense that we had PM who genuinely wanted to remain in Europe but without allowing unchecked federalism and that his best intentions could only be enforced, ultimately, at a domestic and public consultation level, hence, a radical yet inevitable referendum.
It is a tragic irony of Shakespearean proportion; a man’s desire for an almost third way compromise, led instead to a most divisive and arguably, destructive, course of events.
In the same way? McAvoy is PERFECT at portraying the frustrated intentions of Prof X.
‘There’s always a speech, Charles‘, says Magneto.
And so it is that anytime Xavier’s intervenes in what he sees as a peaceful and constructive manner and does indeed help save the day..so it is, equally, that he creates an unwitting empowerment of villainy (Raven, Dark Phoenix).
I will reiterate. I think Cameron is a good man.
You simply cannot read his account of the loss of a son (Ivan); the innocent and unending love for his adorably beautiful wife (Samantha: ‘Sam-Cam’) and the sheer relish he takes in being a son and a father and judge him as anything less than a thoroughly, even movingly decent human being.
David is an empath! Bit like..yep: McAvoy’s Prof X!
And yet, NOBODY IS PERFECT! With great successes, come an inflation of ego, inevitably, the temptation to keep seeking mountain moving challenges that write one into history books.
DARK PHOENIX applies well here as an illustration.
The movie has been maligned and yes, it kinda flopped. Rather small scale and underwhelming, visually. It’s not saying anything particularly new for the franchise and simply ends the ‘First Class’ iteration on a darkly damp squib. But it’s NOT a ‘terrible’ film!
Hans Zimmer’s score is hauntingly beautiful, as ever: Inter-Stellar meets Last Samurai.
And the movie is pitch perfect in challenging the very best of McAvoy as he keeps Prof X likeable whilst also showing his blind arrogance in extending ambitions beyond his actual grasp. One set of victories that were lauded inspires our hero to think he can quite literally, reach for the stars. Icarus, Prometheus, Prof X..
..In the same manner? So it is with David Cameron. He delivered truly constitutional equality with the Gay Marriage laws: ‘love is love’.
- And one of his truly great achievements was in neutralising the financial crisis. We faced a new Great Depression. It was averted.
- THAT is a substantial and relevant contribution to our present survival and to economic history. The style, substance and structure of the relevant chapters in ON THE RECORD reflects that. Averting the ‘triple dip’ is a marvel, literally!
- But I fear it fired up David to take on more massive tasks, more world shaping events.
And so it is that we see his making constructive contributions to areas such as devolution and Northern Ireland (the Bloody Sunday report) but also misfire, I fear, in his evangelical zeal to play a role on the world stage in the Arab Spring and Syrian crises.
Dave: humanitarian causes are NOT military objectives!
Prof X: You cannot take the Quin -Jet to SPACE!
Cameron has a pervasive desire to be seen as making a mark; reinventing wheels that simply could have remained turning without any further tinkering. I still have no idea what he was trying to say about education. Even Blair’s approach was clearer and all he ever seemed to say was ‘EDUCATION! EDUCATION! EDUCATION!’ (translation: if it moves, turn it into an Academy!).
(Note that Cameron denies being a Blair fan-boy but they do share a sense of history and patriotic verve (the Olympics is arguably a joint legacy?). And, hubris aside? They are also worthy of balanced praise for the achievements they did oversee).
JAMES MCAVOY is not just a good actor. He is a GREAT one. He NEEDS challenges on stage and screen (hence the forthcoming Cyrano De Bergerac). And, whatever his politics: capturing Cameron’s good intention and yet fatal flaw of hubris, fused to wounded naivety and awkward tight rope walk between elitism and the egalitarian..is PURE McAvoy.
He has played that kind of complexity before as Professor X (a role no doubt soon to be re-cast, sadly, for reboots in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?). And he can do it again as David Cameron.
Ian McDiarmid can play Jeremy Corbyn? Gareth David-Lloyd as George Osborne? And Nick Clegg as Colin Firth (hang on..don’t you mean..aw forget it). 🙂
ON THE RECORD is available now.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC opens at the Playhouse Theatre in November. Dark Phoenix can be purchased for download.
JAMES MURPHY is a mutant and proud..whether he is a conservative is none of your business but if you have Professor X level psychic powers..you know already, right?
‘A very GROOVY mutation!’.