James McAvoy, from lovable to tough cop

Welcome To The Punch, starring James McAvoy (right) and Mark Strong.

Is there any girl out there who isn't in love with James McAvoy?

The Scottish actor with the clear blue peepers has a boyish charm, a sort of bright-eyed bushy-tailed foxiness that women adore.

Over the course of his career, the lovely lad's tended to play rather lovable characters - naive, nice guys and idealists.

From The Last King Of Scotland and Atonement to The Conspirator and X-Men: First Class, he's almost always worn the white hat.

But now, all of a sudden, he's changing hats.

When we last saw McAvoy in Trance a few months back, he was a madman. Now, here in British thriller Welcome To The Punch, he toughens up as a morally dodgy cop with a score to settle against the crook (Mark Strong) who shot him, nearly ruining his career.

The movie opened here on Thursday.

His intense, physical and very manly performance proves that the 34-year-old - who has a son, three, with English actress-wife Anne-Marie Duff, 42 - is finally coming of age.

He's got a beard and everything!

Are you deliberately supporting the British film industry by choosing projects like this?

I've just been very lucky that the last three films I've done in Britain happen to have offered me very diverse roles. If they didn't, then maybe I'd have to go elsewhere.

If I can work here I will work here and if I'm forced to go abroad because there isn't work here, I'm happy to do that too.

But we all want to work in our own backyard, don't we?

Did you get hurt making this film?

I've weirdly never been seriously injured doing an action movie.

I got an ear infection on Wanted because I was lying in a bath of candle wax and it got inside my ear and started to mess it up.

That's about the worst thing that has happened to me on an action movie.

One of the main themes in the film is about arming the UK police with guns. Do you think the police should be armed?

I don't think there's any real argument for that at the moment.

Statistically I don't see the point, especially when you look at America, where the police are all armed, and you see the rate of gun crime over there.

I don't know; maybe I need a better education on the topic but it seems we're not doing too badly when it comes to gun violence in this country.

So what was it about Welcome To The Punch that drew you in?

Its aspirational quality and the fact it seemed very determined not to be your usual gangster, geezer, street, apples and pears, London crime film.

I've seen great versions of that, but I liked its willingness to not rely on gritty British realism.

That seemed quite refreshing to me and although it is definitely taking strong pointers from the Hong Kong action genre, (director) Michael Mann and all that, it felt quite fresh in terms of what Britain produces.

How do you prepare yourself for emotional scenes?

You just open up, really.

You make sure you're in an open place and that you're in relative contact with your body and heart and all that stuff. Then you go for it.

Generally if it doesn't come it's usually a sign that it shouldn't, you know what I mean?

You're trying too hard to make something happen that actually isn't dramatically necessary or is just problematic.

Nine times out of 10 it just happens.

You're a guy who values his privacy, but is that getting harder?

No, not really. I think people are quite used to the fact I don't talk about my private life. The paparazzi don't usually bother me.

I get stopped in the street, but people are nice and I don't mind that - I've never minded that.

Are you on Twitter and all that stuff?

No, I'm not. You can be on Twitter and use the medium respectfully. I just choose not to.

I'm only 34 but I feel like I'm 134. New technology? I'm very slow to catch up with it so Facebook, Twitter and all that… HD telly? I don't even have one of them.