James McAvoy: We shouldn’t do away with the BBC – even if it could be better at diversity

The X-Men actor returns to the Corporation he's "always loved" for a new radio drama this weekend

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The list of celebrities supporting the BBC as it faces government cuts continues to grow, and now James McAvoy has followed his X-Men co-star Ian McKellen in expressing his belief in the value of the Corporation, as he returns for a new Radio 4 drama. 

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“I love the BBC, I’ve always loved it,” the actor told RadioTimes.com. “I don’t know if it’s perfect, I really don’t – it probably isn’t. But then what institution is?”

“To have an entity that makes material and content for the nation and it’s not commercially driven, I think is really really important. Even if it isn’t working perfectly right now, I think it’s not to say we should do away with it. Because once we’ve done away with it, that’s it – it’s gone forever.”

McAvoy’s comments come in the wake of a green paper from Culture secretary John Whittingdale earlier this year, which called for a fundamental review of what the BBC does and the way it is funded, questioning whether the Corporation should continue to strive to be “all things to all people”.

“I would like to see more diversity, and more proportional representation in terms of who is depicted on screen,” the actor went on, “but there’s nothing wrong with the idea of the place.” 

“We can make it work better, and we shouldn’t throw it out, because there’s nothing like it. Every time I go to America, they’re just desperately jealous of it.”

McAvoy’s current BBC project is a radio drama version of Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel Heart of Darkness, taken from a script originally written by Orson Welles which never became a movie after the director settled on making Citizen Kane for his first feature instead.

“Orson Welles changes the main protagonist from an Englishman into an American,” McAvoy said, “and that was one of the things that really drew me to it – that voice of that nourish, sometimes private eye, always antihero narrator.

“It takes you up the river, into the heart of the Congo and into the heart of this dictatorship really, that this European guy Kurtz has set up around him, in much the same way as we’ve seen in the film adaptation of Heart of Darkness, which was Apocalypse Now. 

“It’s really this sort of crazy, prescient sort of warning about the types of men of Europe, just before World War Two, who were doing what Kurtz is trying to do. And very clearly and overtly, doing just about everything but mentioning his name, warning people about Hitler.” 

He concluded: “I’d say if you’re a fan of radio drama, you’re gonna get a treat. I think the quality of it is up there, and I think it’s a real journey in tension and terror.”

“And if you don’t listen to radio drama, I’d say you are in for a massive, massive surprise, and it will get you listening to even more.” 

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Unmade Movies: Heart of Darkness will be on BBC Radio 4 today (Saturday 24th October) at 2:30pm