For 27th June, 2008 will see the release of his first English-language production, Wanted - and the film is one hell of a grand entrance to Hollywood, so good it is likely to send viewers scurrying through the director's entire back catalogue.
The heroes of Bekmambetov's films tend to be unassuming schlubs who harbour hidden strengths, and so it is with Bekmambetov himself who, for all his superpowers as a mannerist filmmaker, cuts a softly spoken, jovially gnome-like figure at the London press conference where he is promoting Wanted. "I just did what I'm doing in every movie", the director states modestly, "I never think about how I'm going to change the world". A more gushing brand of enthusiasm is left to McAvoy: "This was going to be absolutely mental", he declares, adding, "I knew from watching Night Watch and Day Watch that I was very excited". Indeed, anyone who has seen those films will agree that Bekmambetov can be relied on to deliver what McAvoy terms "something other than just another action movie."
The star of Inside I'm Dancing, The Last King of Scotland and Atonement claims that the "incredible change of pace and style and everything for me" represented by the dark superheroics of Wanted was precisely what drew him to the project. "I really didn't know what I was letting myself in for," he says, "I never go down to the gym." Never, that is, until he was suddenly subjected to three months of constant training to get him into shape for the rôle of bullet-bending assassin Wesley Gibson.
He ended up doing a lot of his own stunts, and even improvised a swing at co-star Angelina Jolie during a punishing fight sequence - "because I felt completely undermined as a man". His character certainly does take a beating in the film. Bekmambetov emphasises the importance of casting McAvoy in this most unlikely of parts: "He created a real character, a real person." McAvoy too enjoyed fleshing out the dynamic killer who starts out as a disgruntled drone afflicted with "postmodern depression", because it was interesting "to create somebody active from such apathy."
With cast and crew coming from so many different places, the production required all manner of cultural adjustments. "It was difficult for me to understand what James was saying, and I'm sure it was difficult for him to understand," concedes Bekmambetov, before suggesting that "only 10% of communication was made verbally", and that he had to trust the Americans in his crew to guide him through the more alien aspects of stateside culture. McAvoy, meanwhile, had to eradicate his Scots brogue for the film, in order to fit into a Chicago setting. As preparation, he says, "I watched a lot of telly... a lot of Battlestar Galactica." No wonder the film seems so otherworldly.
Where star and director differ most, though, is in their views on the reception of their films. After categorically quashing the rumour that he is to play Bilbo Baggins in the forthcoming Hobbit films (even though he claims to "identify with hobbits more than anybody else"), McAvoy admits he would always prefer good reviews to good box office. With a sideways glance to his producer, Bekmambetov counters: "If it'll be 20 people who like this film or 20 millions, it's a big difference. I really like an audience, a big audience... I'm not doing movies for myself."
Timur need not worry – with its strong performances, economic scripting, sly humour and eye-goggling set-pieces, Wanted is going to be huge.
Wanted goes on general release on 25th June, 2008.