A slightly built actor from Glasgow is being hailed as Hollywood's new hunk apparent, destined to inherit the multi-million dollar mantle of A-list stars such as Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

James McAvoy, 28, is among a small clutch of up-and-coming actors that Hollywood is putting its faith - and money - behind in the hope that they can strike box office gold by winning the hearts of a younger generation of cinema-goers.

Over the next year, the major studios are sinking more than a billion dollars into films featuring faces relatively unknown within Hollywood. McAvoy stars in the potential blockbuster Wanted, with Angelina Jolie, and also has lead roles in the adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement, opposite Keira Knightley, and Becoming Jane, about Jane Austen.

McAvoy caught Hollywood's attention with his role as Mr Tumnus in the Chronicles of Narnia and his BAFTA-nominated role in The Last King of Scotland.

He is being ranked alongside Sam Worthington, from Australia, and the young American actors Emile Hirsch, Shia LaBeouf and Channing Tatum as one of the names to watch. If the gamble pays off, the industry will have found replacements for the huge names that have opened films for decades but are now considered too old to seduce the so-called "Millennial Generation", those born between 1982 and 2000. Commentators say such a casting call for an intake of A-list stars, who could earn up to $20 million a film, is rare.

"This is a window that opens every decade for the stars we're going to be watching for the next 30 years," Joseph Middleton, a casting director who recently auditioned scores of 20-something male actors for Doug Liman's film Jumper, told the Los Angeles Times.

McAvoy, who for years appeared in British television dramas such as Shameless and State of Play - he is married to his Shameless co-star Anne-Marie Duff - recently took the lead role in the low-profile film Starter for Ten. But the graduate of Glasgow's Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama will have his real box office test next spring with the lead role in Wanted, in which he joins a secret league of assassins. The film also features Morgan Freeman.

As the Sunday Herald put it: "He has, as Ewan McGregor did in his earlier career, that unlikely pasty Scots totty appeal."

By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
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