HOLLYWOOD actor James McAvoy has revealed he first turned down the leading role in The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby as the subject matter felt too close to home.

The 35-year-old star, who is father to four-year-old son Brendan, initially passed on the role of Connor Ludlow in 2010, before agreeing to star in Ned Benson's three-part film, which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival last night.

"My son just got a great deal older so I was happier to do a film about this subject matter," he said last night at the film's London premiere.

"When I was asked before, he had literally just been born a couple of days before and I was like, 'I'm not touching this film', because a lot of it was about parental loss."

Written by Benson making his feature-length directorial debut, The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby, which stars Jessica Chastain as Connor's wife Eleanor Rigby, is split into three parts - Him, Her and Them. Each instalment explores a relationship between a young married couple living in New York from different perspectives.

McAvoy, from Glasgow, admitted: "It was very easy to get into character. The character isn't a million miles away from who I am and the thing that defines him in this movie, I can relate to quite easily. So it wasn't hard to get into character, it was just hard to stay in character. It stays with you."

Benson said the X-Men star was his top choice from the start. "James was my first choice to play this role," the 37-year-old filmmaker said.

"When I went to him at first, he'd just had his son so the subject matter was a little uncomfortable for him, but then I had scheduling issues with another actor and I went back to him. When he said yes, that was like a dream come true for me."