Both James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart touch their right temple when Professor X uses his telepathic ability. I can't think of another mutant who does something similar so what's the reason for this?

Does he physically need to do it or is it a habit? Is it a visual clue for the audience? Does he do it in the comics?

  • 2
    The same could be asked for Magneto: who uses gestures to manipulate metal but is also capable of doing so without moving. I'm guessing visual cue, but maybe there is some canon purpose... Commented May 28, 2014 at 11:58
  • @JohnSmithOptional I actually thought of that (and the various file/ice manipulators) but didn't want to complicate the question.
    – Liath
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 12:00
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    I always figured that fire/ice users were focusing the scope of their powers with gestures, hence the need to 'point' at things... Commented May 28, 2014 at 12:03
  • Or maybe it's not a visual cue for the audience, but a physical cue for Xavier/Magneto, thus as you say a habit, to somehow support his merely mind-based activity by a physical action, the same way we tend to count with fingers or need to intuitively tap with the foot to the rythm of music (or, most similar, just need to touch our head when thinking about a hard problem).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 13:04
  • @NapoleonWilson - Interesting thought. I wonder if there is canon reference for being able to "focus" the power mentally by providing a visual cue, i.e., hand clenching focusing it to crush, etc.
    – JohnP
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 20:05

2 Answers 2


Professor X does not need to touch his temple when he uses his telepathic powers. I've always thought this was a visual cue for the audience. He can be seen using his powers several times in films when he's having a casual mental conversation, using Cerebro, or touching someone else.

Using Cerebro Jean

He's also sometimes depicted in the comics using his powers without touching his head.

No touching 1 No touching 2 No touching 3

However, this is a strong visual cue, so many comics artists have used it over the years.

Touching 1 Touching 2 Touching 3 Touching 4 Touching 5

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    I think it's strictly a visual cue used in either comic book or on the big screen to let the observer know, Professor X is getting ready to kick some butt! This is a time tested film technique. Commented May 28, 2014 at 14:15
  • 3
    Definitely a visual cue. If you note, in every panel or clip that is used in your example, there is either the hand touching the head, or another emphasis of "using dah powahz!". The hands over Dr. Grey, the thought bubbles, the rings/trails emanating from the head, Cerebro interface, etc. All of these serve to focus attention on the face/head and alert you that mutantness is in progress.
    – JohnP
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 20:03

It is something McAvoy came up with. I heard it in an interview during the time First Class was released:

Q. How difficult is it to portray a lot of emotion just by rubbing your temple?

James McAvoy: Well, I saw what everybody else was doing and they all got to do really cool ninja stuff. But I don’t really get to do anything. So, I thought I had to physicalise my power and came up with the master-stoke of touching my temple!

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    I hope he was being facetious because he's far from the first person to do that. Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 14:12
  • @JohnnyBones: That may be but Patrick Stewart hardly touched his head while using his powers; McAvoy consistently does.
    – bobbyalex
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 14:15
  • From reading the rest of the interview ("...and came up with the master-stoke of touching my temple! I went through three months of intensive training [laughs].l I hooked up with a couple of temple ninjas who were based out of Dagenham [laughs].") it seems pretty clear he was facetious. He is definitely not the first Xavier to touch his head, as Bill's answer explains, even if McAvoy might have come up with his own style of head-touching.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 14:56

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