The British actor, best known for his work on Showtime's period drama The Tudors, was in the top three or four contenders since Day 1, says one insider, somewhat fitting since the 27-year old has tried out for superhero roles before.
Cavill was a leading contender for Superman when Warners was reviving the franchise in the mid-2000s. He was on McG's shortlist before the director was replaced by Bryan Singer and the role went to Brandon Routh, and Cavill first came to Nolan's attention when he vied for the role of Bruce Wayne opposite Christian Bale in Nolan’s Batman Begins.
According to sources, Cavill's closest competitor this time around was Matthew Goode, another British actor who was one of the stars of Snyder and Warners' Watchmen comic book movie (he played genius entrepreneur Ozymandias.) Goode was also in contention for the title role in Fox’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and is said to have taken himself out of that race in order to focus on Superman.
Warners and Nolan auditioned actors in Los Angeles, New York, and London in November and December, with someone in the 28- to 32-year-old range as the ideal candidate. In addition to Cavill and Goode, among those who met or were under consideration were White Collar star Matthew Bomer, Social Network's Winkelvoss twins Armie Hammer, True Blood actor Joe Manganiello (scheduling with the HBO show was a factor) and Colin O’Donaghue, who stars opposite Anthony Hopkins in The Rite.
Cavill was invited for a callback in January, where he met Snyder face-to-face for the first time, according to a source.
The final decision came down last week, and the Nolan secrecy machine was in such force that only a handful of execs knew the choice. In fact, many top Warners execs found out only after Cavill had been called Sunday morning.