You were able to interview Henry Cavill while he was in suit on set. What did you ask him?
It was a roundtable interview with other journalists, so I only got a couple of questions in, and then I wasted one of them. I asked if I could hear his American accent, but since they were doing action shots and stunts that didn’t involve any dialogue, he wasn’t doing it that day. It’s something he had to work his way into in the morning and pretty much do all day to be comfortable with it. Plus, it’s not something a reader would have cared about, so it was just dumb that I picked that one, but I was a little nervous and over-excited the whole day. We were in the middle of downtown Smallville and stuff was on fire with helicopters going overhead. We had just come from the Kent Farm where I got to go in the barn to see and even touch the ship. I knew I was one of the few people who got to see it at that time, so I was on a natural high.
Someone else asked Henry what Superman comics he’d read and since I do these articles for Movies.com, I’ve already posted about the ones he mentioned. They were the Death and Return, Red Son and a couple of others. I chimed in at that point and recommended “Superman: Kal,” and explained that it was an Elseworlds story from 1995 that supposed that Kal-El’s ship landed in Medieval England instead of the modern, rural US. He seemed genuinely intrigued, so just last week at the press conference, I gave my personal copy to his publicist to give to him. I hope he enjoyed it, and perhaps I’ll find out if I see him at the premiere. You never know.
Did it feel like you were talking to Superman?
It honestly did. I can’t speak to what he’s like in his home life or personal relationships, but he seems like a genuinely nice and open guy. As I said in a piece I did recently, he’s really down to Earth, at least when he’s not doing wire work. There’s a certain humbleness that Superman always has to have, which is why he can’t even give himself the name “Superman.” That always has to be done by Lois or the people who see him doing the great things he does. Henry certainly seemed very humble about himself and happy to be in the position of playing Superman. If it has gone to his head at all, it certainly doesn’t show. I think many of the best Supermen actors have been somewhat similar.
What can you tell us about your time on the Man of Steel set? Any interesting or funny stories?
Well, it was funny being there with all these other movie journalists, a couple of whom were also Superman fans. As the day went on and I was asking certain kinds of questions, they sort of realized that I really knew what I was talking about beyond general movie stuff. For instance, we walked by this fake storefront called “Ezra’s Mail Depot,” and I said, “Oh wow! Ezra’s Mail Depot! That’s so cool!” and everyone, including the producer, Deb Snyder, who was showing us around, had no idea what I was talking about. They looked at me weirdly like there was a soundtrack, and that was the moment when the record scratch sound comes in and the music stops. So I said “Ezra Small … Founder of Smallville…” Halfway through the day, when we had downtime, the other journalists started asking ME questions, and I was happy to share what I could. Technically, it’s all competition in journalism, but I’m not that competitive.
When I arrived in the hotel room the night before, the phone started ringing and it was Warner Brothers telling me that there had been this huge leak with the press on the set of Dark Knight Rises. Some interview that shouldn’t have been out for at least nine months was all over the place, so they were worried and they nearly cancelled the Man of Steel visit. They wanted to make sure I could hold my tongue for nearly two years, so of course I said yes. But, if I hadn’t already flown out there, it probably would have been cancelled all together.
What was it like meeting Henry Cavill in person?
I have to assume he was exhausted, as was the rest of the cast at that point. And, it was only day 24 of shooting. He’s just so humble and personable. I can only imagine what things are like for him now with everyone in the world knowing his face. At the press conference on the WB lot last week, they had to shoo him away from reporters and even as he was leaving, he saw someone with a camera and stopped to smile. I think it says a lot about how patient and caring he is toward his fans. I know there were still people with questions that he didn’t get to answer, like mine for example. But taking that kind of thing personally just reminds me too much of a few supervillain origin stories to really mind it.
How did you end up doing this set visit?
It’s a long story, but I find it easiest to just say, “Turns out I’m awesome.”
But seriously, it’s because of the place in fandom that I’ve worked out for myself, as well as the people who have believed in me. I’m a fan first and a journalist second. I’ve loved The Superman Homepage for years and even asked to do reviews at one point around 2004 and was turned down. Then in 2007, I saw some piece that the editor, Steve Younis, did about how to make the site better and they wanted reviews of some previous material. I felt like I was a decent enough writer, threw my hat in the ring, and ended up reviewing old episodes of Superman: The Animated Series from 1996-1999. I became good friends with Steve Younis and some of the other writers like Michael Bailey who did a comic book podcast called “Views From the Longbox” and he has a Superman/Comic Book blog called “The Fortress of Baileytude.” One day out of the blue, he sent me an email saying he’d like to do a new weekly podcast about my favorite era of Superman comics, which is pretty much from 1986-2006. We’re still doing it and we are nearing the end of the 1993 comics. It’s available on iTunes and The Superman Homepage. We have a lot of listeners and they’re great. We have a lot of fun and have interviewed quite a few of the creators along the way.
When you Google “Superman” the Homepage is the first link, Fandango found it and contacted Steve Younis asking if he knew a “Superman Expert” who could write. Steve connected us and I started doing my “Man of Steel Countdown column” for their sister site, Movies.com, in May or June of 2011. In August, my new editor Erik said Movies.com was invited to the set and asked if I wanted to do it. So I said, “Sure. Whatever.” I was so excited. I didn’t realize at the time that there were only a handful of sites invited so there were just eleven of us total. I was incredibly lucky. My only hope was that it wouldn’t turn out to be a bad movie. I soon figured out that it was going to be excellent.
Have you always been a fan of Superman?
As far back as I can remember. I wore out a copy of the first movie that my mom recorded off of ABC when I was a toddler. There are photos of me dressing up as Superman to go to pre-school when I was three, and it wasn’t even Halloween. It was just something I did from time to time. I don’t remember not loving Superman.
There are certain things that helped bolster my fandom. I grew up in Williamstown, Massachusetts where Christopher Reeve had a home. His son, Matt, was on my baseball team for two summers when I was seven and eight years old, which was around the time that Superman IV was out. I met Christopher a few times and he had just gotten together with Dana, so she was there, too. I remember asking him which Superman was the most fun to film and he said II. I also had a HUGE crush on Helen Slater as Supergirl, so I wore out a VHS copy of that, too. Of all the Superman-family actors I’ve met, she’s the only one where I was just really nervous. She’s still stunning and my wife has come to terms with the fact that I would only leave her for Helen Slater.
When I was a teen, Lois & Clark came on TV and I loved it. I couldn’t wait for a new episode. I also was in a bookstore right as Roger Stern’s “Death and Life of Superman” novel came out. So I raided the couch for change and pulled together 20 bucks somehow to get it. Since it’s based on the comics and gave a lot of info from earlier stories, I learned about that continuity. I started collecting in a big way. I did stop when I got a girlfriend and went off to college, but started back up again afterwards and backtracked through everything I missed.
How do you think Henry's Man of Steel will fit into the film and TV canon of Reeve, Routh, Welling, Reeves, etc.?
Having seen the film, but not being able to talk about it, I have to tread carefully here. I think he’s the perfect choice and he fits in completely. I’ve seen a ton of real spoilers from people who have also seen it and aren’t honoring their promise to not talk about the film, and that annoys me. Some are even questioning if it’s still Superman because of certain moments, but as someone who is considered an “expert,” and that’s not a title I like to give to myself, I say it fits perfectly. I wish I could say more, but I just can’t. See the film. Judge for yourself. And, even talk to me about it if you disagree.
There’s no question in my mind that Henry is perfect in the role, possibly even more so than some of the previous Superman actors, but I like certain things about them all.
I know that some people will say, “Well, you just like Superman so you can’t criticize it,” to which I respond, “Because it’s Superman, I’m HYPER-critical.” And I still stand by my 10 out of 10 rating. It’s THAT good.
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