Huge thanks to @FiftyShadesAS for the scans!
Henry Cavill has singlehandedly redefined a new breed in stoic, squared-jawed heroism. Largely down to his vaulting performance as the Man of Steel, as well as his previous turns as Charles Brandon in The Tudors and Theseus in Immortals, he has managed to cultivate a leading man image from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
But secretly, he just wants to be the funny guy.
“I love comedy, but it’s not something that necessarily comes my way,” he says, looking exceedingly hunky in a form-fitting dark sweater as we sit down to chat in a suite in Claridge’s. “I worked on a Woody Allen film years ago and would love the opportunity to go further with it, like slapstick humour."
Before he goes all Adam Sandler on us, the 32-year-old hunk from Jersey, England is suavely debonair in a big budget remake of legendary ’60s series, The Man from UNCLE. Cavill amps up the cool in the Guy Richie-directed adventure as Napoleon Solo, a dashing yet dirty art dealer recruited by the CIA to join forces with KGB agent, Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), to help locate a mysterious criminal organisation with a deadly nuclear bomb.
Achingly hip and fashionable, it’s an enjoyable romp for the sculpted star who’s currently puttingthe finishing touches to his second outing as Clark Kent, this time doing battle alongside Ben Affleck in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not that Cavill is giving much away — or indeed anything — on the SGD280 million (translated price) epic as he’s sworn to secrecy by the gods of Tinseltown.
But the star — inexplicably single since splitting with Fast and Furious actress, Gina Carano — happily talks about his chic new role, his tattered wardrobe, beating the bullies, rejection, his shaky skills as a barman and once being known as “The Unluckiest Man in Hollywood”.
ESQUIRE: Probably unfair to ask if you were a fan of the origin series?
HENRY CAVILL: When it originally aired? [laughs] Yes, of course I was. Watched it from the first broadast. I’m actually far older than I let on. [laughs]
ESQ: Did you sit down with the box set then?
HC: I didn’t. I know Armie [Hammer; Cavill’s co- star in UNCLE] and a few of the others did, but I felt like we were doing something very different here and wanted to stay true to that. The big attraction was [director] Guy Ritchie for me. This story, it was... just so cool. As is Guy, and putting the two together, it’s going to deliver something very special. And the tone he sets on set is all about fun. His thing was: “We’re making movies, we ought to be having a lot of fun. We’re doing it wrong otherwise.” And that makes it so much more enjoyable. And if things got too serious, he’d tell everyone to stop and snap out of it.
ESQ: Tell me more about Napoleon Solo...
HC: He’s an asshole with a heart. [laughs] American, bit of an Anglophile, with an Irish background. His father was a janitor, but he managed to infiltrate English high society. He loves it so much, dealing art on the black market, but ends up getting caught by the CIA and being blackmailed into working for them. And becomes one of their best — even though he’s still not one of them.
ESQ: Your accent. I read somewhere Clark Gable was the inspiration?
HC: That was my original aim, but Guy kept saying, “I don’t know if this is right. People are already well aware you’re English, and it just sounds like you’re rubbish at an American accent.” That was no good, so we just started introducing some Americanisms, elongated “Rs” and such, and it ended up as a Transatlantic twang, somewhat affected. A weird hybrid.
ESQ: The role was originally meant for Tom Cruise. Does that make it special for you, to know you’re in the same league?
HC: Well, firstly, I didn’t replace Tom Cruise... the specifications of the character changed and I was a suitable fit. And very nice of you to say, but I am definitely nowhere near the same league. Very few people are, in my humble opinion.
ESQ: The look of the film is achingly hip and cool, helped a great deal by the fashion. And you are rocking some awesome suits and shades. It must have been a nice change from the red cape?
HC: Definitely had more choice, [laughs] I love clothes, and I loved the classic, tailored suits I got to wear; real quality. What I love about the ’60s is there was flair. That dash of colour, the sharp accent, it was so interesting to see how they experimented with style back then. Probably more so than we do now.
ESQ: I read earlier that because of UNCLE and Superman it’s quite hard for you to find clothes that fit because your body shape is constantly in flux. Unusual problem to have...
HC: It’s not so much unusual as expensive. When I bulk up, I can’t fit into any of my clothes, so I have to go out and buy a new wardrobe, essentially. And then, they’re all hanging off me when I’m smaller.
ESQ: You were once known as “the unluckiest man in Hollywood” after coming very close to a string of iconic roles. Do you feel quite so unlucky now?
HC: [laughs] Now that’s quite a title. [laughs] One to be proud of. I see myself as incredibly lucky with everything right now. Incredible opportunities, living the dream.
ESQ: Did you see yourself as unlucky with the loss of certain roles?
HC: I see it more as timing. Timing has been everything for me and I’m grateful for that. Getting the chance to grow and evolve, take my time. I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason. Certainly when it comes to your career. And in this business, 99 percent is rejection. I’m no different from anyone else.
ESQ: But you were so close to Batman, Bond, Edward Cullen, Superman — did you ever think of quitting?
HC: See now, much of this is Internet rumours. Batman, I didn’t even screen test so there was no disappointment there. Twilight, there was talk, but I was too old for the part by the time they started making the film. Bond, yeah, I wasn’t thrilled.
ESQ: Did you think about quitting? Rejection is tough, but coming so close, and getting runner-up is almost worse?
HC: It’s all experience. I never wanted to quit. I had belief in myself, which I learned from my family, my parents. It’s weird, after certain rejections, you believe in yourself more. It spurs you on. But in saying that, there were down times. Times when I was out in LA for months, with no job out of it and forced to come home, back to London and get a job as a barman, which I was just awful at. And I’d save up to pay for the flights and the accommodation to get back out to LA to audition, and again, come back after a few months with nothing. But I never wanted to quit.
ESQ: Why were you such a terrible barman?
HC: Couldn’t make cocktails. [laughs] And I worked in a cocktail bar, just off Trafalgar Square. I was awful. I said that I could make them to get the job, but when it came down to it, I hadn’t a clue.
ESQ: And look where you are now.
HC: Yea. Still can’t make a decent cocktail. [laughs]
ESQ: Daniel Craig only has a certain amount of time left. Is Bond the next dream after Superman?
HC: I’m not quite done with Superman just yet. [laughs] Steady on. As I’ve said, many times before, I would relish the chance. It would be amazing. Who knows? And I think Daniel Craig has a few more Bonds left in him yet.
ESQ: Rumours say Spectre is going to be his last.
HC: Rumours say a lot of things.
ESQ: Batman vs Superman...
ESQ: I can see you’re dying to spill the beans.
HC: Hmmm... [laughs]
ESQ: Has it wrapped, or are you still filming?
HC: Honestly, and I’m not being rude, but I cannot say anything. And I know myself, once I reveal some tiny detail, it’s all going to come out.
ESQ: How is it working with Ben Affleck?
HC: I’m a big fan of his. I think he’s an extraordinary talent. He’s got his own signature style. He does things his own way and I really respect that. He’s had his ups and downs, and now, ups again, and I think that helps cultivate a wealth of character in a career. And a person.
ESQ: What does it mean to you to be playing Superman again?
HC: Just the honour. It really, truly is an honour, not just in getting to do it once, but to be granted the opportunity again. It’s magical. And yes, look, stepping in front of the mirror, with the costume on, I... you cannot describe the feeling. It’s just so cool.
ESQ: I have to say, though, Batman is no competition for Superman. He has no special powers, just gadgets. How is that going to work?
ESQ: I see that I need to move on here. You’ve spoken about the bullying in school because of your weight. Did it have a negative effect on you?
HC: Look, it’s bullying. So many go through it, I went through it. I was overweight in school and kids are kids. They can be very mean. I was an easy target. Though it wasn’t so much the name-calling, it was more that I felt very alone. I was so quiet. Didn’t talk much. That has more of an effect. But then again, how many young kids, teenagers feel the same way? It’s a part of growing up.
ESQ: It really la the ultimate underdog story — overweight, bullied schoolboy grows up to be Superman.
HC: You can’t write this stuff. [laughs]
ESQ: How has life changed for you since Man of Steel?
HC: Not hugely, if I’m honest. I still live the same life, do the same things. Probably the biggest change is I’m busy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m busy all the time and it keeps you out of trouble.
ESQ: The spotlight, the paparazzi?
HC: Oh, that! I’m fine with it. I think it’s much harder for the people who are with me to deal with it — due to the fact that it takes us a lot longer to get from A to B than before. It’s a pain for them, I think. What used to take 10 minutes, now takes a half hour because I’m stopping for photographs and saying hello to people. I don’t mind it.
WHILE CAVILL IS TACITURN ABOUT HIS ROLE IN BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, HE LETS A FEW OTHER TITBITS FLY WITH REGARDS TO THE MAN FROM UNCLE.
On drawing from the ’60s as a frame of reference
“I remember my brother bringing back a piece of [the Berlin Wall when it came down]. But even today, there’s the idea of constant threat. And the great thing about the ’60s, and maybe today as well, is that despite this underlying threat at all times, people are still going about their lives and just really enjoying it.
“Right now, there’s always the threat of terrorism, non-stop, especially in the US, so we can appreciate how it may have felt. I mean, it’s not quite the same as nuclear apocalypse, but maybe, we can be a bit more in tune with it because nuclear apocalypse is something that is really difficult to fathom. A bunch of people getting hurt is easier to imagine.”
On playing Superman and Napoleon Solo
“It’s the joy of being an actor. You get to play these different roles, and then see yourself in these sort of imaginary characters. It’s fun. I wouldn’t want to play the same character over and over again forever. You’ve got to mix it up, and break it up. Otherwise, it just gets a bit boring.
“And as I said, Napoleon is really fun to play. And as much as Superman is a very stoic character, it’s also very cool to be Superman. He’s got superpowers, and he does some pretty wild stuff. It is fun to switch and change.”
On his time on UNCLE
“It was fantastic. Most enjoyable movie I’ve worked on. Most fun. We all walked away as friends. We’ll see each other again, as friends. It’s hard to say more, really. It was just relaxed.”