Henry Cavill: Very Special Superhero
Playing Henry Cavill teasing James Bond, American version? With The Man from U.N.C.L.E. he teamed up with Armie Hammer for some sort of offbeat buddy movie of espionage, miles away from his Man of Steel. The actor talks about the movie and his upcoming projects.
The man from U.N.C.L.E is very stylized, with lots of humor. It's quite surprising to see you in such a movie.
Do you mean I'm boring? [laughs] Actually, this is precisely what I liked in the project. It came to be inspired by the James Bond universe and spy movies to make a light film which reinterprets the genre in a new way. However it doesn't mean it's a parody. Guy Ritchie really recycled all this imagery, with pretty girls, cool cars, the design of the 1960s, to offer something different. It's both highly referenced and very modern, because he added his special kind of humor... The same kind of humor as for his other films. My character is a mixture of James Bond played by Sean Connery and the Don Juan of the Dolce Vita, also with a small side of Cary Grant. Finally, that's what we tried to do! What I like about this character, is that he's very sarcastic, and he loves having a good time without complicating things.
Did you choose this role to break your image of stoic superhero?
Actually, to be quite honest, I had applied for the role of Russian agent Illya Kuryakin. But the character of Napoleon Solo pleases me too, because he's very different from Superman. When you put on the costume of a character so iconic, people tend to categorize you. It's for this reason that you must indeed break this image. For a long time I wanted to show that I could do something else. I do not want either to be with a completely delusional role as a transgender character junkie. But I wanted to show the public that I am able to diversify my repertoire. Moreover, people forget that I also made movies and participated in series referring to a particular historical or mythological era... People associate me so much to Superman that they even forget that I'm not American. Nevertheless it is one of the first criticisms people made me when I got the part!
Even so, you were less criticized than Ben Affleck for Batman: your physique lends itself rather well for the character.
You can't imagine the number of comments I received from people who were offended because Superman was played by a Brit. Anyway, useless to look for an explanation for reasonings advanced by trolls. As the fact of saying that the British actors invade US productions or come all from the theater, this is nonsense. Unlike Benedict Cumberbach or Eddie Redmayne, I didn't follow classically trained theater. But it's like that in that environment,you are stuck with that label.
When you talk about categorizations, do you mean that they are made by the directors?
No, I think that filmmakers are able to judge the performance of an actor without stopping in his origin or in his superhero costume. They know very well that it's difficult to embody such a character while providing some subtleties. The average public, on the other hand, doesn't realize this work. Lambda viewer feels emotions but do not really know why. It's like when you watch a judicial or science series. If you do not work in this environment, you do not realize if the characters actually convey a significant meaning.
Moreover, Guy Ritchie declared that he had trusted you and that he had left with you quite a lot of freedom during the shooting.
Yes, it's true. One of the reasons why I made the film, it's also because Guy was the director, and his approach seemed interesting to me. I didn't know anything about the series. It is the speech of Guy that convinced me during our first meetings to discuss the project. All the casting found itself at his home in London to drink some wine and relax. Straightaway, he told us that he wanted it to be a collaborative effort, that actors improvise and contribute as much as possible to flesh out the characters.It changed me from Superman! Don't get me wrong, I put so much heart into his work for Napoleon Solo as for Clark Kent, but they are two really different characters. The first one is more human, more relaxed. He thinks to himself first before thinking of others. He isn't tormented by an identity problem, he's just himself and he takes it easy.
Were you tempted to contact Robert Vaughn, who embodied Napoleon in the series?
No, because I find that it's dangerous to compare to another actor. We risk too much to be despite ourselves influenced, while it is essential to remain so original and new as possible. But if we meet one day, I shall be delighted to discuss with him of his interpretation.
Were some stunts more difficult than others on the set?
As often on this type of shooting, I injured myself. A small snap, quite a lot of bumps, bruises, some tendinitis... It is normal when we go all out. But we were never really in danger, because everything is under control. Considering the amount that represents the film's budget, ending up with a corpse on their hands is the last thing the production wants... Then there still had a scene where I felt bad. It's a sequence where Armie is stuck under water with a weight hanging on foot, approximately eight meters deep. I had to dive fully clothed, swim to him and go up carrying him. except that for the first shot, he has not withdrawn the weight hanging on his foot and I did not realize it in the moment. So I had a lot of trouble to reach the surface! I thought I was going to sink! Of course, I knew that a lifeguard was there when needed, but it was still very scary.
Everything was filmed in live action?
Yes. Afterwards the green screens don't bother me all that much. I'm now used to it! Just learn some techniques and then we made it. The important is to know how to build mentally a room and to find a way there. You must be able to see it in detail. Otherwise, they will realize during the postsynchronisation when adding all the elements of the scene, and the result is wobbly. This is hard work but once you understood the thing, here becomes automatic. Sometimes, you even are influencing the creation of the set.
That is to say?
Well, some special effects chiefs, very talented, also like to adapt themselves according to your movements. They discuss with you so you can visualize the scene together. It is a true collaborative effort. This is how we proceed on The Tudors.
And about Batman v Superman: Dawm of Justice?
Here, the designers had a very clear idea of what they wanted! [laughs] Anyway, I was very happy to be back into my costume for this new film. Being Superman, it is really a childhood dream! Ostensibly he looks perfect, kind and serious, but he also has a dark side...
Many find the character too conservative and not enough in tune with its time...
I know that some of his character traits are not to the liking of everyone. Some would like to see him decked out with some flaws or has a little more humor. I partly agree, it could actually make him less distant and more friendly. That said, be able to embody such an icon of pop culture is a huge honor. Thanks to this role, I see myself constantly provide scenarios of independent films, because we know that having the Superman actor engaged in a project will more easily obtain financing. This role has changed my life, and it's great to be part of such franchise.
In view of the Batman v Superman trailer; it seems increasingly clear that the confrontation between the two superheroes is linked to the destruction caused by Superman in Man of Steel...
Warner Bros. has a great plan for the entire DC universe. So, all the elements, all the intrigues, come together somehow. They don't think the movies independently, but have a global vision of the world they want to create.
The second part of Man of Steel won't happen until 2021. How do you think, why the movie has been postponed for so long?
As I told you, everything is designed so that the films meet them, and sincerely, I don't mind waiting a bit before being alone showing a superhero film. It's more fun to work in teams and it also puts things in perspective. I play Superman but I'm not him and above all, I don't think I am! There is a big difference, and it has always been clear in my mind. I often joke with people who call out to me in public by calling me Superman. I tell them that I'm a normal guy and that they should not count on me to save them! [laughs] Those who like to be taken for supermen are very bad at the time of the fall. I've been lucky to have been able to keep feet on the ground.