“The problem with flight,” Henry Cavill says. “is that you would also need invulnerability, or it would be really fucking cold.”
It’s a Monday morning inside the restaurant at The Bailey’s Hotel in London, and the chiseled British actor is indulging me. “How about X-ray vision”, I ask? “X-ray vision would be great,” he replies, “if you’re an unrelenting pervert, or you work for the TSA.” Cavill is in a good mood, unmistakably excited about playing Superman — again. After a triumphant performance in 2013’s Man of Steel, he will be back in theaters this month in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, a DC Comics mash-up that true fans have waited years to see.
At thirty-two, Cavill is too young to have seen any of the original Superman movies in theaters, but he’s downloaded and watched every one since taking on the role. “I love the feel of them,” he says. “I love the cleanness, the kindness, and that you find the ‘man’ in Superman.” But tastes and technology have changed over the nearly forty years since the first live-action film premiered, in part because of the success of Christopher Nolan’s dark, extravagant take on Batman. For today’s audiences, the innocence of ’70s and ’80s hero movies would be a tough, if not impossible sell. “We are too easily bored,” Cavill says. “We need something to get us interested, make us sit up.”
Generational differences aside, and with all due respect to Christopher Reeve, Cavill is arguably the best Superman ever. Commercially, there is no argument: Man of Steel was the highest-grossing Superman movie of all time, making $700 million at the box office. Now, with the imminent release of Batman V Superman, and filming on his next Superman movie, Justice league, already underway, the young actor’s future — like his past — is primed for success.
Henry Cavill was born in the British tax haven of Jersey to a financier father and homemaker mother, and was educated at Stowe, one of England’s top private schools. A good student, he was plucked out of a drama class in his final year to audition for a role in the movie The Count of Monte Cristo. He landed the part, and, unsurprisingly, never went back to class.
“I missed out on the university years,” he says, “which, I guess, is part-regrettable. People develop a lot of those permanent relationships or friendships in university, and I still hear my brother, who’s a Royal Marine, talking about some of his mates. I think, ‘Wow, that's a relationship which has lasted for years.’ Most of my friends are dotted around the world because I’ve met them on jobs,” Cavill says. “But I don’t like to focus on things that I missed out on. “I also got huge benefits, and that’s really good.”
So, there are advantages to being an international movie star then?
“Yes, surprisingly,” he says, a smile cracking across his face. “I didn't get to mess about and be a university kid, but I get to mess about now. And I’ve actually got money to spend on nice places, rather than having to go to grotty pubs that stink of piss.” This might be an understatement as Cavill’s earnings are estimated to be between $8 million and $10 million per movie — a price tag that’s likely to go up. “I’m slightly wary of saying this, because it can be frowned upon, certainly by members of my community and people outside my community.” Cavill says, “but I’m not just doing this for the art. The money’s fantastic and that’s something which I deem — and again, it is frowned upon — very important.”
It’s rare to find a movie star speaking so candidly about his financial motivation, but Cavill isn’t bashful when it comes to outlining the perks of his profession. “You’ve got to enjoy life! I mean, you’ve got to! When I’m making money I’m spending it on nice stuff, whether that be lavish holidays for me and my friends or just seeing something and going in a shop and saying, ‘Yeah, I want that for the house,’ and buying it. Spending money on my friends, buying dinner for everyone, drinks for everyone, it’s a nice place to be, and I like people to feel cared for,” he says.
“People will be calling me a cock as they’re reading this, but travel’s great as long as you’re going first class,” Cavill continues. “I mean, traveling to New ZeaIand in economy, it sucks. Especially if you’re over six feet. But first class? I’m not going to ever pretend to be coy about that. I love it.”
Not everything that Cavill touches turns to gold, however. Last year, he starred as international spy Napoleon Solo in the stylish, Guy Ritchie-helmed remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It’s a fantastic film, and the movie’s failure to make serious money (although it recouped its costs) perplexes him. “It didn’t do badly, but it should have done better, because everyone I’ve spoken to loved it,” Cavill says. “Maybe it should have been marketed slightly differently so people went in feeling that it was something else. I snuck into the Odeon to see it on High Street Kensington, and all the trailers beforehand were for these explosive action movies. They were being set up and prepped for a sort of Mission: Impossible-type film, and it’s not — it’s a tongue-in-cheek spy thriller with some genuine comedy to it.”
We are speaking just weeks after the Golden Globes, where Ricky Gervais reminded the world of Mel Gibson’s outrageous history of sexist remarks and anti-Semitism. (“What the fuck does ‘sugar tits’ even mean?” Gervais asked Gibson.) So, when asked, Cavill grimaces slightly as he confesses his favorite movie: “It’s tough to say now, but Braveheart. It’s got everything you need. It’s got war. It’s got horses. It’s got romance. It’s got blood and guts, and it’s set in a time which is, you know, great to look back on. It’s just wonderfully directed and performed. It’s a staple.”
Gervais’ comments pale in comparison to the latest controversy consuming Hollywood: he lily-white Oscar nominations. “It’s the issue right now as far as the entertainment industry is concerned,” Cavill says. “I honestly believe that every year there are people passed over who should have been nominated, and that there are people who shouldn’t have been nominated who are. And I don’t think anything has ever changed in that respect. It’s subjective. I watch movies with my girlfriend all the time, and I will sit there and say, ‘That was shit!’ and she’ll go, 'Really? I enjoyed it!’
“But, that said, this year in particular, there seems to be a serious lack of black guys and girls being nominated,” he says. “Maybe the solution is to have more diversity in the members. But does that mean we are saying that to have more black academy members would result in more black nominations? Is that not racist itself?”
Although he is delighted about being nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award, the truth is that for Cavill, Oscar nominations might have to wait a few years. At this moment he is unashamedly focused on establishing his commercial credentials. He is being seriously talked about as the next Bond, and it’s hard to think of anyone right now who would do the role of 007 more service than Henry Cavill.
Back in the hotel restaurant, Cavill takes a measured sip of coffee, passes on a croissant (“I used to be fat”), and says, “I’d love to do more, and as long as I don’t piss anyone off too much, then hopefully I will.”
The Man of the World photoshoot
Thanks to @FiftyShadesAS for the scans!