Henry Cavill is a leading man in the making. Casino Royale director Martin Campbell thought that it should be Cavill's beefed-up torso emerging from the sea in the James Bond film, but Daniel Craig, with a bigger name, not to mention chest, pipped him to the part. He was also on the short list to play the Caped Crusader in 2005's Batman Begins, which went to fellow Brit Christian Bale, and to step into Christopher Reeve's red pants in the 2006 revival Superman Returns.
But Cavill finally got his break, and cape, when he won the part of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, in BBC/HBO's steamy TV drama The Tudors. Now filming its third series, Cavill plays a close confidant to Jonathan Rhys Meyers' Henry VIII.
The 25-year-old Jerseyborn actor is impossibly polite and well-spoken. He lives in Dublin, where The Tudors is filmed, cavorting about in a codpiece for six months of the year, leaving the other half for other projects. In spring 2008 he worked on Woody Allen's film Whatever Works, playing an English actor who has resettled in New York. 'It's a different scene from The Tudors. Woody Allen will do a four-page scene in one shot, which keeps it hyper-realistic. With period stuff, it takes much longer.' Allen cast him opposite Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood. 'I only got one scene with Larry, but what a clever, hilarious man.' Last year, Cavill filmed Creek with Joel Schumacher, a revenge story in which he becomes caught up in an occult experiment dating back to the Third Reich. Both are due for release next year, and there's also a burgeoning modelling career: at 6ft 1in, Cavill has broad shoulders, a jaw to match, and is currently emblazoned across buses as the face of Dunhill's London fragrance campaign.
Cavill was discovered, at 17, when a casting agent came to Stowe, Buckinghamshire, looking for a new face to play Jim Caviezel's son in The Count of Monte Cristo, with Guy Pearce in the title role. Cavill said farewell to his textbooks and left Stowe without completing A levels in history, English and theatre studies.
The next year, aged 18, he filmed his first steamy sex scene opposite Emmanuelle Seigner in Laguna. 'I've always fancied older women,' he says. But according to Seigner, she had to ply him with drinks to calm his nerves.
Cavill says he is naturally on the chubby side and has to work hard at staying trim. 'I don't go to the gym every day, but I'll tend to blast it for a couple of weeks before a shirtless scene.'
On his days off, he plays computer games like World of Warcraft, 'nice escapism', online with his father and brothers. 'Or sometimes I'll just recover from hangovers', after nights out with fellow actor Max Brown, who plays Edward Seymour in The Tudors. He calls his other costar Sam Neill, of Jurassic Park fame, 'a very nice man', who organises dinner parties at his Dublin home for the cast. It seems Rhys Meyers keeps himself to himself offset, presumably busy with his girlfriend Reena Hammer.
Cavill is number four of five boys. Piers, the eldest, is a former army officer looking to change careers. Nik is a major in the Marines. Simon has just started working in financial services, but used to be a bodybuilder, and Charlie, the youngest, is in marketing. Henry's father Colin is not a native Channel Islander but his mother Marianne is. 'She was a house mum for years taking care of five boys, and now works as a secretary in a bank. Dad was a stockbroker, but keeps shifting jobs. I couldn't really tell you what he does.'
With the itinerant lifestyle of an actor, Cavill has had trouble holding down a relationship. 'It takes a strong woman to be with me because I'm always hopping around, and not always there. It's really tough.' He broke up with a girlfriend recently: 'Of course it's a two-way thing; you're both missing each other. I think it can be difficult for the other person because often there will be kissing and simulated sex, which I'm sure must be very hard to watch.' But he is confident he will find the balance one day. 'With people like Brad and Angelina, they've been working for such a long time, I'm sure they have a certain understanding of each other and the job.' The boy is obviously thinking big.