Back in summer 2011, Henry Cavill was getting to grips with his first weeks on set of Zack Snyder’s Superman kick-up-the-arse and he admitted to Total Film that he was putting pressure on himself to be “as true as l can be to the original character”. Now filming’s done, the trailers are out there, the promotional schedule is gearing up and it’s too late to change anything. It’s the calm before the storm.
Smaller now than his massive, super-buff appearance while in production (more on that body-sculpting later) and exuding a zen-like calm in jeans and a navy shirt, Cavill sits alert but introspective opposite TF in a Beverly Hills hotel suite, musing on the fact that this HUGE ﬁlm is about to be unleashed. The question is what advice would he have for his nervy self 18 months ago at the start of this transformative process?
“What would I tell myself now? Hmm...” He stares at his bowl of fresh fruit that he politely ignores during our chat. “I think it would be ‘just keep on doing what you’re doing – keep on working hard’. There wasn’t one stage when I decided to let up on the hard work. l really went for it, full bore.”
OPENS: 14 June
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane
THE PITCH: Superman gets gritty origin story.
THE BREAKDOWN: Producer Christopher Nolan’s dark sensibilities crossed with Snyder’s visual panache and action glee should create an emotionally and artistically satisfying monster.
PREDICTED GLOBAL BOX OFFICE: $700 m
Cavill's no fibber. Having acted everyone off the screen on the campy The Tudors TV serial and brought class to Immortals, the Jersey-born, public-school educated 29-years-old wasn’t perhaps the most obvious choice to play the all-American and physically perfect Supes. He had to get the accent and body ready for starters, as well as find a new but reverential way to portray Clark Kent, the extraordinary alien adopted by mid-western parents (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner in this incarnation) after his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) has jettisoned him to earth from the planet Krypton for safety.
“I struggle with the concept of training for no reason – I don’t have that kind of ego where I must have an eight-pack and massive shoulders,” Cavill admits jovially in his clear-cut English accent. But there was a goal in sight during pre-production: getting into that new-concept, unforgiving Superman suit and looking beefy for key, soul-searching topless scenes. Cavill was set on a high-protein, intense workout regime:
“We went very strict, we started at 5,000 calories because of bulking, and then dropped down to 3,500 to get in suit-shape, and dropped down to 2,500 to get the shirtless shape. That was exhausting. That’s when you really have the cravings...” And his kryptonite? He smiles and spreads his hands in an ‘of course’ fashion: “Oh, pizza. There’s something awesome about pizza that just satisfies every desire you have foodwise!”
The chicken scoffing and gym reps paid off though once Cavill got into the suit for teal. He breaks into a big grin just talking about donning the famous cape. “I loved wearing the suit! You put it on every morning and you feel fantastic. I mean, you’re wearing a Superman suit, for goodness sake!” Though he admits getting into the skin-tight rubber contraption wasn’t the easiest of things. Lots of talc? “Yeah! It took the team about 15 minutes each day. They struggled hard... let’s just say we became very close!”
Though he joke, it's clear Cavill employs the same ‘gravitas but fun’ approach to his character that he says Snyder’s film will exhibit. He pauses for a long time to think about exactly how to describe the process of finding a way to play ‘the granddaddy of superheroes’. “This is not a movie about Zack Snyder directing something, or Henry Cavill playing a character... It’s a selfless movie about a character who is going through what he is going through. He wants to do the right thing, but he’s fallible, like the rest of us. He messes up, and that makes us love him more.”
Anticipating that audiences will embrace this new Superman unavoidably leads to thoughts of Cavill’s own soon-to-go-stratospheric level of fame. Today he’s turned up at the hotel carrying his suit-bag with little fanfare. Come the summer, that’s all going to change. Cavill, professionally and personally, will be become public property.
Playing the ultimate good guy, won’t he have to ensure he’s on best behaviour at all times?
“Yeah. It will change stuff. I’m prepared for that,” he nods. “It didn’t have an effect on my decision [to take the role]. I have a responsibility to kids who believe I’m Superman – absolutely. It’s going to be bizarre to see yourself in toy version. I’m excited, don’t get me wrong. But I’m being realistic about it. Ultimately I’m an actor. At the end of the day, I’m not actually Superman and I will play other roles.”
Fans are already speculating that those other roles will be MOS spin-offs – sequels, threequels and a move to a superhero mash-up to rival The Avengers with Supes joining Batman and others for a Justice League film. Cavill’s saying nothing, though he signed up to a three-picture deal when he screentested. “A decision’s being made, I’m sure, post opening weekend!”, he says. But it’s surely good business for any serious actor to go for a movie with in-built franchise potential? Bellow Brits Daniel Craig, Andrew Garfield, Christian Bale and Tom Hiddleston can attest to that.
“Not necessarily. I think this is just a great movie with a great script and great director. You don’t need a franchise to really have choices,” he says. But it does obviously help... “Does it? Does it or doesn’t it? Do people then see you only as that character, or do they see you otherwise? Who knows? It certainly does give you that extra oomph in the negotiating room. But I don’t think it’s down to having a franchise helping you with more choice. It’s just doing a great movie.”
Certainly right now, being a Brit seems to give an added authority, perhaps even a perceived nobility or class to superheroes. “Yeah. I know what you mean, and hey, whatever helps! I don’t know if we necessarily bring anything different. I think it’s down to the individual character, and the hard work they put in.”
Superheroes aside, Cavill is looking for post-MOS projects from any genre. “I just want to work with some great directors and experience some great scriptwriting and some great actors to work with again. And hopefully tell a good story.”
How about Fifty Shades Of Grey — the mummy porn adaptation that is currently being linked to every good looking actor in Hollywood? At the top of the web wishlist right now: Mr Cavill. “Fifty Shades Of Grey is... erm… it’s all rumours at this stage.” he laughs. “I haven’t got a script or an offer or anything. If I do, that decision would be made when the time comes.”
But would he go from Man Of Steel to Anastasia Steele? He shrugs and smiles bashfully. “I... it would be all about the script!” he says non-commitally. FSOG fans are no doubt already reading that as a ‘yes’...
Man Of Steel opens 14 June and will be featured and reviewed in a future issue.
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