One could say today that, with the exception of Sex and The City, no series has captivated the female audience as much as The Tudors. While the show is a recreation of the escapades of a young and disturbed incarnation of Henry VIII, Henry Cavill has the role of Charles Brandon, confidante and friend of the monarch, portrayed by an actor in demand these days: Jonathan Rhys Meyers. But what is it that pleases women so much about The Tudors? And what do they find so irresistible about the character of Charles Brandon? How do you explain the numerous compilations with the craziest titles devoted to him on YouTube?
"Nudity, of course," he responds with a small half smile, before smiling even more, evoking an aspect about him that I had certainly not noticed before. "And don't forget the boys… Seriously, I believe that my character is popular because he is more mischievous than malicious and for that reason, the girls get to like him and transform him in their imagination, into some kind of ideal man. This change took place in the first season, after having slept around a lot." Charles Brandon married Margaret Tudor during the second season, the king's sister. But, evidently, taking what was destined for the King of France doesn't go without consequences… "He always has ants inside his trousers!" He enjoys recalling, between puffs on his cigarette.
Born in Jersey, tax paradise of the Channel Islands, in May 1983 from a broker father and a therapist mother, Henry was revealed to the public in 2002 in The Count of Monte Cristo, a screen adaptation of the classic by Alexander Dumas, in which he plays the son of Fernand Mondego. It is while he was 18 years of age that he took his first steps on Hollywood's red carpet, an experience that he found "surprising" back then, observing with a charming innocence that "the merest celebrity creates incredible attention over there. When for the first time I saw before me a wall of photographers who took photo after photo shouting ‘Henry, Henry!’ I really asked myself what I was doing there. I love attending the premieres of my films, to see the finished product, to observe how the public responds, but the effects of fame are always something disconcerting for me," he admits.
Today he is a real professional on the red carpet, but he doesn't aspire to the glitter nor the excesses of Hollywood. On the contrary, "My lifelong dream was being an actor, to act for pleasure, It was a dream that I never thought would come true, but after The Count of Monte Cristo, it came almost by accident. Without that, I would probably be enrolled in the army."
Order and Discipline
In contrast to most of his young compatriots who have also achieved success in Hollywood, Henry Cavill didn't attend any of the prestigious drama schools for which London is famed, instead he found himself with the transition from a normal school desk to the film set. The school in question: Stowe, the archetypal English Boarding school with a Latin motto taken straight from the Middle Ages. Although the man is naturally rather modest, I imagined the young Henry as being a bit conceited at school. But I was surprised to discover him saying, without any irony, that he gets up every morning listening to Lady Gaga. "You know, I wasn't really the idol of the school. I was rather the short fat one who everyone told to bugger off. I had received a good education, but I wasn't prepared for life in society. It's partly why I turned to acting because it demands that you play a character, and you become that character, no one can tell you to bugger off," he remembers. "Because I was of a withdrawn nature, I was also very conscious of my personality, and when you are always the target of bullying, you ask incessantly what you did to cause it. You say ‘What am I doing wrong?’ even though it rarely is the victim's fault."
I asked him then if that type of introspection has helped him in his acting career… "That has certainly made me more aware of the actions of those around me, also very sensitive to what people notice, to what moves them. Obviously, there is childhood and its inevitable baggage of emotional crises… When you adjust to the highs and lows of the bullying inﬂicted in school, you find yourself more naturally in touch with your emotions than the average teenager."
But, let’s go back for a moment to another equally surprising revelation — What is it that led the actor to start considering, through lack of success, a career in the army of Her Majesty? Henry has the physique, thanks to years of rugby, to the many hours of horseback riding needed during the filming of The Tudors and the habit of never eating before 7PM, which he tells us helps him to remain concentrated, but why the heck the army? "It’s the physical aspect of it, the taste for adventure, patriotic pride. I fell into it when I was a kid. My oldest brother was a soldier and another one is a commander in the Royal Marines. I think that the discipline, the sense of order and the surpassing of oneself in the interest of the group are values that speak to me."
It is not the first time that Henry Cavill speaks of the beneficial inﬂuence of his family, who allowed him to avoid the traps of excessive drinking and drug taking in which many young actors are lost. Not that he has never tried himself… Yet it is to his parents to whom he owes — he says — the best advice that he ever received: "Do what you have to do, do not seek to become what you think others want you to be." A pitfall in which he humbly admits he has fallen into in the past."Try to keep being yourself because if you don't, you will be the first one to suffer. That applies to your professional career, to your social life and to your family life."
James Bond and Dunhill
Aside from the global success of The Tudors, the film career of Henry Cavill has often been described as an eternal second. After having auditioned and missed by a hair the roles of Batman and Superman — which led Empire Magazine to label him as "the unluckiest man in Hollywood." He was inches from landing the role that is in every British young actor's dreams: James Bond. To the point where the final decision was between Daniel Craig and him, but Henry does not have regrets about it. Quite the contrary, he admits that "Daniel Craig is great in the skin of this new James Bond."
More humble than ever, and given the fact that at the time of Casino Royale he was only 24-years-old and he could have easily played the role of the son of James Bond, he adds: "I think it was a good decision, they [the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Faith] made that choice to maintain the trademark and the level of quality of the film, and it worked perfectly. Bond has that type of unique class, and Daniel Craig incarnates it very well. He modernizes the character and shows everything a spy knows how to do while keeping his fantastic "coolness" that every guy dreams to have."
But there is also this attitude in the new campaign for the perfume Black by Dunhill, in which Cavill, with a beautiful brunette on his arm, crosses through London driving a Bentley. Robin Harvey and Blaise Douglas, creative directors of the emblematic British brand, wanted to create with this campaign a new image of the English gentleman, a modern representation of the cool Londoner "We were looking for someone beautiful who would appeal to females as much as men, someone with a marked personality and a great self-mastery." This portrait could also be the roadmap for the casting of a 007, and besides, the campaign offers a beautiful idea of what could happen…
He readily describes himself as a newbie in the field of fashion and that "the shooting of the Dunhill campaign and the high-fashion dinners to which I am regularly invited" are still very new to him, the young man assumes his role with composure. "I learn slowly, little by little, and I also learn to define my own style. It is a great opportunity for me to be like that, taken by the hand by all those fabulous designers; it's a real remedial lesson!" He defines himself as a man with a casual style, he confides as well that "when the opportunity arises, I'm delighted to jump into a suit! I'm not the kind that will show up in jeans to a ceremony." For his suits, he prefers Tom Ford, Gucci or Giorgio Armani.
An Extraordinary Guy!
After having played a main role next to Michael Fassbender in Blood Creek, a horror film directed by Joel Schumacher — a role that he describes as the most demanding in his young career and for which he had to run like an idiot in the natural nighttime scenery of Romania — Henry has already followed the steps of his costar in The Tudors, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and has also worked under the eye of another cult director: Woody Allen. Titled Whatever Works, the film marks, after years of absence, the return of the director to Manhattan.
Cavill shares the spotlight of this romantic comedy with Larry David and Rachel Evan Wood. "I completely ignored the rumors that I had heard in the past from those who had already worked with Woody. I think that when working for the first time with someone, you must take it as it is, without preconceived ideas for it is these that f*** up and ruin the quality of your work." It is the first time he swears since the beginning of our interview, which was more than three hours ago. "He really is an extraordinary guy. A human being fundamentally good and very precise in directing the actors, even though he always gives you the opportunity to do what you want as well." Henry was casted for the role without auditioning, a symptomatic sign of the director's intuition for British talent.
Based in South Kensington, London, after the filming this summer in Ireland of the fourth and last season of The Tudors, Henry will be preparing for a main role entrusted to him by Tarsem Singh for his next film: War of the Gods. Fiction with a background of mythology and a visionary scenario tied around diverse events, with Greek gods and mortals thrown into the mix, the film promises to be a breathtaking visual treat, similar to his predecessors The Cell and The Fall. Playing the character King Theseus, Henry will take on a new role as an historical character." I love historical novels, especially when they talk about Rome, ancient Greece, Egypt or The Crusades. It is without a doubt something which sparks my imagination." He says while admitting that this type of role sometimes "requires the actor to bridge such a difficult gap between himself and the character as the point of reference is remote."
The story, in a way, uses the same technologies present in his daily routine, in particular the online medieval multi-player game of World of Warcraft, thanks to which Henry stays in contact with his father and his brothers when they are in the four corners of the world. But his other passion, more adult perhaps, is his superb silver Aston Martin DBS in which he travelled the German highways the day after our interview. James Bond would without a doubt recognize himself there.
Whatever Works of Woody Allen, with Evan Rachel Wood, Larry David, Ed Begley Jr, Henry Cavill, Patricia Clarkson — Sony Pictures Classics. Available on July 1st.