‘Man of Steel’ also stars Amy Adams as Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane, and Laurence Fishburne as her editor-in-chief, Perry White. Starring as Clark Kent’s adoptive parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent, are Diane Lane and Kevin Costner. Squaring off against the superhero are two other surviving Kryptonians, the villainous General Zod, played by Michael Shannon, and Faora, Zod’s evil partner, played by Antje Traue. Also from Superman’s native Krypton are Lara Lor-Van, Superman’s mother, played by Ayelet Zurer, and Superman’s father, Jor-El, portrayed by Russell Crowe. Rounding out the cast are Christopher Meloni as U.S. military man Colonel Hardy, Harry Lennix as General Swanwick, Michael Kelly as Steve Lombard, and Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton. ‘Man of Steel’ hits 2D, 3D and IMAX cinemas on June 14th.
Playing this iconic character, I can imagine you’ve been asked many times if you felt any responsibility or added pressure. But how was your internal outlook on the role, the pressure you put on yourself to get it right?
Henry Cavill: For me, it’s no different from the pressure of any other job. The pressure I put on myself is far greater than anything else, because I want to do the job right and I want to put my all into it and do it well – really well, do it to the best of my ability. Of course there is that external worldwide pressure of people wanting me to do this in that, “Don’t mess it up!,” kind of thing (laughs). And I chose not to acknowledge that because that’s not going to help me in any way, it may even affect negatively my performance. So I chose to sort of put that to the back of my mind. I was very aware of its existence, but the pressure I put on myself was far more positive and would a have a greater affect towards the positive of my performance.
But, Superman is one of the truly special figures man has created throughout history. He stands for hope, for the ability to conquer adversity against all odds. That’s something we can always hold onto, no matter where we are in life or what’s going on in the world. We will always face hardships in one way or another, and therefore hope will always play a significant part in our lives. To take on that mantle of hope as Superman was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
And I know this role took a lot of thought and a lot training for the physicality, look and stunts involved. The demands are wide….?
Henry Cavill: Yeah. For me, it wasn’t about getting a balance. It’s very easy to assume that a balance needs to be made because, “He’s a superhero… and, oh, he has emotions.” (laughs). At the end of the day it’s a story, and as an actor you’re gonna find that there’s lots of emotions and you go through stuff. It’s a story first and there’s an emotional being at the center of it first; he just happens to have these incredible abilities. It’s not about balancing the two, you “be” them both – and this is what makes this movie different, it’s not just a superhero saving the day, it’s like, “What? There’s been an alien here on Earth for 33 years… and we can’t hurt him you’re telling me? I don’t know how I feel about this?” But then you have to ask how he feels about people saying that about him when in fact he’s just trying to do the right thing all the time, he doesn’t always achieve the right thing, but he tries – because the choices aren’t obvious.
There’s many conflicts and dualities in him, and at the end of the day he’s an outsider…
Henry Cavill: Definitely. Clark is a well brought up farm boy. At the same time, he’s a young man who has no clue of who and what he is and why he’s so different. And that’s wonderful, because it has that “traditional man” aspect and at the same time this guy who’s very untraditional – he doesn’t know what he is. And then his discovery of who and what he is, it’s something which layers his life with a sense of loss in that discovery. And ultimately he is an outsider, at all stages of his life. The only place that he’s made to feel at home is with Martha and Jonathan, even though he knows what his “real” home is, he’s made to feel even more of an outsider in that.
For me, Clark has always felt like an outsider. He was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent to never react in an aggressive, violent manner and, most of all, never to reveal the things that he can do. He was raised to be a good person, the traditional moral man – and I think Kevin and Diane brought that to their characters exceptionally well. But dealing with the very real growing pains of becoming a young man unlike any other, and being unable to share that with anyone else, has manifested a sense of isolation in him. That isolation is only amplified by the fact that he feels powerless to do anything about it, while actually having all the power in the world.
We’ve never seen Kal-El or Clark this conflicted about who he is. Was there any classic Superman material that was helpful in exploring that?
Henry Cavill: As far as the conflict that he went through or the journey, it wasn’t about classic Superman material. When you see Clark travelling through the world, trying to work out what and who and why he is, I didn’t go to source material for that. I applied my own life to it. As actors, it’s quite a lonely existence, unless you have someone travelling with you, the entire time. You spend a lot of time by yourself, and you meet new people. You make a temporary family. You love them, and then you never see them again, apart from the odd press conference or press junket. And you just apply that to the character. That’s exactly what he experiences – new groups of people constantly, and then disappearing and having to introduce himself to these other people, and prove to them that he’s a nice guy and that he tries to do all the right stuff. And then, all of a sudden, he disappears again. So, it was just that lonely aspect that I applied to it, as opposed to any classic Superman material.
How was it working with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane on the film, feeding off of them on set and then with their characters in the story?
Henry Cavill: Kevin had an incredible openness and softness and traditional Dad-like way about him when he played the character. It was very easy to feed off of both of them. Diane played the caring mother so well, where there’s still that essence of slight fear of Clarke because she knows what he’s capable of. And certainly with our interactions in playing young Clarke, it’s constantly, “What will he do?” I thought that was fantastic because when I’m older she’s totally come to accept it and she knows that I’m a controlled person. She portrayed that wonderful strength, which is where Superman gets a lot of his strength from – as much as its genetic, his upbringing and his nurturing is from the likes of Jonathan and Martha, and the strength that Kevin and Diane brought to those roles makes it so easy to play that kind of strength.
And then working with Amy Adams as Lois Lane….?
Henry Cavill: I really liked working with Amy, she’s great. She’s good fun and she brings a good energy to set – and on long days you do need someone to goof around with sometimes (laughs). As far as an actress goes, as a contrast with the person, who you can goof around with, she brings to film this wonderfully powerful, yet soft character. And I think the interaction between Lois and Superman is that she’s obviously Superwoman in a societal sense, and then she finally finds this one guy who can literally sweep her off her feet (laughs).
I know you first met Russell Crowe 12 years ago on the set of ‘Proof of Life,’ and Russell told me you spoke with him on that set briefly about acting when you were still in school?
Henry Cavill: Yeah, it was 12 years ago at my boarding school. I had a very brief chat with him there, a very important chat for me! But working with him… and he’s playing my dad (laughs)! He gave me a photo from ‘Gladiator’ saying, “Dear Henry, the journey of a 1000 thousand miles begins with a single step, Russell.” And this is after I walked up to him and said, “Excuse me, I’d like to ask you about acting.” And he didn’t need to send me that, I didn’t ask for that, but he went out of his way and every time I went to LA for 3 months at a time and didn’t get a job and had to go back and work in a bar in London or Jersey and just grind and then go back for 3 months again… and then it didn’t work again and I’d have to go back, and I’d keep on flip flopping. But just trying to motivate myself, there was that picture sitting there. And it is a long journey, it is a 1000 mile journey just to get started, and I need to keep on taking those steps one after another – and I can thank Russell for that, I really can. My parents and everyone supported me wonderfully, but Russell did an incredible thing just by doing that one little thing which he didn’t need to do. It meant an awful lot to me.
For me, ‘Man of Steel’ really puts the character in a modern context by addressing the trappings of our modern times. In today’s world, very little information is withheld from public notice and what is, is often eventually uncovered and exposed, whether at the hands of the media, via viral video ect. So, it’s difficult to imagine that an alien from another planet could live among us, undetected, for any length of time…
Henry Cavill: Yeah, I thought that was very important. Everything grows and evolves at some stage, and I think this contemporized version is another stage of that evolution. If you read the DC comic books, like the New 52 from a couple years back, they’ve been doing it as well – in a different way than Zack Snyder and David Goyer have, perhaps – but the new Superman’s suit is entirely different, and his attitude has changed a bit, while his core characteristics are still there. It’s growth for a modern reader, and our film does that for a modern audience.
How was it seeing yourself in the Superman suit we see in ‘Man of Steel’ for the first time?
Henry Cavill: We went through months of putting the suit together and trying different materials and different styles, different length of cape, different size of ‘s’ shield, different types of the ‘s’ shield. And when we finally had that finished thing and we put it on, I wasn’t looking in the mirror, but when I turned around and looked in the mirror… there’s something really special about this suit. It’s not about the materials or the combination of stuff…. its like if two people cook you a meal with the same ingredients, same kitchen, same pots and pans, and one of them tastes so much better. There’s something special about that meal, because someone put love into it. And with the suit, the people who came up with the concepts, the people who made the decisions, the people who put the stuff together with their hands and their hearts and their intellect and all of their talent, they made something truly special. It has like an physical energy about it. People would stand straighter when they see you in the suit, but when you walk past them not in the suit it’s just regular (laughs). It’s something I can’t quite put a word to. But I think it’s a really good modernization of something very classic. It’s got a very alien feel to it, while still being recognizable to the suit that we love.
How important was the physical training in helping you find a way in this character?
Henry Cavill: The training was a genuine discovery. I learned I could do all sorts of things that I never thought possible. Mark Twight kept things constantly evolving and opened my eyes to seeing past what I thought were my limits. He had the ability to crush me, but just enough that I couldn’t walk properly and I felt horrible and a little sick… but I still wanted to come back (laughs). The intense training led to a recognition moment, during which you think, “Okay, I can do this. It’s not going to kill me, for one. And two, I’m in safe hands. And three, I’m actually enjoying it.” Yeah, it hurt. It was excruciating. But I liked pushing past that point to where you realize your body is actually more than capable of doing it. The moment when that happens is wonderful.
After 75 years of Superman, why do you this character is still so loved and has endured? His values have remained pretty constant in an ever-changing and increasingly complex world…
Henry Cavill: I think it’s the inherent goodness in him. As much as people can say that side of him is boring, it’s not. People want to be around good people, and he will quite happily let you feed off his goodness and his energy, he’ll give to everyone constantly – and that’s what the comicbooks are about, it’s about doing the right thing and having those good people in your life and being a good person to other people. It makes you feel good, when you do the right thing for just because, it feels good, it feels right somehow. And it’s not like, “I feel good now, I’m going to keep doing this because it makes me feel good,” it just feels right. There’s something special about the comics and the movies and everything else that makes people feel that way. And above and beyond all of that: hope. He just represents hope, and in every walk of life we need it. Throughout history we’ve needed it, human history, and we will continue to need it in the future.