He may be playing the most iconic superhero of all time, but that didn’t stop Henry Cavill discovering certain drawbacks to his Superman outfit.
“As well as being physically uncomfortable, there wasn’t a fly on it, which didn’t help,” says the 30-year-old British actor, laughing as he recalls having to remove the suit every time he needed the loo.
Joking aside, Cavill, who dons the red cape in Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man Of Steel, was thrilled to wear the famous suit.
“I put it on and it transported me into the character,” he says. “It became something more than just a costume, putting it on each morning was an experience.”
Created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, Superman first appeared in a comic book in 1938, and quickly became a cultural phenomenon.
“There are a lot of people who really care about this character, which is really humbling,” says Jersey-born Cavill, who rose to fame in the glossy TV series The Tudors.
“I’ve had grown men shaking, with tears in their eyes when they take a photo (of me), and that means a lot.”
Cavill was first screen-tested to play the superhero for the earlier movie, Superman Returns, seven years ago. But he “didn’t fit into the vision” of director Bryan Singer, and Brandon Routh was chosen instead.
Aside from the 2006 movie being met with a lukewarm reception, Cavill’s pleased he wasn’t cast back then.
“I’ve had more life experience and it’s easier to play emotional depth when you’ve experienced more emotional highs and lows,” says the handsome, well-spoken actor.
“And I’m better at acting. You play a part for four years (as he did on The Tudors), and it teaches you a lot about how to construct a character, especially one that’s constantly shifting.”
Written by David S Goyer and based on a story he devised with one of the film’s producers Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins), Man Of Steel feels like a fresh take on a well-trodden tale.
As Nolan says: “Where he was impenetrable and godlike in previous iterations of his story, we show him as a rather more relatable figure, who deals with very human issues of love, divided loyalties and family.”
Fans will be relieved to hear the film remains true to the original story of an alien baby who crash-lands in the town of Smallville, Kansas, and is brought up as Clark Kent by ‘parents’ Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane).
“Clark has always felt like an outsider and was raised to never react in an aggressive, violent manner and, most of all, never to reveal the things he can do,” says Cavill, pictured right.
“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.”
When Clark does leave home, he leaves a trail of inexplicable acts behind him. Then one day journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams) witnesses his powers first-hand while on an assignment in the Arctic.
Convinced she’s onto the story of the century, she’s blind to the consequences her revelations may have for the mysterious Clark.
But when the spaceship The Black Zero, commanded by the ruthless General Zod (Michael Shannon), hones in on earth, Lois’s part in revealing Superman becomes academic.
If that wasn’t enough to contend with, Clark also discovers the truth of his alien roots – that he was born Kal-El, the last son of the planet Krypton and his biological father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), wants him to return to save the planet and its people.
“In the story we’re telling, he’s learning everything about himself right along with the audience,” Cavill explains. “So, when he’s faced with having to fight for Earth or for Krypton, he’s extremely conflicted.”
And for that reason, the actor was keen to project Superman as a fully-dimensional character.
“He has emotional depth in the comic books and, as an acting role, you get to throw something really meaty at a character that’s perceived as very boring,” says Cavill, who was once considered one of the unluckiest men in Hollywood.
Almost a decade ago, Nolan considered him for the role of Batman before deciding he was too young. Then Twilight author Stephanie Meyer wanted him to play the vampire Edward, but he was considered too old by the time they were ready to shoot, and he was even in the running to play Bond, before Daniel Craig took the crown.
Recalling the “surreal” moment he received the call to say he’d been cast as Superman, he says: “You don’t really believe it. The scope of what it is to get a role of this magnitude is difficult to realise.”
He does remember running up and down the stairs of his house – “roaring and shouting for 15 minutes while trying to call my family because no one was picking up their phone – for the first time ever!”
The physical preparation was a daunting prospect for the actor, who was given a two-month workout regime just to get him ready for the “proper” training!
“Those first two months were very difficult. I was really put through the wringer and pushed incredibly hard,” says Cavill, 30, who’s dating action girl Gina Carano.
At his peak, he was consuming 5,000 calories and in the gym for two hours a day. The result was an extra 15 pounds of pure muscle added to his frame.
“I’ve always enjoyed physical activity but I haven’t necessarily been athletic,” says Cavill, who has spoken of being teased at school for being chubby.
It was the 2011 fantasy movie Immortals, in which he played half-man, half-god Theseus, which helped him get in great shape for the first time in his life.
“One of my trainers said, ‘You can’t act your way into a six-pack’, and that was perhaps the hardest bit, because you can play a performance but it was so important to get the physicality right.”
He certainly looks the part of Superman; now it will be for the worldwide audience to decide whether he can play the part too.
“There’s obviously the opportunity to feel a lot of pressure but I try and avoid that, because I’ve done all the work already,” says Cavill.
“I know I won’t please everyone but it was important to me to look like the character, feel like the character and to get across the soul of the character, for all those who hold him in their hearts.”