What did it feel like putting on the Superman suit for the first time?
We did a construction period of about four months, putting the character together, finding out what fit where, mixing the blues and the reds and all sorts, it was all piece by piece. But the first time I saw the suit in its completion, with cape and everything, there's no other feeling like it, because I wasn't looking at myself wearing a Superman costume, it had become one of my acting tools and when I looked at myself I saw the character and I saw what the audience will see, which is Superman. That feeling will stick with me for the rest of my life. I was really quite surprised by that shock feeling. Every morning when I got into the suit at work I looked at myself and thought ‘OK, I can't believe this, it's Superman' and it's incredibly exciting.
Is there an empowerment that comes with putting on the suit?
Very much so, but its more like an acting tool, it's the final piece to the puzzle, which I built up through script and discussions with the director and my own personal thoughts and research.
What does it take to be cast as Superman? This being your second time auditioning for the character, having being in the running for Bryan Singer's Superman Returns in 2004.
It certainly took a sense of determination to stay that long in the industry, certainly up until getting cast in The Tudors without any real rewards or any real recognition. I think I was just very fortunate, I had the right kind of experience, I had the right look, I had my foot in the door because of castings from the previous Superman movie, so Warner Bros already knew me so that part of the fight was already done and won.
Physically, have you always been athletically big or have you had to work hard to look like this?
I had to work very hard to get into Superman shape, we did two months of foundation training when I met my trainer Mark Twight, he gave me some sheets of paper to do my own kind of training to build myself up to a level so I was prepared for what he would throw at me when he arrived. I did two months in London then I arrived in LA and did four months. He crushed me, crucified me, pushed me way beyond my limits , looked after me, cared for me, made sure I was in the right frame of mind and was just a genius trainer. Then we trained for six months throughout shooting, just to keep everything going. So about a years worth of training and it was incredibly hard. Was I like this before? No... There was the Immortals training which got me very very lean, down to a certain kind of shape, that was very hard too but then I had to get out of shape for the movie immediately afterwards. Before Immortals I wasn't a gym body at all, I wasn't going to the gym all the time, I'd be athletic, doing physical stuff but it wasn't a dedication of mine.
When auditioning for Superman, did you have to do two auditions? One as Clark Kent and then another as Superman?
It was 2010 when I first auditioned, it was a relaxed audition in my own casual clothes, reading generic hero dialogue, which turned out to be for a fire man, there was the dual aspect of a Clark Kent moment then more of a heroic moment so they could see a difference, then afterwards for the screen-test it was two Superman scenes, which were quite embarrassing because I was wearing a Christopher Reeve style Superman suit made of lycra and I wasn't in great shape... at all. I'm standing in a trailer looking in the mirror thinking I look terrible, I'm not getting this role. You could see my belly when I stood side-ways, this is not Superhero stuff but for whatever reason I got thru to them that I was worthy and that I could do the training to get into the right shape.
With the success of Marvel's Avengers, everyone is talking about a similar DC Justice League movie — if you were approached to play Superman in it would you give it consideration?
I think there's a great story to be told there, it all depends on who's writing it, who's directing it, I mean Man Of Steel is a perfect storm, we've a perfect cast, an awesome screenwriter, a great studio, awesome producers and fantastic director, it doesn't get better, as long as its still of that caliber then yeah of course because that's a great story to tell.
Do you think the world needs a Superman more today than back in 1978?
I think the world always needs superheroes, We've always used them, whether it's the stories back in Greek mythology when our superheroes were the sons of Gods or DC superheroes, who have God-like powers, its just we now expect more. Instead of just being able to defeat a monster we want them to fly and be invulnerable. We always need these characters who we can strive to be ideal like and can always win because we like to hope that things are going to be ok, it makes us work harder sometimes against adversity.
When did you come across Superman for the first time?
I don't really remember when I first came across Superman, he's always been around. It's the third most recognizable symbol in the world behind the Christian cross and Coca Cola. I definitely was a cartoon-watcher, I wasn't a comic book reader. My real comic book experience started when I got the role, it's like watching a TV boxset, instead of waiting every week for the next episode I got to read it all in one go, which is perfect for character research and building of character.
Did you watch any of the TV shows or old Superman movies?
I didn't watch any of those because in my humble opinion they are different actors, directors and producers interpretation of the source material and the source material in my mind are the comic books and I wanted this to be my interpretation and not be confused by watching someone else's interpretation.
Russell Crowe was a hero of yours growing up, what was it like working with him?
I first met Russell Crowe when I was 16, he was shooting a movie (Proof Of Life) at my boarding school, and I was an extra in the background. At one stage he was standing there and all the school kids were gathering around in awe of this movie star, I thought this is ridiculous, why are we all staring at him, so I went up to him and put my hand out and said, ‘Hi, I'm Henry, I'm thinking about becoming an actor, what's it like? Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?' Probably not as well worded as that but you get the idea. He gave advice along the lines of ‘Sometimes its great, sometimes its not, it's all about enjoying it and doing what you want to do'. Two days later I got an autographed picture from him saying ‘Dear Henry, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, Russell'.
So meeting him 12 years later where I'm playing Superman and he's playing my dad was a poignant moment. I reminded him of it on set and he remembered, it was a great moment, he's a great guy and very talented actor.
Are you superstitious? Were there any discussions about the dredded curse of Superman?
I'm not really superstitious, sometimes you're going to second guess yourself incase you jinx something but in terms of the Curse Of Superman, I don't believe in it, I think its an unfortunate sequence of events that have happened to some of the actors who have played Superman. Dean Caine's fine, Brandon Routh is in perfect health, I think we're ok.