Just as Christopher Nolan reimagined Batman for the Dark Knight trilogy, Zack Snyder reinvents Superman for his mouth-watering Man Of Steel reboot (Nolan has writer and producer credits). Before opening in cinemas today it had already earned Warner Bros more than £100million from product placements and early tracking suggests it is the blockbuster to beat this summer.
After Christian Bale (Batman) and Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man), Cavill becomes the third Brit to slip on the Spandex. ‘I actually haven’t met either of them,’ he laughs, ‘but it’s a wonderful honour to be Superman.’ His ab-tastic chest – sadly not emblazoned with an ‘S’ today – is visibly puffing out with pride.
Standing 6ft 1in tall, with swirls of dark hair, he is perfect casting too – boasting the same square-jaw physicality as 1980s Superman icon Christopher Reeve but rougher, sexier, around the edges.
Set to retell his origin story, from Krypton to Kansas and beyond, Cavill assures us that while the film might be more grounded in reality than before, ‘it’s still very true to what Superman is’.
Best known over here for his turn as rebellion-quelling Sir Charles Brandon in The Tudors – Entertainment Weekly dubbed him the ‘most dashing duke’ for displaying ‘charm, depth and a killer bod’ – Cavill must feel a huge sense of relief. Back in 2004, he was in line to play the Man Of Steel on proposed project Superman: Flyby. ‘I was very close to getting it,’ he says – so much so, he even tried the famous cape on.
The film fell apart, beginning an unfortunate streak of near-misses for Cavill that led him to be dubbed the unluckiest man in Hollywood. Twice he lost out to Robert Pattinson – as Hogwarts pupil Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and as Edward Cullen in Twilight, despite support from the author of the hit vampire books. ‘As I understand it, Stephenie Meyer was keen at one stage – she could see me playing the role,’ he says.
Then came the killer blow – losing out to Daniel Craig for the role of James Bond on Casino Royale – but rather than despair, Cavill was encouraged. ‘My name got out there more because of the Bond screen test and I thought “OK, cool, this is progress,”’ he says.
It led to The Tudors and films such as Immortals. In retrospect, Cavill – now 30 – feels he’s the right age for Man Of Steel: ‘To portray a character as important as Superman, I think it’s quite important to have some life experience.’
Born and raised in Jersey, the son of a secretary and a stockbroker, Cavill’s early life was all about surviving in a male-dominated household, as the fourth of five boys. ‘There was definitely a lot of rough and tumble,’ he says, ‘but I appreciated every second of it; it was a really fun house to grow up in.’
After prep school, he attended elite Buckinghamshire institution Stowe, where he started acting and was spotted by a casting director for 2002’s The Count Of Monte Cristo.
It proved a turning point for Cavill, who’d been taunted at school for his size. ‘I lost one and a half stone [for the role] and I wasn’t “Fat Cavill” any more.’ He’s kept his weight under control ever since – though, despite 11 months of training for Man Of Steel, claims he’s no gym rat.
‘I don’t think my ego works in that way at all. I just go: “Why am I putting myself through this sort of hell? Just so I can take my shirt off at the beach? I don’t think so!” I need a goal.’
One person who will no doubt be pleased with his six-pack is Gina Carano, the former MMA fighter recently seen in Fast & Furious 6. She and Cavill have been dating for nine months; Cavill split from his fiancée, showjumper Ellen Whitaker, last August.
Intriguingly, Carano has been touted as a possible Wonder Woman in the proposed Justice League movie, which would pair her up with Cavill’s Superman. ‘I’ve certainly heard nothing about anything just yet,’ he says cautiously.
More concrete is the news that he is set to land the lead in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – a role recently vacated by Tom Cruise. So is he prepared for fame? ‘I don’t think there is any way you can be prepared,’ he says. ‘I think you just have to keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best… we’ll have to see.
‘Watch this space. Maybe you can ask me in six months and I can tell you what it’s like, if it does explode.’ Let’s face it – it’s going to hit him faster than a speeding bullet.