LOS ANGELES - In the confines of the tiny lift at the Beverly Wilshire, one of the hotel guests is trying not to stare at the blindingly handsome man standing next to her.
The furrow in her brow suggests that she is struggling to figure out who he is. Because he looks, well, like he ought to be famous — probably a model or an actor, going by that perfectly hewn face and body.
As it happens, Henry Cavill is an actor, and fewer people will struggle to place him now when he hits the screens as Superman in Man Of Steel, the much-awaited reboot that opens in Singapore this week.
Before this, the 30-year-old was in some ways more famous for the parts he missed than those he got.
A British magazine once labelled him "the unluckiest man in Hollywood" because of a number of career-altering projects that had fallen just beyond his grasp.
These included the 2006 Casino Royale role of James Bond that he made it to the final rounds for, but which ended up going to Daniel Craig.
And then there was the part that went to Robert Pattinson in the Twilight vampire films, which author Stephenie Meyer had originally thought Cavill was perfect for, but which, because of development delays, he eventually became too old to play.
In addition, he was attached to star in McG's 2004 Superman movie, but the role was recast when the director pulled out.
It would be enough to frustrate anyone, but when asked about those setbacks, the actor tells Life! that he does not consider himself at all unlucky.
"I think I was very, very fortunate to have had the opportunity to go for those roles," he says in an interview with a group of reporters at the Beverly Hills hotel in March.
"People say they were missed opportunities, but they weren't. They were opportunities that sprang up in the very early days of a conversation with someone and I ran with them, and therefore got some focus and attention."
"In the case of Bond and McG's Superman, I got myself mentioned in things like Variety magazine, and in those days, I had no name to speak of and it was really important to get myself in there so other casting directors and directors could consider me for a lead role.
"There are a lot of guys and girls who would kill to have that opportunity and I consider myself the lucky one."
At this point in his career, he certainly is. There has been an enormous amount of buzz surrounding this reinterpretation of the Superman saga by Zack Snyder, the director behind action hits such as 300 (2007) and Watchmen (2009).
If it succeeds, this little-known British actor could find himself fronting a billion-dollar enterprise, the first instalment of which features big names such as Russell Crowe as Superman's father Jor-El, Amy Adams as love interest Lois Lane, and Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathan and Martha Kent.
Cavill, whose most high-profile role before this was his four-year stint on the period television drama The Tudors, is still trying to get used to the newfound attention.
"Yeah, things are sort of escalating a little bit, but in a good, exciting way. Oddly enough, it's the people who work at Starbucks who recognise me the most. They go, 'Hey, you're that Superman guy!'"
But the actor is trying valiantly to manage his own expectations and the pressure of it all, especially given the spectacular failure of the last attempt to resurrect the comic-book hero - 2006's Superman Returns, which sunk actor Brandon Routh's career.
Cavill is studiously avoiding such dark thoughts.
"I think this is more of an opportunity than a pressure situation where you worry about it going wrong," he says, explaining that the positive press surrounding the upcoming film has meant a lot of other scripts are already being sent his way.
"So I get to read the scripts and get the opportunity to work with great film-makers. If this is a success, I'll still have the opportunity. And if it's not, then, you know, it's back to work to build up a career in a different way, focusing on something that isn't Superman.
With all the hype, he seems determined to stay grounded, and family and friends back in Britain help by refusing to let him take any of it too seriously.
"Oh yeah, it's Superman jokes left, right and centre. I'm from a family of five boys, so the brothers take any opportunity they can. And all of my friends will send me a silly photo of me if they find one," says the actor, who grew up on the island of Jersey before being sent to boarding school at age 13.
He now lives in Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County with girlfriend Gina Carano, the 31-year-old mixed martial arts fighter-turned-actress who appears in the high-speed action thriller Fast & Furious 6.
In a recent interview with Details magazine, he revealed that he is something of a homebody, choosing to live in this quiet coastal town because of its distance from the Hollywood party circuit. "I'm not much of a schmoozer or an eventgoer," he says. "I'd rather stay close to here."
One can almost imagine him and the equally buff Carano spending hours together lifting weights and spotting each other at the gym, because in this interview, exercise is the one subject that gets Cavill fired up, with all other questions approached politely but cautiously.
The actor, who has revealed that he was teased for being a chubby child, speaks at length about the gruelling 10-month exercise-and-diet regime his two trainers put him on, describing it as the most difficult aspect of the shoot but one he felt was necessary to do the role justice.
"One of my trainers said, 'You can't act your way into a six-pack'," he says. "You have to put the work in and that involves hours and hours in the gym, every week and, when you're working, getting up at four in the morning so that you have enough time to eat and train, and then go off and do a full day on a large production.
"It was pretty horrible," he concedes. "The kind of training changed as well. First, it was setting me up so I had the strength and endurance to do the bulk training. Then we did very heavy lifting and a high calorie diet to put muscle mass on, and after that, we dropped down in calories to lean up and get in what we called 'suit shape' and, after that, leaned up even further to get into 'shirtless shape'."
The actor, who quotes his exercise gurus a few times during the chat, says they taught him a life lesson about not "listening to the lies" — in other words, thoughts about not being able to push past his physical limits.
"There's always someone who can lift heavier or row faster. That's one thing the trainer taught me — that you should never get arrogant because there's someone out there who can do it a lot better.
"So it's all about staying humble and just trying to better yourself personally. And that was a real lesson for the role because Superman is not arrogant."
When asked how the movie will separate itself from the herd of other superhero films, however, he allows himself a touch of pride.
"Simply put, Superman is the grand-daddy of all superheroes," Cavill says. "Yes, there have been a lot of superhero movies, but everyone wants to see what we're doing with Superman now."
Man Of Steel is now showing in Singapore cinemas.
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on June 12, 2013.