Henry Cavill believes that his entry into professional acting began when he encountered Russell Crowe. The campus of Stowe School was being used as a backdrop for the kidnap thriller Proof of Life, and Henry was among extras. It was a brief meeting that inspired him to continue with his craft.
“I took his hand and said, ‘Hi, Mr. Crowe. My name is Henry, and I’m thinking of becoming an actor. What’s it like?’ And we talked just a bit,” Henry recalls. “A few days later I got a signed picture of him in Gladiator that said, ‘Dear Henry, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ You can imagine how I felt when I got to the end of that first journey of a thousand miles and I’m working with Russell Crowe... And you know, I don’t want it to end.” Indeed, Cavill and Crowe had been filming Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, with Cavill playing Superman and Crowe, the hero’s doomed alien father, Jor-El.
Officially, Henry started acting at ten at St Michael’s Prep School on Jersey. “Turns out I had a bit of a knack for it,” he says with a laugh. “And I really loved it.”
But he started taking it a little more seriously when he went to Stowe, where he took part in productions of Shakespeare and Grease.
“I was about 11 years old and I had just finished doing a school play. One of the teachers asked me to do it and I did it. I enjoyed it enormously. All the parents came up to me afterward and were saying, ‘You were absolutely wonderful and marvelous. We hope you do another next year.’ It was at that stage where I thought, ‘ah, this is a pretty good feeling.’ I did another one the following year and had a similar response,” Henry recalls. “Then I went to boarding school and I had a similar response there... That’s when I started seriously considering maybe doing a drama course in a university.”
Movie industry discovered Henry Cavill at 17, when the casting group for the 2002 film The Count of Monte Cristo, a screen adaptation of the classic by Alexander Dumas, came to Stowe. They visited to all the English boarding schools, because the role was the son of a count. “I got really lucky that a casting director went to Stowe and got me in The Count of Monte Cristo. I was in the right place at the right time. I happened to look right, had a bit of acting experience and the director liked me, so it was wham bam, thank you ma’am!” Henry recalls. He said farewell to his textbooks and left Stowe without completing A levels in history, English and theatre studies.
The most unlucky man in Hollywood
Right after his debut in The Count of Monte Cristo, Henry went on to star in Laguna (Vendetta) alongside Roman Polanski’s wife Emmanuelle Seigner and then in I Capture The Castle with fellow rising star Romola Garai.
But next few years his acting career began to decline. Henry played small roles in TV series Inspector Linley Mysteries and Midsomer Murders. Then he had mostly appeared in low-profile films like the direct-to-video Hellraiser: Hellworld and Red Riding Hood, and in supporting roles in higher-profile fare like Tristan&Isolde and Stardust. He also became famous for just missing out on parts several years ago.
At that period the film career of Henry Cavill has often been described as an eternal second. Fans wanted Henry Cavill to play Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but the role went to Robert Pattinson. Stephenie Meyer originally wanted him to play the role of Edward Cullen in Twilight, but by the time filming was due to start he was considered too old at 24 to play 17 and, again, the role went to Pattinson. On top of that, he was almost cast and missed by a hair the role of James Bond, losing out to Daniel Craig, and, ironically, was due to play the superhero in director McG’s film Superman: Flyby, but McG was pulled out of the project and Bryan Singer took over, recasting Brandon Routh in 2006’s Superman Returns.
Because of this, in December 2005 movie magazine Empire dubbed him the "unluckiest man in Hollywood".
Ups and downs
“I went through a phase where I was getting wonderful feedback for everything I did, but not getting the job because I wasn’t a name...” Henry says. “It just wasn’t happening. I was getting lots of feedback, ‘Oh, loved you, fantastic performance, the director loved you, but sorry, no,’ and I started to throw my hands up in the air and thought, ‘There’s just no winning. It’s not going to happen because I’m doing everything right, but I’m not getting the results.’ So I was considering going back to school, finishing my last year of school, and then joining the Armed Forces.”
But the military will have to do without him, because the British actor’s luck finally has turned.
“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s good. Something’s happening. I’ve achieved some level of recognition. Someone has noticed me.’ That gave me some reinforcement, then I got (the television series) The Tudors.”
With the steamy TV drama The Tudors Henry finally got his break and a recognizable name when he was cast as Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, a close confidant to Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ Henry VIII. The series enjoyed a successful run, lasting four seasons and earning a Golden Globe nomination in 2007 for best drama and won Emmy in 2008 for best costume design.
During the filming of The Tudors Henry also worked in other projects. In 2007, he starred Joel Schumacher’s Blood Creek with Michael Fassbender, a revenge story in which he becomes caught up in an occult experiment dating back to the Third Reich. In spring 2008, he worked on Woody Allen’s film Whatever Works opposite Evan Rachel Wood.
After shooting the fourth season of The Tudors, Henry starred as legendary hero Theseus in the Tarsem Singh’s fantasy epic Immortals. In 2012, Henry appears alongside Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver in the action thriller The Cold Light of Day, in which he plays a young American who uncovers a conspiracy in Spain.
But finally now Henry Cavill is on the cusp of global fame. In early 2011, he was given a second chance as Superman with Zack Snyder’s reboot Man of Steel, slated for a 2013 release.
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It was, indeed, a circuitous path for Henry. He’s been this close to becoming a breakout Hollywood star a staggering number of times, but until now he was unable to seal the deal. Now his life is about to change in a big way. “I’ve been fairly unlucky in the past,” he admits, referring to his handful of almostroles, “but whether I’ve been unlucky or indeed lucky, you don’t really know.”
As for his future plans, “Each actor has plans and see further for the future of his career than the acting. Actually I try to be a good actor but later, perhaps I will consider another career in directing or production."