He’s hardly aware of it now, the suit that clings to his heavily muscled frame like a second skin. Look closely, and it is like a synthetic chainmail, a deep ocean blue except for the muted scarlet on the boots and inverted triangle on his chest containing the letter S. “Oh my God, I don’t know what kind of material it is,” flounders Henry Cavill at Empire’s casual enquiry as to the suit’s make-up. “It’s a very compressed, sort of elastic-y type of material.”
Whatever unfathomable Kryptonian tailoring has gone into his Superman costume, there is something empowering in putting it on. You just feel different. “It’s a different energy,” he says. “Whether it’s in my head or not, I feel different.” Weeks into the shoot, and the crew still can’t help but turn when he walks onto set. Call it the Superman effect — Warner Bros. is banking $200 million-plus on it.
The 29 year-old British actor — in fact, he hails from the island of Jersey, the son of a military family — is straining every sinew to create a living superhero. “You can’t mess about,” he insists. Depending on his call time he gets up at 4 a.m., eats breakfast, works out for an hour-and-a-half, showers, has his hair and make-up done, suits up, shoots, then half-an-hour for lunch, shoots some more, gets out of the suit, goes home, eats, sleeps... “That’s about 15 hours’ worth of day,” he laughs, “but that’s just the nature of it.”
Over four months prior to production he spent three hours of six days a week in the gym. “You can’t act your way into a six-pack,” his trainer would scream at him as he burned. He would follow his workout with a 1,500-calorie protein shake, then breakfast. “During the day at work I was hungry all the time.” He put on 20lbs of muscle to play Superman.
“He’s a spectacular human being in general,” says producer Charles Roven. “I’m not saying he is a lily-white, he can have his edge. Henry’s been able to deliver every colour we would have wanted from the character.”
There are subtle modulations between Clark Kent, Kal-El and Superman. Clark, for one, presents less that hoary superhero identity crisis than another part of the same Kryptonian-turned-Earthling. “It’s just one is free and the other is not,” he says, reflecting that Superman, as a whole, is more complex than ever before. “There is a sense of arrested development there. He keeps himself hidden. But he’s not naive. He’s been watching the world for a long time.” Holy Christ metaphors...
Relax, he’s still going to have to get off his shrink’s couch to deal super-justice to the recalcitrant invaders from Krypton, led by the scowling General Zod in the guise of Michael Shannon. “Oh, we got on really well. Michael’s a great guy,” Cavill extols of his co-star. “Great sense of humour. The contrast when he switches into character is incredible. We don’t have to get along to do our jobs, but we get along.”
The oft-told story of the nearly man (Bond! Superman! Cedric Diggory!) is old news. Cavill came to Man Of Steel bolstered by both a long-running role in TV’s The Tudors and the lead in Greek myth remix Immortals, and is relatively stoic about pulling a Brandon Routh and disappearing whence he came as soon as Man Of Steel passes out of cinemas. “l certainly haven’t got my mind set on failure. That is a bad approach — you want to strive for success.”
There is nothing on the horizon as of yet (he ignores Empire’s suggestion he might be Christian Grey in twisted bonk-fest Fifty Shades Of Grey — sounds more Zod’s bag anyway), but is perfectly frank that he would still like to fill the tuxedo of James Bond. “What a wonderful challenge to follow up Daniel Craig,” he says. “He has set the bar so high.”
First there is this particular legacy to carry on, with its blue elastic-y suit. He is convinced he has landed the role of a lifetime at exactly the right time in his life. Famously, he had auditioned for McG’s aborted Superman: Flyby. He is in a much better place to play the role now. “I've just got more experience as an actor and a human being.”