We see a new photo of Henry Cavill as Clark Kent and some other ones of Superman. Wonder Woman and Batman have new photos as well as one image in particular that seems to foreshadow a greater threat to the team than Doomsday... a potential villain for the Justice League movie.
Special thanks to Josh Wilding from CBM for the heads up.
And special thanks to @FiftyShadesAS for sending us the scans!
The Brightest Day
With Batman to battle, and new heroes — and villains — rising, Henry Cavill tackles the challenge of staying super
There had been whisperings during the press tour for Man of Steel. Nothing official, so he could still put them down to mere Hollywood gossip, but Henry Cavill was getting a sense that the sequel to his debut as Superman wasn’t going to be Man Of Steel II. “That was when they started talking about the nature of what the second movie may be,” he remembers. “Or what could be called the first movie in this series...”
‘Batman versus Superman’ was what people were saying, and Cavill just thought, “Okay, that is interesting.” Though he wasn’t going to jump to any conclusions as to whether this was going to be a Batman movie or a Superman movie, or something else entirely.
Hard-edged yet still epic and fantastical, Man Of Steel had fulfilled director Zack Snyder’s edict of depicting a ‘what if?’ scenario for Superman landing in the real world. But his thoughts for a sequel were taking a turn for the ambitious. Marvel was making hay by exploiting its full roster of superheroes, so why stick to just one superhero in this world, however Super? Snyder rearranged the equation: rather than just exploring what would happen when the real world is exposed to Superman, how about a real world where superheroes are already real? And what if they don’t mix well?
When Cavill finally received the first draft by Chris Terrio, he got the point: this is the reaction to Superman revealing himself, the Kal-El V Zod showdown having served as the hero’s devastating coming-out ball (while also a rehearsal for what was to come). “We see the reaction of Lex Luther, and the reaction of Batman,” says Cavill. “And the reaction of the whole world to this godlike being.”
Which turns out to be hardly the most positive one.
Historically, the United States Congress is not to be found in Pontiac, Detroit. Yet here are the famous marble steps of the Capitol Building in a disused GM motor plant, crowned by a wall of green-screen (on which the building itself will emerge during post-production). A crowd of protestors has gathered at the foot of the stairs, hemmed in by barriers, and wielding placards emblazoned with scathing slogans: “This is our world not yours!”, “God hates aliens!” and “Earth belongs to humans!”
As the particulars of the forthcoming shot are being fussed over, an assistant director orchestrates the anti-Superman ranting. “Let’s give it something this time,” he shouts. Louder still, the call comes for cameras to roll. Zack Snyder is located beneath a small canopy safely out of shot, clasping a microphone with which he transmits his commands. The protestors shake their billboards as if getting warmed up for a lynching. Squeezed into their midst, Empire spots Amy Adams as a fraught Lois Lane.
Bowed before them. like Rodin’s Thinker, is the subject of their fury. Cavill’s Superman has just landed at high velocity. Although the actual descent will be put in later with CGI, this is the finished pose, bracing the impact through his mighty thighs. In one fluid movement he rises to his feet and turns to face the crowd and its seething hatred. His expression is unreadable, but he’s not smiling.
It is July 28, 2014, well over two months into production on Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, the fourth major shoot to make its base at this pop-up studio which utilises a car factory left vacant in the wake of the financial desolation that wracked the city. The scale of its halls can match any soundstage, and on a brief tour Empire has seen the bones of the Bat-cave, a Batmobile repair shop and, built in what was once a parking lot, these Capitol steps.
Superman has come to face a senate committee, chaired by Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch, to try and convince them he is not a threat to national security. “People have begun to fear him,” says Cavill: “Is he too powerful? Is he, in fact, a tyrant?”
Where Man of Steel was an angst-heavy origin story, the expansion finds Superman confronting a backlash to the very concept of a superhero (and, it seems, taking an ironic dig at the genre’s saturation of cinema in the process). While this Superman remains the illegitimate offspring of Christopher Nolan’s hyper-real Dark Knight universe (even with a grizzled new Batman in town), there is also a sense that Zack Snyder is drawing this franchise closer to the pessimistic noir of his own Watchmen, which featured a dark spin on Superman in the nihilistic Dr. Manhattan and a bitter Batman-alike called Nite Owl.
For his part, Superman has come to terms with his purpose He is now a saviour who recognises that he can hear everyone screaming for help, but he can’t get to them all. “He’s more used to this gig, doing his best to save as many lives as he can,” explains Cavill, taking a break in his trailer. “He is no longer frantic, He’s no longer a wet-behind-the-ears kind of superhero.”
In the War On Terror era, superheroes have become super-metaphors to debate the uses and abuses of power in policing the world. “Can we really assume Superman will never turn on us?” teases Snyder. Frank Miller’s 1986 comic-book masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns, Snyder’s set text for his new film, had Superman as a government tool: a weapon of mass destruction with a red cape.
Snyder’s older, wiser, bitter Batman, for one, thinks this golden boy has to be held accountable for what happened in Metropolis. “So it’s about two heroes who can be seen as heroic and villainous,” says Ben Affleck, “and when you look at the double-edged sword of that, different people will come away looking at it very differently.”
In a sense, this movie is still a Superman story, it’s just that it’s not always seen through Superman’s eyes. There is also Batman’s cynical, biased gaze, the world’s collective viewpoint (he’s either a threat or a promise), the caring glance of Lois Lane, the warped surveillance of Lex Luthor. And also the bespectacled observation of Clark Kent, his ace reporting alter ego, trying to finagle the Daily Planet into investigating this Batman scourge.
Cavill has relished the opportunity to develop his Clark side. If anything, the first film was an origin story for a Clark Kent who was unveiled in unassuming suit and square glasses only at the very end. “He is the human side of the character,” he says, “but there is often this idea that Clark and Superman must be so different.”
This is the modern, believable version of Clark: no tripping over tennis balls, no banging into elevator doors, no nudging slippery specs back up his nose. That beloved bumbling Reeve routine doesn’t square with Snyder’s shadowy enquiry into superhero ethics. Clark might radiate less power, but they are two points on a sliding scale of identity.
“He’s being himself, only he’s presenting a different front while he’s in these different outfits,” explains Cavill. Clark’s trying not to draw attention to himself, hopefully giving a realistic basis for the concept of his true identity being hidden by only a pair of thick-rimmed specs.
“He can only get away with wearing glasses so much,” admits Cavill, keen to uphold Snyder’s logic. “If he’s drawing attention to himself by being clumsy, that’s not going to work.” For the record: there is still the opportunity for humour, only more in a gallows style. “We don’t want to be jokers,” says Cavill.
There could be trouble in Eden, too. Clark and Adams’ Lois have moved in together — an understated Metropolis apartment in marked contrast to Bruce Wayne’s lonely Gotham mega-pad — but her fearless determination to get to the truth of any story is “messing” with Superman’s agenda to become accepted by the rest of the world; it hardly looks good if he’s prioritising rescuing her over any other human being, yet how can he not? Plus, points out Cavill, “It’s not a normal relationship. How could it be? One of them is an alien.”
Which is something Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is very curious about. Traditionally Superman’s nemesis, this movie is partly an origin story for their enmity. To begin with, Eisenberg’s Luthor and Batman will be in cahoots against this Kryptonian godhead. “Clark knows who this Lex Luthor chap is,” Cavill says, “but he certainly wouldn’t assume that he had any bad intentions."
As for Batman? Well, there lies the rub. “Rather than just Alien Vs. Predator, where you have two monsters and they’re gonna fight,” says Affleck, here “you have two people who really truly believe they are doing something heroic and necessary in their conﬂict.” And two rights make a right ding-dong.
In the end, the argument goes like this: Superman thinks Batman’s methods make him as much a criminal as the menagerie of pantomime freaks he’s got locked up in Arkham Asylum (cue: Suicide Squad). “He doesn’t agree with his form of justice,” states Cavill, taking up the cause. “For this farm boy who tries to do things the right my, justice at any cost is not something he can come to terms with.”
He doesn’t want to bully Gotham’s gothic antihero — that would make him as bad as Batman. He’s supposed to be this figurehead for good, an untouchable. So at first, as Clark, he’ll try and expose him in the papers, “show the world what this Batman dude is doing,” says Cavill.
Problem is, Batman has no such qualms. Batman is willing to fight dirty. “Batman has seen the devastation that comes from aliens hauling on Earth,” reasons Affleck. “He thinks Superman’s attracting ﬂies to our planet. He is basically a beacon.” Batman has counted the cost of Superman’s so-called heroics. His view is simple: he’s destroyed a city, he’s murdered people, he must be stopped.
“It’s the human outlook on Superman,” says Cavill, “and that is why such a major thing happens.” And no matter how many Bat-toys a billionaire industrialist can buy, this isn’t a fair fight, right?
“It’s not about one on one,” says Cavill, who points out that, if it was, then “of course Superman is going to win. But it’s deeper than that, It’s more that these two great powers exist and are actually trying to achieve the same thing, but in such different ways…” They are going to learn that the Super-hard way.
The world may have changed and the challenges intensified, but it’s clear that whoever else is going to get suited and rebooted for DC’s expansion, Superman is still very much the same guy we saw in Man Of Steel: he is Henry Cavill. As much as Zack Snyder, he provides crucial continuity from that movie — there is a good reason they didn’t recast the role entirely and start from scratch. The part has become his entirely, and that’s as much down to his focus and commitment as his physique.
Since Christopher Reeve’s sky-blue champion, a lasting Superman had eluded Hollywood. Brandon Routh and Bryan Singer did a credible version, but the idea of a quasi-sequel to Richard Donner’s Superman II didn’t compute (Superman Returns is arguably the most forgotten superhero movie of recent times). Tim Burton’s ambitious reimagination of the interplanetary boy scout with Superman Lives foundered in a miasma of studio indecision. Then, in 2001, Wolfgang Petersen was actually developing World’s Finest: Batman Vs. Superman, with Jude Law, Josh Hartnett or Matt Damon due to be the noble side of a contretemps kicked off by the murder of Bruce Wayne’s wife. But that was pre-Marvel, when battling superheroes felt excessive.
Now the timing is right for this showdown, and Cavill remains the best (Super)man for the job. Even between takes. On set, Empire is told that whenever he and Snyder disagree over matters of Superman’s psychology, they do pushups until one gives in. “I don’t do push-ups,” snorts Cavill, who prefers three hours a day in the on-site gym to maintain his Super-physique. “Zack does lots of push-ups on set, though. He’s started a push-up cult.”
It’s a sign of the times that even the director resembles a superhero, but for Cavill staying in shape is a point of professional necessity. Working out, he says, has become a lifestyle choice. He’s put on 30 lbs of muscle for this movie, and will calm it down to 10 lbs between films. To play Superman every two years he maintains a base level of extremely fit before ramping it up to ridiculously cut, edging closer to DC’s Olympian ideal first set down by school friends Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933.
“It’s not as if I am going to be able to play a POW and then Superman again,” says Cavill. “My commitment lies with this first.” You can’t blame the man for his dedication: the 32 year-old British actor had been up for Batman, Bond and Superman Returns only to narrowly miss out on all of them. Finally, he got to help reinvent the Man Of Tomorrow for today, both awesome and troubled, and he wants to make sure the credibility never slips.
“He’s always in there,” he says, pointing to his titanic chest. Out there in the real real world, fans want to meet Superman not Henry Cavill, and that requires a certain bearing in every quarter. “It sits there simmering at ten per cent all the time,” he says, “and then when it comes to acting you just crank it up to 100 per cent.”
Very much in the public eye now himself, Superman does get to be a bit more, well, Superman this time around. He’s no longer in the shadows. Quite the opposite. “There are hero moments where it looks like a hero moment,” Cavill says proudly. “It doesn’t look like а bum saving a bunch of people then disappearing into the shadows. We’re introducing a potential long-term villain (Lex Luthor), we’re introducing Batman, and we’re introducing Wonder Woman. This is the Dawn Of Justice.”
As he says, this isn’t so much the ‘second’ Superman movie as the ‘first’ in a new series that will see him teamed up with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Affleck’s Batman. Although, it seems, the Justice League is still a high-high concept Cavill can’t entirely get his head around. “It’s a bunch of people who are all used to getting their own way, so we’ll see how they interact,” he smiles. “And the guy who can kick anyone’s ass is the nice one.” Well, depending on your point of view.