Henry Cavill took a break between the heroic roles of Theseus and Superman to play an everyday guy in The Cold Light of Day.
Perhaps unavoidably, though, the English actor's part in the suspense film turned into quite a display of derring-do.
“Cold Light of Day is an action thriller about different international secret services,” says the heroically handsome actor during an interview in Beverly Hills. “They’re trying to attain a briefcase and I get stuck in the middle of it. I'm an average, regular Joe who has to do extraordinary things to survive, perform death-defying manoeuvres and risky stunts to save my family. One of the secret agents is using my family as a way of getting what they want.”
Cavill’s character, Will Shaw, is vacationing with relatives in Spain when his mother and brother are kidnapped. He soon learns that his father (Bruce Willis), who he thought worked for the government as a business consultant, is actually a CIA agent. After that Will becomes wrapped up with a series of questionable characters, including one of his dad's former colleagues, another CIA agent played by Sigourney Weaver.
“It was fantastic, as it is working with any actor with that kind of experience,” says the 29-year-old of acting alongside veterans Willis and Weaver. “You just get to learn a lot — and it's good fun!"
The best part, though?
“The director [France's Mabrouk El Mechri] told me to stop working out and to eat, drink and be merry so l'd look more like a normal person,” says Cavill, who had just come off a strict training regimen while filming, often shirtless, the Greek-god spectacular Immortals.
“So I ate and drank, and l was merry,” he adds with a smile.
That happy interlude ended abruptly when Cavill got the call from Man of Steel director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen). The actor couldn't complain.
“There's no better feeling than to get that call,” Cavill says. “Actually, I was at home when the phone rang. It was an unknown number and I ignored it, then looked down and saw it was Zack Snyder. I was like ‘Oh my God!’ and he'd hung up at that stage. Fortunately, he called back.”
Scheduled for release next summer, Man of Steel is the latest attempt to re-launch the comic book movie franchise to the heights it achieved in the 1970s and '80s. Cavill – who had tried out for the last stab at reviving the character, 2006's Superman Returns, but lost to Brandon Routh – thinks this version ought to do the trick.
“What I can say is that it's a modernization of the character and a very realistic view of one, obviously, very fantastic individual,” he says. “It's an unreal situation, but it's approached from a very practical viewpoint. We wanted to make the character easier to identify with.”
Although he didn't have access to comic books on the small Channel Island of Jersey where he was born, Cavill knows how important getting the grandaddy of all superheroes right is to millions of fans. He's also cognizant of the supposed Superman Curse: 1950s television portrayer George Reeves committed suicide, 20th-century movie star Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident and Routh... well, what exactly is Routh doing these days?
Perhaps following a catchphrase from a rival superhero series, Cavill approached the task with the attitude that with great power comes great responsibility.
“Very much so, yes,” he says. “It's important to do the role justice. There are a lot of people relying on me to do this well. l gladly accept that responsibility, and it's a great one to have because it's a wonderful opportunity. l don't let the pressures get to me because that's going to hinder my performance and, therefore, let people down. So l choose to ignore the pressure side of it and focus on doing justice to Superman.”
The fourth of five brothers, Cavill left his bucolic isle for English boarding school at 13. While all of the brothers did school plays, Henry was lucky enough to be spotted by a casting director at one of his. That led to a role in the 2002 film The Count of Monte Cristo, and he's been working steadily ever since – most notably, until Immortals, on the cable TV series The Tudors.
It hasn't all been smooth sailing, though. Beside losing Superman the first time around, Cavill vied for the James Bond job that went to Daniel Craig and, reportedly, was under consideration for the Batman series that starred Christian Bale.
Cavill sees no reason to dwell on past could-have-beens, though. Nor to worry much about the future, considering how well things have actually been going.
“There are no goals or hopes, necessarily,” he says. “I just want to tell good stories. That's the plan.”
With, maybe, one exception.
“I would love the opportunity to play Bond!”
BY BOB STRAUSS