Henry Cavill plays a ‘conflicted, existential’ superhero in ‘Man of Steel’
BY CINDY PEARLMAN June 6, 2013 5:16PM
HENRY CAVILL as Superman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “MAN OF STEEL,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
No Lex Luthor? No Kryptonite? Really?
A. Cavill says, “I didn’t want to take away from those who played him before. That was their interpretation of the source material. I wanted to do mine, and not out of sense of ego.” He adds, “It would be a disjoined performance if I allowed someone else to influence me.”
What was it like filming the Krypton baby who will grow into the future Man of Steel?
A. Russell Crowe, who plays Jor-El, Superman’s dad, says, “I had a very interesting experience being a father in this movie. Zach employed four babies as the recently born Kal-El. Unlike my own experience as a father of two, where I managed to dodge the pee and throw-up, although I’m good with nappies, I was pissed on and pooped on by these movie babies. And they liked to do this right after I had my lunch.” How bad was it for the Oscar winner? “I got more than a handful of the essential Kryptonian material that comes out of a little baby, if you know what I mean.”
How did Chicago theater actor Michael Shannon find his General Zod?
A. “Where did I go to find Zod? Satan,” Shannon says. “I went down to the well and said, ‘Satan, are you down there? I gotta be evil today.’ Then I lower my bucket into the well and drink until it hurts. Then I take Pepto-Bismol.” Seriously? “I really don’t know,” Shannon says. “Zod couldn’t be further from who I am. I’m just a tall, lanky, goofy person.”
How macho was the “Man of Steel” set?
A. Supermacho. Shannon says, “I am much stronger than Henry. It’s no secret there were a lot of ice packs back at the hotel for Henry. But Russell really kicks my butt in this movie. He’s the ‘Gladiator.’ What are you going to do?”
Is Superman still relevant in 2013?
A. Cavill says, “It’s not just that he speaks to the outsiders. He speaks to everyone. He’s here to give Americans hope, and we all need hope no matter what century we’re in or what stage of life we’re in.” He adds, “I just hope that everything will be OK, and Superman affirms that in a movie.”
Updated: July 10, 2013 6:18AM
When it comes to describing what it’s like to play an icon, Henry Cavill has a will of steel.
“When you play an icon, you don’t try to be an icon,” says the muscular hunk. “It defeats the purpose. The responsibility attached to playing Superman is enormous. You realize this really matters.”
He’s speaking on the “Man of Steel” set at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif., where Cavill gets double takes even when he’s not in a skintight suit and cape. To his right is the pod where Kal-El arrived from Krypton. To his left is the large Daily Planet globe.
Cavill, best known for “The Tudors,” says that his Superman is a man with i-s-s-u-e-s.
“He’s conflicted and existential,” says the actor, GQ handsome in a dark blue shirt and white shirt. “This wasn’t about classic Superman material.
“I didn’t go to the source material. I applied my life to it. As an actor, it’s quite a lonely existence. You spend a lot of time by yourself. You meet new people, love them and then never see them again.
“A lot of that is Superman,” he says.
In “Man of Steel,” directed by Zach Snyder, the future Clark Kent arrives after his home planet, run by his Superdad Jor-El (Russell Crowe), explodes into the galaxy. This time around, Superman meets a far tougher Lois Lane and must save the world from his mortal enemy, General Zod (Michael Shannon).
Cavill says getting the role required him to beef up in a major way. “I basically lived in the gym,” he says. “When you feel like you can’t push any further or do another set of weights, you have to say to yourself, ‘Wait a minute, I’m not just trying to fit into those jeans. I have to look like Superman.’ ”
Feeling like Superman was another story.
“He meets new people constantly and has to prove that he’s different, but he’s a nice guy. He has to prove so much before he disappears again,” says Cavill.
His biggest supporter is his mother.
Diane Lane, who plays his earthbound mama Martha, says Cavill made brave and emotional choices as Clark. “My favorite scene is the first time she sees him in the outfit. She says, ‘Nice suit, son.’ It has been waiting to be revealed because Henry holds back and makes you wait for him to turn into Superman.
“Talk about your son coming out,” she says.
Just because he has a lot on his mind doesn’t mean that Superman doesn’t have to bust his butt doing stunts. “There was a lot of rehearsal involved with flying,” Cavill says with a laugh. “I was actually suspended in what I call belly flight for most of the flight scenes.
“You lay in a belly pan and there is a guy moving it in front of a green screen,” he says. “I had to imagine what it was like to really fly. I imagined it a bit better when I was doing the wire work, which was incredibly complex.”
Giving up control on those wires was key. “I was 40 feet up in the air and completely out of my own control, which was nice for a change. How often do we get to give up total control? I really did feel as if I was Superman up there.”
The fight sequences required a little more restraint, at least at first.
“In this film, Superman has to test himself. His Earth father, played by Kevin Costner, tells him not to fight. His Krypton father tells him to test himself,” he says. “I found his fighting was not a matter of choice. He has to do it.
“The first punch he throws is in defense of his mother. You’d beat the crap out of someone if they insulted your mother too.”
Cavill, 30, grew up as the second youngest of four brothers on the Channel Islands in the United Kingdom, just off the coast of Normandy. On “The Tudors” (2007-10), he played Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and his movie credits include “Stardust” (2007) and “Immortals” (2011).
There are rumors he will take over the Tom Cruise role in the upcoming “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”
Cavill won’t confirm that or the other pressing Internet question of the day: How does Superman shave in that costume?
“I think some things better remain a mystery,” he says. “Let them talk about it.”
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