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Local scuba expert prepares Russell Crowe, Henry Cavill for Superman movie

Henry Cavill Russell Crowe get training for underwater scenes for new film 'Man Steel' Naperville from instructor Dave Rautio. |

Henry Cavill and Russell Crowe get training for underwater scenes for the new film "Man of Steel" in Naperville from instructor Dave Rautio. | Submitted

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Updated: July 15, 2013 3:30PM

He may very well be capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound — not to mention faster than a speeding bullet — but Superman still has to be a certified scuba diver if he’s plunging into the watery depths.

During the filming of “Man of Steel” in the western suburbs two years ago, the time came to prepare lead actors Henry Cavill and Russell Crowe to film underwater scenes, and their union had a requirement: they must undergo the same instruction and testing procedures as everybody else.

And so the phone calls began.

Scuba master instructor Dave Rautio spoke with the studio representatives more than a dozen times before they let on what they were really after — and even then they danced delicately around the details, declining to reveal much beyond the fact that there was going to be a movie made nearby.

But it seemed meant to be. Rautio’s scuba school, Below H2O, was in the midst of a move from Aurora to Naperville when the movie planners were putting the pieces into place.

“The timing was perfect,” said Rautio, a trim and extensively tattooed and pierced Aurora resident who’s been a diver for more than half of his 47 years. “We had just gotten the pool here, and they needed to be certified for the movie.”

Eventually, some two dozen would submerge themselves in the vast metal training tank inside Below H2O, tucked into the center of the Naper West Plaza, across from Westfield Fox Valley Mall.

“It wasn’t just the two of them,” Rautio said. “We were working with some stunt doubles.”

Also in line for certification was Dylan Sprayberry, who portrays the 13-year-old Clark Kent, and those 18 kids on the bus. In an early scene in the film, a school bus plunges into a body of water. Of course, only Superman can save the day.

Rautio is pleased to have had the chance to get to know the actors beyond the tabloid hype. He said they were “excellent” to work with, and they continue to communicate via occasional emails.

He found Crowe and Cavill to be largely regular guys; over lunch at the nearby La Hacienda restaurant, he said, they shared stories of earlier projects, with Crowe describing the filming of Ridley Scott’s 2000 Oscar-winning epic “Gladiator.”

The irony of learning diving techniques in landlocked Naperville wasn’t lost on the Australian actor.

“Russell said, ‘You know how many times I’ve been approached to get certified? And you did it!’ ” Rautio said. “And I said, ‘Yeah, well, you had to do it.’ ”

Rautio, who has trained area police and fire responders in the past, had to submit an application to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, providing the prospective students’ names. “They said, ‘Are you joking?’ ”

One of the highlights of the three-month engagement was seeing the costumes worn by Kal-El — that’s the indigenous name of Clark Kent’s superpowered alter ego — and the equally extraterrestrial Jor-El, Superman’s biological father. The high-tech fabric used to construct the fanciful super regalia was particularly fascinating.

“It almost has that dirty, metallic look,” said Rautio, who saw the costumes tested to ensure they would pass watery-wardrobe muster. “There were just little things like, ‘OK, there’s some little bubbles coming out of his right pant leg. We have to fix that.’ ”

Also on the diving instructor’s must-do list: go see the movie, which opens Friday.

“I have to,” Rautio said. “You can’t not go.”

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