Henry Cavill will be the first foreign actor to portray Superman on the silver screen.
Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … the Union Jack?
The news that Henry Cavill, a native of the British isle of Jersey, will fly across the screen as Superman brings us to an interesting point in superhero cinema — the three biggest Hollywood franchises based on American comic books will now star actors either born or raised in United Kingdom. Christian Bale (who looks poised to win his first Oscar for his stunning work in “The Fighter“) will soon be back in Batman’s cape on the set of “The Dark Knight Rises” while Andrew Garfield is already wearing the red-and-blue tights of Spider-Man for the Sony reboot of the wall-crawler’s mega-franchise.
Garfield was born in Los Angeles but he is a dual citizen of the U.S. and England and moved across the pond at age 3. If you want to argue that he should be considered an American actor, you might want to start the discussion with the 27-year-old himself. As you read here at Hero Complex, he has plenty of Peter Parker’s self-doubt when it comes to taking on the uniquely American hard-luck hero. “This is a beloved character, and, you know, ironically, I’m gonna be the person in the audience going … ‘Who cast this English fool?’”
Bale, born in Wales and of English heritage, is the first foreign-born actor to play Batman in a theatrically released project (the previous Caped Crusaders were Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney in feature films, Lewis Wilson and Robert Lowery in the 1940s serials and Kevin Conroy in the 1993 animated feature “Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm“). Cavill will have the same sort of distinction with the Man of Steel, who has been portrayed in live-action feature films twice by actors from Iowa (George Reeves and Brandon Routh) and three times by actors from New York or New Jersey (Kirk Alyn, Christopher Reeve and voice-actor Bud Collyer). If you’re curious, the Clark Kent actors from live-action television series — Reeves, Dean Cain, John Newton and Tom Welling — were all born in the States as well.
There’s some relief, perhaps, that the most patriotic of American superheroes will be portrayed by domestic product this summer; Chris Evans, of Sudbury, Mass., has the title role in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” That community just happens to have the ZIP Code of 01776 within its city limits — no joke — which can only have helped when Marvel Studios looked for a fellow who could wear a wardrobe that Betsy Ross would have loved. There’s a “Wonder Woman” television series now ramping up, too, but there’s no casting news yet, so we’ll have to wait to see if the Amazon princess — who also looks like a walking flag — will be portrayed by a subject of the Queen of England.
Cavill will undoubtedly be asked if he feels a bit odd taking up Superman’s classic fight for “truth, justice and the American way,” so we have a suggestion for him if he grows weary of the queries. It might be worthwhile noting that the hero of Metropolis is, in fact, an intergalactic immigrant. The last son of Krypton may celebrate the Fourth of July, but let’s remember he arrived in Kansas as the ultimate outsider and then won all of us over as, um, a resident alien.
— Geoff Boucher
UPDATE: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story used “England” in the headline instead of “U.K.”
RECENT AND RELATED