‘Man of Steel’ star Henry Cavill knows how Clark Kent feels

June 15, 2013 | 6:55 a.m.

Henry Cavill, photographed May 30, plays Superman in "Man of Steel." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Henry Cavill, photographed May 30, plays Superman in "Man of Steel." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Henry Cavill, photographed May 30, plays Superman in "Man of Steel." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

"Man of Steel" stars Amy Adams, left, and Henry Cavill attend the film's London premiere on June 12. (Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA)

"Man of Steel" star Henry Cavill attends the film's New York premiere on June 10. (Evan Agostini / Associated Press)

"Man of Steel" star Henry Cavill, left, his mother, Marianne, and his father, Colin, attend the film's New York premiere on June 10. (Peter Foley / EPA)

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, left, and Diane Lane as Martha Kent in "Man of Steel." (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

Amy Adams as Lois Lane, left, and Henry Cavill as Superman in "Man of Steel." (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

Henry Cavill, photographed May 31, stars in "Man of Steel." (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

Henry Cavill, photographed May 31, stars in "Man of Steel." (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

Henry Cavill, photographed May 31, stars in "Man of Steel." (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

Henry Cavill, photographed May 30, plays Superman in "Man of Steel." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a strain to be Superman, even for someone with as sizable shoulders as British actor Henry Cavill.

The stress of carrying the world and “Man of Steel,” the $225-million Warner Bros. reboot of the Superman franchise, is showing on Cavill’s sculpted face. He’s built up a steely reserve as the scrutiny of his public and private life becomes more intense. And it comes after mining his own awkward adolescence to play a character steeped in loneliness and confusion.

The 30-year-old Cavill grew up on the small English Channel island of Jersey. The fourth of five brothers, he yearned to escape the “shackles of parenting” and followed his third eldest brother to boarding school in England. Yet a profound homesickness plagued the then-13-year-old — so much so that he found himself blubbering to his mother on the phone daily.

"Man of Steel" star Henry Cavill, left, his mother Marianne and his father Colin attend the film's New York premiere on June 10, 2013. (Peter Foley / EPA)

“Man of Steel” star Henry Cavill, left, his mother, Marianne, and his father, Colin, attend the film’s New York premiere on June 10, 2013. (Peter Foley / EPA)

“It was my mom who eventually said, ‘Look, you’ve got to stop calling. You’re just making it worse on yourself.’ And it probably broke her heart to say that to her little boy. But it worked and now I hardly ever call,” said Cavill with a laugh.

PHOTOS: 50 images from ‘Man of Steel’

That lesson in perseverance benefited Cavill during his grueling physical and mental preparation for the role and again now as he embarks on a globe-trotting jaunt that is certain to obliterate any remaining vestige of anonymity.

Warner Bros. laid the task of updating Superman in the hands of director Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen”) and producer Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”), but it’s up to Cavill to convey the message that Clark Kent is not too stodgy or strait-laced to fit into the current mythic landscape, the one riddled with ironic and damaged superheroes.

The gamble seems to have paid off. Early box-office results are pointing to a giant hit, with the weekend domestic receipts on track to earn over $100 million. Reviews of the film have been mixed, but Cavill’s performance has been widely praised. Times critic Kenneth Turan wrote that Cavill is “a superb choice for someone who needs to convincingly convey innate modesty, occasional confusion and eventual strength.”

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, left, and Diane Lane as Martha Kent in "Man of Steel." (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent, left, and Diane Lane as Martha Kent in “Man of Steel.” (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

To the film’s screenwriter, David S. Goyer, Cavill made the character more human than he imagined Superman could be. “He feels real. He doesn’t feel like this ethereal angel,” said Goyer. “Somehow he found a way to embody Superman but not get lost in Superman.”

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Cavill has been waiting 10 years to don the cape. Originally in talks to play Superman for director McG in an iteration that never got off the ground, Cavill played a series of journeyman roles over the years — the highest profile being Theseus in the muscle-bound Greek mythology movie “Immortals” — before getting a second chance to fly.

Henry Cavill, photographed May 30, 2013, plays Superman in "Man of Steel." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Henry Cavill, photographed May 30, plays Superman in “Man of Steel.” (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

It’s no wonder the studio kept returning to the British actor. His chiseled cheekbones and cleft chin are so tailor-made for the role of Clark Kent, Snyder couldn’t have asked for more if he carved it himself. But it’s his work ethic, more than his good looks, that has earned him the closest comparisons to his character.

Cavill read every Superman comic he could get his hands on, trying to understand “the soul of Superman,” a man Cavill calls, “a freak, someone who has no idea where he comes from and no one can ever empathize with him. He’s the loneliest soul on the planet.”

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Then he trained. For five months before filming began, and continuously during the six-month shoot, working to turn his body into something more powerful than a locomotive, a physical specimen that looks like the work of computer enhancements but isn’t.

“The toughest stuff is the shirtless stuff,” said Cavill, dressed casually in a white T-shirt and black Levi’s, fresh from a visit with Elmo on the set of “Sesame Street.” “You’re exhausted enough as it is and then you have to cut your calories right down. You’re not eating anything and you’re worried about looking just right. Couple that with a Vancouver winter. It’s not amazing.”

But Cavill never broke. Soon, Snyder became oblivious to his needs.

“With the depth of his dedication to the work, you’ve got to be careful not to take him for granted,” said Snyder. “You just go, ‘No, Henry will be fine.’ ‘Well, we’ve got to shoot this outside. He’s supposed to be naked and it’s the middle of the winter,’ and I’d be like, ‘No, Henry will be fine.’”

Until he wasn’t: His trainer had to pull him off set when Cavill’s lips turned blue, the actor moments away from hypothermia. “The trailer had been heated on full-blast all day and it took me half an hour to 45 minutes to stop shaking,” recalled Cavill.

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent in "Man of Steel." (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent in “Man of Steel.” (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

In the next week Cavill will be reuniting with his parents and brothers in Jersey for a brief five hours to premiere the movie on the 45-square-mile island, before embarking on a month-long international tour that will take him to Sicily, Madrid, Shanghai and Brazil.

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It will be a welcome respite for the actor, who has been working since he was 17 but is just now being forced to grapple with the challenges that come from global fame.

Over the last few months Cavill has established some new personal guidelines in order to maintain a semblance of a private life: girlfriend talk is off-limits, so is his current residence. Weeks before the film opened, Cavill found that he could no longer pop into a bar for a quick drink without prompting a frenzy of autograph seekers.

It’s been unnerving for a man who doesn’t like to disappoint.

“I’ve always had a wariness, I’ve just been less efficient at practicing it for fear of offending people,” said Cavill, who will next star as an American spy in Guy Ritchie’s film adaptation of the 1960s TV series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” “That’s something I’ve always been bad at doing up until now. But try wearing my shoes for a couple minutes and then you’ll see it’s OK.”

– Nicole Sperling | Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

Gina McIntyre and Chris Lee contributed to this report.


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‘Man of Steel’ writer: Superman will always ‘have the edge’

Zack Snyder: Superman ‘must be taken seriously’

Snyder on ‘Justice League’: ‘The door is open’

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Zack Snyder on ‘Watchmen’ legacy

‘Man of Steel’: The Superman we ‘need and deserve’?


48 Responses to ‘Man of Steel’ star Henry Cavill knows how Clark Kent feels

  1. Sandra Lewis Smith says:

    I think he is a superb Superman. He is convincing all the way through, having the audience root for him. From beginning to end, the film was believable, gripping and wonderfully presented.
    I can't believe I am saying this, but I would see it once again. Sandra Lewis Smith

  2. donald says:

    The first hour of the movie was great then there was a “glitch” in the fire alarm at AMC 30. Didn’t even get a refund….. safe to say I will never go the a theater again

  3. rita says:

    just saw superman great movie to long and henry shines

  4. rita says:

    just saw duperman henry shines

  5. Dana says:

    Great movie, loved Henry Cavill. He has a sexiness that comes off as shy & endearing. The movie is NOT predictable & although touches on main points of most others, doesn't follow exact same storyline. Leaves you wondering if Lois recognizes him or not in the end…..Great, more screen time for Jor El (Russell Crowe) & didn't know "El" was the last name, always thought it was Jorel and Kalel.
    Love that Lois isn't gushy. Nice newspaper editor (Lawrence Fishburne) isn't goofy.

  6. gary says:

    An avid Superman comic book reader since 8 years old, I was slightly disappointed at this remake of Superman. I didn't like Zack Synder's remake of parts of the movie. Took much computer generation didn't appeal to me. This seemed to run much too long and got boring…What happened to the original 'capsule' that rode thru space with the baby inside. This new 'spaceship' was just too unbelievable…..This movie lacked simplicity. The original superman with Chris Reeves was more on the mark, more getting to know you dialogue of the main character, Clark Kent. Just didn't turn me on…Very disappointed.

    • april says:

      You are probably in the VERY low percentage of the actual population that READ the comics. Obviously you are not the targeted audience any longer but the new masses that are now more sophisticated and expect high-end special effects vs. the original Superman movie. I don't think the goal was to even to try match the original comics but most likely to enhance it that would entertain today's audience

      • oliver says:

        absolutly, you are so right! i love everything about superman, and that version, at all, we got a real superman movie just as we deserve!! i never tought a would say that, but, there is a new superman better than christopher reeve, wow!!

      • Brahamh says:

        I second that, april. :)

    • Joel says:

      Um…sorry. Did I just hear you say that the new spaceship was "just to unbelievable"? This is science fiction big guy.

    • onclovia says:

      go watch 70's movie re-runs. don't forget to wear your red underwear and towel.

  7. Sher says:

    Absolutely awesome. Loved Amy Adams as Lois Lane. The visuals stunning, storyline amazing…loved Russell Crowe and Kevin Costners performances and Henry Cavill…great, sexy and worthy of the part of Superman!

  8. Robert says:

    Why isn't he wearing red underwear

    • Joanna says:

      To make his suit match the ones in Krypton and to not be just something his mama made. Also the original suit was based on the old muscle men circus performers where they used outer underwear to preserve modesty. This is just an update of the times. :)

    • Suzie says:

      The red underwear comes from the Victorian times – what the Strong Man wore in sideshows and circus. Producer, etc thought the red underwear didn't make sense for the new version.

    • JP Hilario says:

      It’s his new look for the comics. He no longer wears red underwear.

    • Candice says:

      because after 75 years… Superman knows that humans use underwear underneath LOL

  9. LINDAS says:

    What an arrogant SOB!

  10. Robert says:

    Superman just isn't superman unless he is wearing red underwear over his tights.

  11. Doom says:

    The movie was boring.

  12. D Gueno says:

    I liked this new movie about Superman. I have watched almost all of Henry Cavill's movies since I first saw him in Monte Cristo. You could see that Henry had great acting abilities and would someday make his name widely known. He did an excellent job in Man of Steel.

  13. michelle says:

    I loved man of steel.I’ll go see it again.henry cavill was such a great choice,great cast with shannon,crowe,costner,lane and adams.he’s the sexiest superhero :)

  14. Ron Casola says:

    I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie and was shocked when I looked at my phone and saw the movie had lasted close to two and a half hours!! Henry Cavill was fabulous as Superman and sexy as well he should be. Hope to see him MUCH more in even more revealing attire. The line up of stars was amazing!! No wonder the budget was over $200 mil. The special affects were astoundingly fabulous!! I ususally don't get into these types of films but since I am making one of my own "Through Rose Colored Glasses" about two gay sons being raised by a Chciago mob family, directed by the talented Christopher Sheffield, I watch with much more interest in the details. I will see it again in 3D.

  15. Jennifer says:

    “You just go, ‘No, Henry will be fine.’ ‘Well, we’ve got to shoot this outside. He’s supposed to be naked and it’s the middle of the winter,’ and I’d be like, ‘No, Henry will be fine.’”

    Good gravy! Was he naked?! Hells bells I must have been reaching for the popcorn!

  16. Alyona says:

    Great movie! Henry fits perfectly for the role in every way. He has what it takes to be a superhero. Great job, thanks for all the hard work done!Very impressed!
    Russell Crowe shines as always, wish there was more of him. The beginning of the movie reminded of Gladiator with an upgrade in armor & weapon and a ride! Russell is simply best – always and forever. Please keep shining for many years to come!
    The movie is very well put together, and of course IMAX 3-D makes it fun and engaging.

  17. W. Hill says:

    I loved the movie. It’s not 1978, there’s a new Superman in town…just sit back and enjoy the thing, instead of just picking it apart. People over analyze everything. It’ll never be good enough for everyone.Henry Cavill is the best Superman yet.

  18. Pippi says:

    I absolutely HATE HATE HATE the hand held camera shots – they’re always jerky and out of focus. Supposed to be the “latest, greatest” but to me it just removes the fluidity of watching because you’re concentrating too much on trying to figure out what’s happening.

    And as much as I liked the movie, the one thing (other than the hand held camera work) was the fact that no matter what they were doing, whether they were in the snow, dirt or fighting, when there was a closeup of any of the characters’ hands, they were always immaculate and manicured.

  19. R.Walker says:

    Waited a very long time for the Man of Steel to come to our theatre. Loved the trailers and found them intriguing, The cast was brilliant however, I was so shocked by the violence and the sound that it was physically exhausting to stay focused. After almost two hours I could not endure any longer and sadly had to leave. This is really where we are in the world today of violent films, noise level, special effects. It felt like a war film but for our new generation of technology savvy youth. I was sad because superman is no longer sacred but joins the ranks of sci-fi, high budget films. We are hypnotized by the violence now and crave it in every film as if we can never comprehend another point of view.

    • JP Hilario says:

      News flash, Superman does fight like that in the comics! What do you want him to do? Talk his enemies into submission? smh.

    • Cece says:

      Its best for our young generation to watch battles where good triumphs over evil, than vise versa. There's no need to just say we are hypnotized by violence, because the battle of good vs. evil has been around since the beginning of time. We now just have the technology to make these hypothetical battles appear more realistic. We should be glad that we still hold onto the good superhero stories rather than indulging in movies that encourage evil acts(ie. Saw).

      I agree that the sound levels are really pushing the limits though. Can't be too good for our ears…

    • Mike says:

      Superman always finds a way other than killing. If he's just going to result to murder every time he's faced with a tough situation he's not so super. He's just the Punisher with a cape.

      • Sarah says:

        Apparently Snyder has said that this is going to be one of the themes with Superman’s character in the sequel; the fact that he was forced to kill Zod. Zod gave him no alternative but he still has to deal with the fact that he just killed the last surviving member of his race (if you assume the lot that went through the black hole type thingy are dead, the people he’s spent most of his life searching for.

        Personally i loved the film. It was moving, funny, and kept the attention held. The acting was great (especially Henry Cavill but as I’ve been a big fan of his work for years that didn’t surprise me! Plus as the army lady says ‘I just think he’s kinda hot!’lol!) and the soundtrack/score was incredible! I own it on dvd now and still watch it on a regular basis.

  20. R.Mon says:

    Simply AMAZING!

  21. Cece says:

    Hmm… I wonder where Americans come from…aren't we the worlds melting pot? or am I totally off base. I feel that you're being discriminatory…

  22. Felicia williams says:

    Saw the movie over the weekend Great movie this White Guy is Hot as Hell!!!

  23. John W. says:

    Unfortunate thing about this site, as well as all other fanboy sites; if you actually have a mind of your own and express any dissenting viewpoint (a negative movie review, for example) you are virtually vilified for it. Say something, anything, positive, the more glowing it is, the more thumbs-up you get. Too bad people can't just put their fanaticism in check before logging on, then the "conversation" would be so much more well-rounded and interesting. Now, let's see how many thumbs-down I get here…

  24. Sinclair says:

    Who is advising this young man? I've been a fan ever since "The Tudors" and hear he's great in this, but the advertising tie-in juggernaut has plastered his face on way too many ads and it's becoming a joke. In my opinion, he's been way too obliging and needs to learn how to maintain some mystique and not just be a commodity.

  25. lynn says:

    Henry Cavill makes the perfect Superman for this age. I wish him the best in this role and whatever others he may portray in the future.

  26. Mike says:


    This was a good Superman movie right up until the end where he killed Zod. Superman doesn't kill. He IS Superman because he ALWAYS finds a better way.

    David Goyer and Zack Snyder should be ashamed. That set up was perfect for showing why the character is who he is and they blew it. Lazy, lazy writing.

  27. Arlene says:

    As long as the entire movie was, it was a unique storyline different from the past sequels that truly maintained my interest. Didnt mind the lenght of time. The story justifies its duration. The cinematic effect was excellent, the cast was superb, the choice for the role of superman was outstanding. Henry Cavill was the perfect superman. Hoping to see more of him in his cape. Congratulations for a well sculpted movie.

  28. Cebastian says:

    Henry Cavill is an excellent Superman. I wish him continued success. Also his cast memebers are A++++++++++.

  29. lorraine says:

    I thought this remake of superman was brilliant more thought through understanding why his parents put him to earth and great action perfect choice henry I knew he would become a superstar when I watched him in tudours he will get better with age great actor hurray henry us women love you

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