When it came to playing one of pop culture’s most grandiose characters, Henry Cavill was keenly aware of history and his duty when he was cast in Man of Steel. “The responsibility attached is enormous and the realization that it actually really, really, matters meant that I wanted to put the most amount of work into representing the character properly,” Cavill told Movie Fanatic.
That task did not stop with learning his lines and discovering the duality of his Clark Kent/Superman character -- which we reported was the heart of the power of the film in our Man of Steel review.
“That specially applied when I was working out in the gym, when you feel you can't push any harder and you can't lift any more weight. You think... hold on a second you got to look like Superman. There's a whole lot of people out there who are relying on me to be that superhero. So it really helped to push those extra few reps and just become that character.”
Cavill has come a long way since we first spoke to him about Man of Steel as we met him for The Immortals. One of the things that most appealed to Cavill about the story in Man of Steel is that it is not told linearly. We meet him traveling the world, lost, and trying to find his purpose. Audiences only learn of his backstory through flashbacks, something new to the Superman universe in terms of telling the Kal-El story.
“It wasn't about classic Superman material. When you see Clark traveling through the world and trying to work out what and who and why he is, I didn't go to source material for that, I just applied my own life to that,” Cavill said. His profession certainly helped the process.
“As actors, it's quite a lonely existence. You spent a lot of time by yourself and you meet new people and you make temporary family and you love them and then you never see them again. So it's just that lonely aspect that I apply to it opposed to any classic Superman material.”
The Superman character in Man of Steel, through flashbacks, feels like an outsider. His Earth father (Kevin Costner), believes he should hold back on his powers because the world would not understand him. Cavill believes that the message of being on the outside looking in should resonate with all, not simply those who feel alienated by society.
“I don't necessarily think that he speaks to the outsider alone, he speaks to everyone or that ideal speaks to everyone,” Cavill said. Furthermore, that “S” on his chest, as he explains in this Man of Steel trailer, means “hope” and that could not be more universal.
“We all need hope no matter what century we are in, whatever state of life we are in, whether we are going through tragedy or not. It's just hope that everything will be OK and if it is tragedy or disaster that happens, I hope we can overcome it. I don't believe it's solely for those who are outsiders and those who think they're alone. It's for everyone.”
Even with the rich 70-year history of the character, Cavill said he could not internalize any of the Supermans that came before. From the comic books to the television shows and even the iconic performance of Christopher Reeve, Cavill said he had to make his Man of Steel his own.
“As an actor the way I do it and the way I viewed it, I wanted to have my interpretation, not out of a sense of ego, but in a sense that it might be a disjointed performance if I have someone else's personality and their influence affect the interpretation of the character,” Cavill admitted. “So I went straight to the comic books and saw the older movies but I did not apply those performances to mine.”
In the end, with all the preparation, gym workouts, script dissecting, it was when he took to the air that the feeling of Superman truly engulfed Cavill.
“There was a lot of wire work that we did during the whole stunt process. That was incredibly complex and the guys tested it amazingly,” he said.
“That was probably the funnest part for me in regards to flying because I got to be 40 feet up in the air and sort of just completely out of control. That was the stuff that made you feel like flight and Superman.”