Man of Steel
Published 07/11/2011 | 11:05
Henry Cavill was once dubbed the unluckiest man in Hollywood. Finally on the cusp of global film fame as Immortals hits the big screen and the iconic Superman suit beckons, he has the world at his feet
Henry Cavill's career is something of a homage to Goldilocks.
Seven years ago, Christopher Nolan considered him for the titular role in the Batman reboot before deciding he was too young, while Twilight author Stephanie Meyer wanted him to play vampire Edward, but by the time the film was shot, he was considered too old.
Finally he's found a big-screen role that's just right.
Earlier this year it was announced he'll don the red cape in Zack Snyder's Superman: Man Of Steel.
"It's the opportunity of a lifetime. Everyone has at some point pretended to be Superman and I get the opportunity to play this enormous icon," says the 28-year-old.
Wearing black trousers and a fitted white top that shows off the impressive results of his gruelling training regime, he may hail from Jersey but the British boy boasts all-American classic good looks.
Dark hair, dark eyes and a defined jaw, it's easy to see why the studio execs chose Cavill to play the iconic comic book character made famous by Christopher Reeve.
His leading man looks no doubt also helped him clinch the role of Theseus in the new 3D action adventure film Immortals.
At the helm is visionary director Tarsem Singh and the team behind the stylish and ground-breaking Spartan story 300, which made Gerard Butler a star in 2006.
It tells the mythological tale of Theseus, a stonemason born into poverty who vows to avenge his mother's death and prevent the murderous rampage of bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who's intent on unleashing the power of the sleeping Titans in order to vanquish the Gods of Olympus.
"Tarsem has such a passion, and a wonderfully creative mind. When he spoke to me about the role, he took me into a room filled with art work and models to show me his inspiration," says Cavill in confident, well-spoken vowels.
"As soon as I walked out I called my agent and said, 'I want to be part of this and we're going to have work hard on the audition process, because I don't want to mess it up'."
He didn't, and Cavill was soon embarking on a six month training plan to get his torso ready for its close-up.
But forget the traditional six-pack, he was told from the start the role required an eight-pack and no body fat whatsoever.
"I had a big sense of pride. I was like, 'No shading. I don't want you to draw abs on me. I don't want you to put dirt in the right places. I want to do it myself. I want to have the body'," laughs Cavill.
He thanks his co-stars Luke Evans and Twilight's Kellan Lutz for helping him get through the tough times.
"It was an act of camaraderie. Training to that level is difficult enough but when you're also 'leaning' [taking on calories to create bulk] for 10 months, it's insane.
"You start to flag and lose your will, so it was great to have everyone else there to make jokes and keep things going."
He'd train from nine-to-five, five times a week and his efforts paid off when his co-star Freida Pinto described his body as "God-like".
"Being in that kind of shape is something everyone should do at least once," he says. "It's a great feeling - and I don't mean that in an arrogant way. You go to the gym, train hard and learn how far you can push yourself. That becomes rewarding in itself."
But even in peak condition, he admits to suffering from doubts.
"You get the fear every morning: 'Do I look good enough?' And of course you do, but in your own head, you never look good enough."
Something of a history buff (he has an interest in Egyptology), Cavill says the movie's mythological setting captivated him.
"I've always been into the mythology of the ancient world but while you can draw some parallels to the popular mythology of Theseus, this is certainly not a traditional story. This is a battle of men versus men," he says.
"There are gods and there are Titans, but they do not take a direct hand in man's affairs."
Born in the Channel Islands, Cavill discovered his vocation at boarding school where he took part in productions of Shakespeare and Grease.
He first came to prominence in 2002's The Count Of Monte Cristo alongside Guy Pearce and went on to star in I Capture The Castle with fellow rising star Romola Garai, last seen in BBC series The Hour.
Then in 2006, he was cast as Henry VIII's confidante Charles Brandon in the sexed-up historical drama The Tudors, which proved a ratings hit both here and in the US.
His near misses (Twilight, Batman) are proof enough that his movie star potential's been bubbling away for a while.
Now he's hitting the big league, the actor says he's relieved it didn't happen earlier.
"Thank God it's happening now, because I have much more experience and can do the role justice," he says of the coveted Superman part.
On hearing the good news, he laughs and says: "I just remember thinking, 'Don't mess this up'."
Fully aware of the anticipation surrounding his portrayal of the iconic superhero and his alias Clark Kent, Cavill says he's simply not focusing on the pressure: "If I start thinking about everyone's needs, then I'm not going to be able to do my job as well as I can.
"I have to focus on representing the source material to the best of my ability and ignoring everything else. I've just got to stay in my bubble."
The movie's due for release in 2013 and then what's next for dashing British actor? Amid rumours Daniel Craig's set to hang up his gun within the next few years, does he have any interest in playing Bond?
"Of course," he says flashing a movie star smile. "That's the other one to get."
EXTRA TIME - HENRY CAVILL
:: Henry Cavill was born on May 5, 1983 in Jersey, Channel Islands.
:: He has four brothers and was once the proud owner of a parrot.
:: In May 2011, he got engaged to showjumper Ellen Whitaker.
:: Movie magazine Empire once dubbed him the 'unluckiest man in Hollywood' after losing out on leading roles in Twilight, Batman and the 2004 Superman reboot.
:: In 2012 he'll appear alongside Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver in the thriller The Cold Light Of Day.
:: Immortals is released in cinemas on Friday, November 11