Henry Cavill Talks Comics Influences, Filming the Action Scenes, Physical Training, and More on the Set of MAN OF STEEL
I’ve done a lot of interviews over the past eight years, so you can put it in perspective when I say getting to talk to Henry Cavill on the set of Man of Steel was one of the highlights of working for Collider. It wasn’t only because he was super cool and generous with his time when he’d spent all day filming a complicated action scene. The main reason this was one of the best interviews I’ve ever been part of was due to Cavill wearing his Superman costume during the interview! As a lifelong Superman fan, getting to be on the set and talking to the person playing the Man of Steel was literally a dream come true.
During the group interview, Cavill talked about the daunting nature of the role and project, his training, the wire work, perfecting an American accent, what it’s been like filming on location, working with the rest of the cast, which comics he’s enjoyed reading, his interpretation of Clark Kent, the action scenes, and so much more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to what he had to say.
Click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below.
Question: So I gotta start by asking about the suit. That does not look comfortable.
HENRY CAVILL: It’s not so bad.
CAVILL: No, but I’ve got a harness on underneath it, so I’m moving quite stiffly, but it’s really not so bad.
We really appreciate you taking the time.
CAVILL: Oh, an absolute pleasure. We appreciate you guys coming and asking a few questions.
We heard you guys are shooting some six day weeks. We’ve heard that it involves you waking up at four in the morning, working some very long hours. Is this even more challenging of a role than you anticipated? Talk a little bit about just the daunting nature of this role and this project.
CAVILL: As far as anticipation? No. It’s exactly as hard as I anticipated, so I’m okay. It’s not like I suddenly stopped and went, “Oh my God, this is impossible.” I was expecting very early mornings, so I’ve got to get up, train in the mornings and then go to work for a 12 hour day. That’s all expected and fine. As far as the sheer scope of it, it’s wonderful. The more the days go on, the more I’m enjoying it.
So have you flown around on wires yet?
CAVILL: There’s been no flying around on wires just yet. There has been an awful — well, it’s a little bit I suppose — of being, you know, heaved about the place.
What have you sort of learned about the character that’s sort of surprised you since you’ve been playing him? Or maybe that you’ve gotten to understand better?
CAVILL: Nothing, really. I had a pretty good grip on what was going to happen. Let me think about that for two seconds. I may have a better answer for you. [Pauses] No, nothing.
It’s certainly very rich in terms of coming to terms with two identities — Kal-El and Clark, and having to reconcile that. So, talk a little bit about what’s involved with that dramatically and what it allows you to do.
CAVILL: I can’t really answer that. I’m going to have to invoke the Nolan Clause because I may give away essential things.
Even as a strategy?
CAVILL: Even as a strategy, yeah.
What’s something that a lot of us are really happy to hear is it’s very realistic. Talk a little bit about when you first heard that it was going to be so realistic based and just the way you guys are playing it?
CAVILL: The realism, I liked the idea immediately because the traditional Superman fans know what it’s all about and they will hopefully love and associate with the character anyway, because they’ve grown up with him and been there through his various stages of development. But, the people who aren’t die-hard Superman fans still need to be able to associate with the character and that needs to have a sense of realism in today’s world, certainly a sense of science as opposed to mythology attached to it as well. So, people, as I say, can associate and have an emotional connection with him.
You are shooting here in Plano and when we were driving by we saw one of the hardware stores had Superman painted on the glass.
CAVILL: [Laughs] Yeah.
Would you say how community’s really embraced the shoot so far?
CAVILL: From what I’ve heard, there’s Superman stuff everywhere. I’ve heard about Superman ice cream, Superman cookies, a welcome sign to Superman cast and crew outside banks, that kind of stuff. I think that’s really cool.
Have you had any scenes with Amy Adams yet?
CAVILL: I have had a couple of scenes, yes.
What’s the key to making the relationship between Superman, Clark and Lois work?
CAVILL: Superman, Clark and Lois, the key to making it work? Hm… let me think about that so I can give you a decent answer [pauses].
Sorry, I didn’t mean to stump you.
CAVILL: No, it’s just I want to answer that properly because I mean, the easy answer is acting, but there’s a fine balance between — again, I’ve gotta be careful what I say here. There’s an honesty to Clark, Kal-El — Kal-El’s the better way of saying it because he is both Superman and Clark — there’s an honesty to him which crosses over on both—I don’t like to use the word identities, but I will because I can’t think of a better one. So, it is not that tough to make that swap and change.
I understand that you’ve been reading some Superman comic books lately. I’m wondering what’s some of your favorites, and possibly even what some of your least favorites?
CAVILL: Least favorites is a new one. Favorites — I’ll start with that. Recently, my most recent favorites, the New Krypton saga and otherwise, Death of Superman, Return and I quite like Red Son, very different and that was great for character study because it gave me an entirely different perspective on the character, and therefore, gave me a couple of nuances on that. I won’t tell you what they are. [Laughs] Least favorite? I don’t really know. I haven’t thought about that one.
Fair enough. I do want to recommend Kal. It’s from 1996.
CAVILL: Kal, okay.
It’s an Elseworlds story and it’s where Superman lands in medieval England.
How is it portraying such an American icon?
CAVILL: Hmm… How is it? It’s a lot of fun.
Is it intimidating?
CAVILL: I don’t think there’s an intimidation to it as such. Certainly if I really thought about it and concentrated, there’s been a couple of phases where people have said, they’ve been explaining to me all the Superman cookies and the ice creams and I saw organic kryptonite next to organic corn sign on the way down here. There was a second where I went, “Wow, this is massive.” You gotta ignore that and not let it get to you otherwise you’ll be focusing so much on the pressure as opposed to actually dealing with the important thing which is doing justice to the character.
What is that costume actually made of? How long does it take to get in and out of that thing?
CAVILL: I have no idea, and anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, 25 minutes depending.
Which side is a little bit more difficult for you to play? Do you connect more with the Clark side or with the Kal-El side?
CAVILL: I connect with both equally. I really want to explain why because I’ve got a great answer, but I’m going to give away plot points.
Now we know that Zack is shooting a lot in handheld with a lot of intimacy in the way he was shooting the scenes we saw earlier today.
What are the advantages of that method been for you in your character?
CAVILL: I mean, it’s intimate for the watcher, but it’s no different for the actor. John’s very good — the cameraman — he’s fantastic because he’s not an obtrusive person. He’s not in your way and in your space. He’s there and you got a camera right here moving forward and backwards and side to side, but it’s easy to phase him out in your head. But as far as ease of acting goes, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. I mean, it’ll seem more intimate to you guys, but it’s exactly the same for us.
David Goyer said that Superman has to make some terrible choices in this story. Again, without going into detail, which he didn’t of course, does that make it more interesting? I mean, even when you were in the running to play this, is it just more interesting as an actor to play a flawed Superman as opposed to a sort of god-like being that’s invulnerable?
CAVILL: My instinctual answer will be yes, however, a flawed being is closer to human, and therefore, potentially less interesting to play than something further away from human. I think it certainly adds an interesting touch to a character which we’ve become so used to being god-like, to use your word. It makes it more fun to play because there’s more choice in reactions to everything as opposed to, “Oh yeah, well, I’m god-like, so therefore this. Oh, I can actually do this, this, this, this, this or this.” It allows me to add more of my own flavor to this character.
How long did it take you to pick out the glasses you may or may not be wearing in this film?
CAVILL: [Laughs] It may or may not have.
You said that you’re obviously able to bring some of your own personality…
CAVILL: Yeah. When I said my own flavor, I’m didn’t necessarily mean my own personality. I mean, as an actor, to leave an imprint upon a role which is so iconic is a wonderful opportunity. It’s not necessarily my personality I’m putting in, it’s the choices I make as an actor to add a different — now don’t take this the wrong way, it’s still very much what the source material is — but my own way of interpreting what the character is.
In several movies, the interpretation of Clark has been way more extreme, maybe less so in the comics where he’s bumbling and really kind of goofy. Where does Clark fall for you, the way you’re playing him?
CAVILL: I’m sorry man. I’d love to answer that because I’ve put a lot of work into it, but I can’t.
Do you carry yourself physically different? I mean, when Christopher Reeve played the character he kind of slumped over.
CAVILL: Yes and no.
Obviously everyone’s been talking about the scope of the action, really big. What is the most you guys are going to be spending on one particular sequence, how many days shooting?
CAVILL: They haven’t given me a schedule, so I wouldn’t know.
You have a couple of really well known dads in this — Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe.
Have you had any scenes with him yet?
CAVILL: I’ve had some scenes with Kevin, yes, but not Russell yet — a great experience, to answer the next question.
The things you can’t tell us about the process you’re in now, were there any particularly memorable moments in the audition process, in the casting process leading up to this — things that happened already?
CAVILL: Naturally, screen testing for this was memorable, but not in the sense that a lot of people seemed to assume, which is, “What was it like putting the suit on and being Superman and being there and being shot as Superman?” It was more of a nerve wracking, am I doing it right? Am I going to get the role? How do I look? Is it okay? I haven’t prepared, I haven’t had a chance to prepare nearly enough for this — yeah, all of the above. So, it was definitely a nerve-wracking experience. As soon as it had finished, as I always do after you finish a screen test, I just forgot about it because in case I didn’t get the role, you don’t want to be disappointed because if you do that in every role you get then you’ll end up throwing yourself off a building.
How long did you know that you were Superman before everyone else did?
CAVILL: A few hours, wasn’t it?
So it was real sudden?
Did you test for Superman Returns as well?
CAVILL: Not Superman Returns, no. I don’t know what it was called at the time, but it was the McG movie.
CAVILL: Yeah, the McG movie and then when Bryan [Singer] came on he had his own script and his own idea and I wasn’t a part of that process.
What was your first reaction to seeing the changes in the suit?
CAVILL: My first reaction? I honestly thought it was really cool. There’s something about the suit which you don’t know what to expect. You come onto a project like this and you hear about modernization and you hear about bringing everything forward and to today. All you can do is hope that it’s going to look cool and different from anything else you’ve seen before. I’m pretty sure it does. I love putting it on. I love going through all the different phases of how the suit developed. Yeah, it was really exciting.
Do you miss the red underpants on the outside?
CAVILL: Do I miss them? [Laughs]
[Publicist: Who says he doesn't have them?]
CAVILL: You can’t see them?
I’m not going to look. The first concern as soon as you were cast among fans was, can he do the accent? Would you mind letting us just hear your American accent?
CAVILL: Under normal circumstances, if you came in on a day where I was doing dialogue, I’d be more than happy to. But because I have not warmed it up at all — it’s like, doing an accent is like going into the gym for a workout. If you pick up the heaviest weight possible and try and clean and press it, you’re going to pull something. So, you need to warm it up and then you can go into doing all the heavy weight exercises. You’ll see the movie. So, I would not do it justice — I might do it justice, but it’s a risk. If it comes out all squiffy and funny then it’s going to be not good.
Can you tell us what the accent is?
How did you sort of develop it?
CAVILL: How you develop it? Drill, drill, drill, drill, practice, practice, practice. Like gym training, you just gotta build up those muscles so they’re used to doing that kind of movement.
Easy or hard?
CAVILL: I had done American accents before, and I’d worked with this coach before as well. Some bits, initially tricky because you’re rusty, but then they got easier as time went on and it does become quite natural. I often find during a day of shooting I will speak in an American accent all day long when I’m doing dialogue. At the end of the day, it often takes an effort when I’m talking to my fiancée to bring my English back just because you’re so used to speaking that way.
Can we hear your Kryptonian accent?
Did you hear Superman’s voice? Did you have in your head the idea of the voice you wanted to do for the character, whether it’s Superman or Clark, different timbres?
CAVILL: I did. I do. And I am doing so.
How much research did you do into playing a quote unquote “reporter”? Do you have new respect for all of us sitting here?
CAVILL: Thank you. Nolan Clause.
I actually did not think that was a loaded question like, The Daily Planet?
CAVILL: Wait, so you’ve been deliberately asking loaded questions? [Laughs]
At some point, possibly, but not on that one. I mean, talk a little bit about the stuff that you prepared for besides the action stuff besides getting training for the role physically?
CAVILL: Okay, physical training for the role has been extraordinary intense. Mark Twight, the chap from Gym Jones, has been putting me through the ringer big time. Two hours a day on a mix of calories depending on what sort of work we’re doing. We started off at about 3,000 a day plus shake. That’s about 3,500. But, two hours of work and then we moved up to 4,000 and then up to 5,000 calories. Now, we’ve dropped down to about 3,500 while we’re doing an hour’s training every morning because if I keep that high calorie intake I’m going to start putting on fat weight, but if I drop too low I’m going to start losing all the new muscle I’ve gained. But, an example of the sort of workouts we’ve been doing recently? A couple of weeks ago it was 100 front squats in body weight. We’ve been quite fond of doing the 100 repetition stuff recently and heavy as well. I’m trying to think of the other good stuff. But generally, the guys work out with me now. And so, we all have a bit of fun doing it as well. For example, if Mike Levins, who’s the assistant trainer, Mark Twight, and myself are training, we’ll just do 10 reps of a weight and then someone drops out, they do 10, someone drops out, they do 10. By the time the third person’s finished their set, you come in and do your 10, up to 100. Otherwise, training stuff, I mean, it’s huge amounts of kettle bell workouts. Does anyone know, has anyone sort of been through a strict training program before?
As you can tell by my physique, absolutely.
I’m allergic to exercise.
CAVILL: Okay. Basically, it’s hard work. I’d love to have Mark here so he could actually run you through some of the stuff we do. But, prep wise, the most intensive has been the physical.
Compared to Immortals, how is your regimen?
CAVILL: Immortals was very much a martial arts based training program, a lot of body weight stuff, very little in the way of actually lifting heavy weights and a very, very low calorie diet. This is the opposite in the sense that it’s a very high calorie diet, and been lifting very, very heavy weights.
Does it change you as a person? Do you feel you carry yourself differently, in normal every day life, do you feel differently? Do you feel that you walk differently, you move differently, think differently?
CAVILL: You definitely do walk and move differently just because if you’re training is good, your muscles are all equally balanced, a lot more so than for example, what I had been. I feel stronger and more able in everything I do. As a person, does it change me? I hope not. But, I mean, no one said it has so far. I’m really getting quite big now.
You’re working out with your mind even?
CAVILL: A large amount of constant activity will get things going. For example, training in the morning will have everything, all the juices flowing by the time you actually get to work. So, when you’re at work, you’ve been already up for an hour or so or two hours, and you’re raring to go where everyone else is still wiping sleep out of their eyes.
What’s it like seeing kids and people react to you in the costume?
CAVILL: That is the biggest of effects so far. Everyone else, you know, when people say, “Oh, it’s Superman,” and all sorts, you just sort of ignore the pressure. But when it comes to seeing a kid who actually believes you’re Superman, doesn’t see Henry Cavill, the actor playing Superman, it’s, “Daddy, it’s Superman,” and he’s hiding his face. He’s scared and then he wants to — little babies reaching out for you. That is nuts because the responsibility attached to that… They’re going to have that experience for the rest of their life when they met Superman, not when they met Henry Cavill who is an actor playing Superman. I think that’s really important, for such an incredible icon to do that just right. If you mess that up, you’re the wrong guy for the role.
Talk a little bit about, obviously Warner Bros. wants to make this — they’re hoping it’ll turn into a big franchise for them. Was it a little weird for you to sign onto something where you’re signing on for multiple pictures, a character that you could be playing again and again? Or is it sort of like you’re only going to want to do this if the film is successful?
CAVILL: It’s pretty much standard procedure these days to sign a three picture option deal, so you get the first job. In fact, it’s a pre-screen test half the time these days, so you do the screen test and if they say they want you, you have to take the job. Then, they get to choose whether you’re hired for the second and third. So that’s something I’ve really gotten quite used to over the years because you just never know.
It’s great that we’re able to get closer to these iconic characters. But do you hope that we will come away with in this new experience of Superman, that maybe we didn’t know before and love?
CAVILL: I’ve got a really good answer for that. It really bugs me that I can’t answer half these questions. Would I be giving away too much?
David mentioned it’s a very difficult take on it, but very human as well.
CAVILL: I can’t. I can’t mate, I’m sorry.
I have to ask you about the “Superman curse,” you’ve probably heard of the “Superman curse.’
Oh no! Then I won’t jinx you.
CAVILL: No one’s mentioned that to me ever.
Then I’m not going to say anything.
CAVILL: I have indeed heard of the curse. Well, I mean, I honestly don’t believe there’s a curse. I think there’s been some bad luck in the past, especially when it comes to horses, and I don’t mean that as a joke. My fiancée is an international show jumper and I know all the risk attached to that. You can fall off 1,000 times and be fired through fences and then the one time you’re home out in the yard, all it takes is something to startle the horse and you’re off and you fall the wrong way. There’s bad luck, but I don’t think it’s any curse.
The Red Sox beat the thing after 80 years.
CAVILL: That’s right, yes.
Curses are meant to be broken.
CAVILL: Yes, when I’m 80 years old, it’ll be grand. [Laughs] Thank you very much everybody.
CAVILL: I’m sorry I couldn’t answer half the questions. Maybe in 2013.
Here’s more coverage from our set visit:
- 60 Things to Know About MAN OF STEEL From Our Set Visit; Plus a Recap of What We Saw Being Filmed
- Zack Snyder Talks Changes to the Character, Creating the Right Suit, His Visual Style, 3D, Putting the Cast Together, and More on the Set of MAN OF STEEL
- David S. Goyer Talks Collaborating with Christopher Nolan, His New Take on Superman, a Feudal Japan-style Krypton, & More on the Set of MAN OF STEEL
- Producer Charles Roven Talks Christopher Nolan’s Involvement, the Filming Locations, Assembling the Cast, and More on the Set of MAN OF STEEL