Henry Cavill on the "Superman Curse" and the Pressures of Playing Such an Iconic Character

Henry Cavill on the "Superman Curse" and the Pressures of Playing Such an Iconic Character

May 31, 2013

We were on the Man of Steel set in Plano, Illinois in August of 2011. Here's our roundtable interview with Henry Cavill, who was wearing the suit at the time!

That suit does not look comfortable.

Henry Cavill: It's not too 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.

So have you flown around on wires yet?

Cavill: There'll be no flying around on wires just yet. Well, it's a little bit I suppose of being, you know, heaved about the place.

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. [Fans] will hopefully love and associate with the character anyway, sort of 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.

What's the key to making the relationship between Superman, Clark and Lois work?

Cavill: The easy answer is acting, but there's a fine balance. There's an honesty to Clark, Kal-El—Kal-El's a 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.

You've been reading some Superman comic books lately.  I'm wondering what are some of your favorites, and possibly even what are some of your least favorites?

Cavill: Least favorites is a new one. Favorites—I'll start with that one. Recently, my favorites are the New Krypton saga and otherwise, "Death of Superman", "Return" and I quite like "Red Son" --  [it was] 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. Least favorite? I don't really know. I haven't thought about that one.

How is it portraying such an American icon?

Cavill: 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. 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.

Were there any particularly memorable moments in the audition process, in the casting process leading up to this—things that happened already?

Cavill: Yeah—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?

Cavill: Yeah.

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.


Publicist: Oh, the one they never got on the plane for.

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: 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.

What's it like seeing kids and people react to you in the costume?

Cavill: That is the biggest of effects so far. When people say, "Oh, it's Superman," 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. 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.

Warner Bros. is hoping to turn this into a big franchise. 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?

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 prescreen 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.

Have you heard of the "Superman curse"?

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 all the rest 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.

The curse is meant to be broken.

Cavill: Yes, when I'm 80 years old, it'll be grand. 

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