Who Is Henry Cavill?

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Just last night it was announced that Henry Cavill will play the lead in Zack Snyder’s Superman: The Man Of Steel. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, who is this Cavill guy and how did he get the chance to don the big blue tights of justice? Well, here’s your handy cut-out-and-keep guide to the man that everyone’s suddenly talking about…

Like his Gotham city counterpart Batman and New York's friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, Metropolis’ new Man of Steel is a Brit. He was born in Jersey in 1983 and educated at English schools, so that awfully proper accent is not a fake. He got into acting early, starring in his first film Laguna, alongside Joe Mantegna and Emmanuelle Seigner, at 18. His introduction to Hollywood proper, however, was The Count Of Monte Cristo in 2002, opposite Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce.

He played the 15 year-old son of the former, who thought he was the son of the latter, and who got mixed up in the whole nasty revenge scenario between the two. Look, it’s kind of a complicated thing, and it’s enough to put a young man in therapy – so it probably wasn’t a particularly brilliant idea to follow that up a couple of years later with Hellraiser: Hellworld. Still, at least in between he appeared in the much cheerier I Capture The Castle, so it all balances out.

Cavill was famously talked about for Batman, Superman and Bond last time those three came up for casting. He’s said about The Dark Knight that his “name may have come up in a room at some stage, but I never auditioned or screen-tested.” However, he was a very serious contender for both of the other two. At the time that McG was due to make Superman (the project known as “Flyby”), Cavill was attached to the film, even getting to try on the iconic cape and tights combo.

Unfortunately when that film fell apart, so did Cavill’s casting – leaving Brandon Routh to step in to Bryan Singer’s take. As for Bond, he was one of the last three contenders, along with Sam Worthington and Daniel Craig. The producers there decided to skew older – and once again, Cavill lost out. But don’t cry for him, Argentina: he’s now got his chance at Superman again, and who knows? In a few more years, he might even pull a Brosnan and get a second shot at Bond.

Just to finish off the casting-that-could-have-been section, when asked who should play her swoon-tastic romantic hero Edward Cullen in Twilight, Stephenie Meyers plumped for Cavill, saying in a 2005 interview, “I’m a very visual person — when I read a book, I usually cast it in my head as I go. My favourite actor for Edward is Henry Cavill. I feel really passionately about him getting the role, and, should I ever get a chance to talk to anyone about any aspect of the movie, his name will be the first words off my tongue. Of course, he’ll soon be too old for 17 year-old Edward, so that only applies if MTV Films gets to work on it in the near future.” Sure enough, in 2007 when Summit took over the project from MTV Films Meyers posted, “The most disappointing thing for me is losing my perfect Edward. Henry Cavill is now 24 years old. Let us have a moment of quiet in which to mourn... “ Cavill himself confirmed that he missed that window: “With Twilight, I was never sent a script, never asked to be in the film, because I think I was too old by the time it came to make it.”

There’s also a story that Cavill was at one point in line to play another Pattinson part, Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter series, but he has since denied being approached. He was, however, campaigned for by fans – who went so far as to Photoshop him into Potter pics to show how right for the role he was.

The sexed-up history of The Tudors, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as the much-married monarch Henry VIII, was the show that really brought Cavill into the public eye in the US. Since 2007 the bodice-ripping romp has been steaming up the screens, mixing more-or-less historical fact with lots of sweeping romance and codpiece action – and Cavill’s Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, is right at the heart of it. Brandon was one of Henry’s closest friends and most stalwart supporters through his reign, from his controversial divorce from Catherine of Aragon to his decision to bring down his Chancellor, Wolsey.

A soldier and courtier, the show sees him mostly sweeping around looking devastatingly handsome in brocade – but then, that’s pretty much true of the entire cast. Still, Cavill is one of the most prominent characters in it and certainly its highest-profile breakout star. "Charles and Henry grew up together; they're very very close," explains Cavill. "He's the only person who can effectively compete with Henry, and beat him, without fear of repercussion. But he really can't keep his dick in his pants - and he goes too far. He marries into the Royal family without asking Henry, which had the potential for causing a political disaster."

Small parts in Stardust, Tristan + Isolde and a supporting role in Woody Allen’s Whatever Works have done nothing to dent his rise, and he finally landed the lead in a major motion picture with the part of Theseus in Tarsem Singh’s Immortals (formerly War of the Gods), which the director described to us as “Fight Club meets Caravaggio”. Due out on November 11 this year, the story sees Cavill play the peasant who must stand up to Mickey Rourke’s evil King Hyperion. The monarch plans to find a McGuffin called the Epirus Bow, made by Ares (God of War) himself, and use it to free the ancient, powerful and thoroughly imprisoned Titans.

Theseus, naturally, has to save the world, and do it all without wearing a single shirt, as far as we can see from the footage so far. Still, he does have Stephen Dorff and Freida Pinto’s priestess Phaedra to help him, so that’s something. "The character is a fairly angry man," is how Cavill puts it. "Angry because he feels like he’s been dealt with unfairly throughout life, so he's taken on fairly aggressive qualities. He’s still a good man, and still fairly self-aware, but I think he’s peeved at the world." Peeved is a light word to use, there.

Cavill’s also been shooting a starring role in The Cold Light Of Day, opposite the rather strong pairing of Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver (and are we the only ones imagining that those two sit around on set in dirty white vests, knocking back slugs of whiskey and telling war stories?). That sees Cavill play a "cocky young Wall Street trader" (a tautology, surely?) called Will Shaw who “uncovers a conspiracy while attempting to save his family, who were kidnapped while on holiday in Spain”. Och, it’s only Spain; they’re probably just laid out under a table somewhere after one too many sangrias. But with Cavill, Willis and Weaver on the case, we’re sure they’ll be home with a few aspirin and a big glass of water soon.

Fun fact: as far as we can tell, Cavill is the first actor ever to play Superman without first being born and bred in America and probably raised on Mom’s apple pie to boot. We’re not sure if casting a Brit as the defender of truth, justice and the American way is on a par with the idea of casting an American as Bond, but we’re going to start a rumour right now that Ashton Kutcher is going to be the next 007 in a cultural exchange programme.

In any case, not much is known about director Zack Snyder’s plans for the Big Blue Boy Scout just yet, but Cavill's casting does show that those rumours about an older Superman are out (remember the Jon Hamm rumblings?). And it also sounds like Snyder might be planning to shoot in 3D. When we talked to him recently about Sucker Punch, he touched on the possibility. "We’ve been talking about, you know, is it possible that Superman would be in 3D? I was saying, 'Well, you know we’ve learned a lot from Guardians'. The one nice thing for me if we did do that would be that I got to cut my teeth on a two year project where it was shot specifically in 3D - and we were going for realism there, we didn't want it to look cartoony. My school of 3D was pretty intense, pretty all-encompassing. It’s not like I’d be going I to make a movie and going like, 'I don’t get this’."

And yes, that in turn implies that those rumours you’ve heard about a CG-Superman might well be true. Watch this space for more as we get it – and keep your eyes peeled for further casting announcements soon as Snyder ties up the loose ends on his next film, Sucker Punch, and sets sail for Supes.