The New Ad­ven­tures Of Su­per­man

UN­LIKE HIS AL­TER-EGO, HENRY CAV­ILL PROB­A­BLY CAN’T PUNCH THROUGH WALLS. BUT HE WOULD GIVE IT A GO. HE UN­COV­ERS HOW STEEL­ING YOUR FOCUS CAN POWER UP YOUR OWN TRAIN­ING. BRACE FOR IM­PACT.

Men's Health (Singapore) - - ALPHAMALE -

LLeaves­den is not a name that’s con­jured in the mind as read­ily as Hol­ly­wood when one thinks of film lo­ca­tions. But the

“IT’S HANDY

TO BE HANDY,” HE SAYS. “IT’S NICE TO BE ABLE TO PRO­TECT THOSE AROUND YOU, AND YOUR­SELF.

north­ern sub­urb of Wat­ford is where movie magic – not to men­tion the Mak­ing of Harry Pot­ter tour – hap­pens on a daily ba­sis.

The 80-hectare Warner Bros stu­dio com­plex is a ver­i­ta­ble de­part­ment of mys­ter­ies, each of the anony­mous hangars and work­shops its very own cham­ber of se­crets.

The first clue to the cur­rent func­tion of Work­shop 11 is the wel­come mat fea­tur­ing five su­per­heroic mem­bers of the Justice League, the comic book col­lec­tive that is DC’s an­swer to Marvel’s Avengers.

Front and cen­tre is Su­per­man, flanked by Batman, Won­der Woman, The Flash and Green Lan­tern. Justice League, the movie, stars Ben Af­fleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Won­der Woman and Ezra Miller as The Flash.

Be­yond the mat is a makeshift gym jury-rigged for the cast of Justice League. It may only be tem­po­rary, nev­er­the­less it’s so spa­cious and plen­ti­fully stocked – dumb­bells, ski-ergs, sleds – that it would put most sweat­boxes to shame.

The floor of the free weights area bears a quo­ta­tion from a Robert Bly poem: “I am afraid there will be a mo­ment when / I fail you, friend; I will turn slightly / Away, our eyes will not meet, and out in the field / There will be no one.”

Less lit­er­ar­ily, the fin­ger­board at­tached to the rig has been graf­fi­tied with “Flash, get some, love Aqua­man” (another Justice League mem­ber, played by for­mer Men’s Health cover star and Game of Thrones alum­nus Ja­son Mo­moa). In the cor­ner lies a Won­der Woman cof­fee table tome, po­si­tioned serendip­i­tously next to a copy of Jane Fonda’s Work­out Book.

It’s easy to imag­ine the Justice League cast all train­ing here to­gether, per­haps while wear­ing those Un­der Ar­mour Al­ter Ego com­pres­sion tops that match their re­spec­tive cos­tumes. “It hap­pened once,” says Henry Cav­ill, cast­ing his mind back.

“No, it didn’t; Ben and Gal were off that day. But we had Su­per­man, Aqua­man, Flash and Cy­borg [played by Ray Fisher] in the gym. That was fun.”

Un­for­tu­nately, they weren’t rep­ping com­pres­sion: “I wish we’d thought ahead and done that. If a Justice League se­quel hap­pens, maybe we will.”

OFF-SET AC­TION

Cav­ill has ar­rived with an un­ex­pected mass of hair cov­er­ing his top lip, and his hand­some, dark-coated Amer­i­can akita called Kal-El. (Fan­boys will recog­nise the name as Su­per­man’s Kryp­to­nian moniker.)

“He looks scary, so peo­ple think that if they get into a scrap with me or I get pissed off, he may turn into some vi­cious at­tack dog – which he is, by the way,” dead­pans Cav­ill.

“You should see him when he’s an­gry – it’s some­thing else. I’ve got these pans hang­ing above the stove in my kitchen and when he barks, they lit­er­ally ring. With a hang­over, it’s mis­er­able. But you’re very brave, aren’t you, bear? You keep ev­ery­one away from the house.”

The se­cu­rity of a guard dog not­with­stand­ing, Cav­ill ap­pears more than ca­pa­ble of look­ing af­ter him­self. Warm­ing to the shoot, he demon­strates se­quences of mar­tial arts punches and kicks which, more so than his bare arms, in­di­cate that getting him even mildly pissed off would be un­wise. The well-spo­ken, un­fail­ingly po­lite for­mer pub­lic schoolboy from Jersey (who was once nick­named “Fat Cav­ill”) might not bark – at least not with­out provo­ca­tion. But he can clearly bite.

Di­rect­ing Cav­ill on our shoot is Wolf­gang “Wolfie” Stege­mann, a fight choreographer, stunt­man and typ­i­cally un­cred­ited ac­tor, who first be­gan work­ing with him on the sixth Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble film.

Sched­uled for July 2018, the forth­com­ing in­stal­ment of the spy fran­chise is also the rea­son for the nor­mally clean-cut Cav­ill’s afore­men­tioned facial fur­ni­ture: He’s tak­ing over as Tom Cruise’s “right-hand man” from Jeremy Ren­ner who, in some kind of weird sym­me­try, was tied up with Avengers: In­fin­ity War.

While the com­bos look pretty im­pres­sive to these un­trained eyes, Cav­ill is quick to down­play his ap­par­ent pro­fi­ciency. “I’ve only just started with Wolfie and we’re still try­ing to ex­e­cute the ba­sics of tech­nique,” he says, assess­ing his form crit­i­cally on the pho­tog­ra­pher’s Mac­Book be­tween takes.

“You’ve got to lay a foun­da­tion be­fore you can start build­ing a house. And we’re very much in the ‘pour­ing the con­crete’ phase.”

Cav­ill’s girl­friend, Lucy Cork, a stunt­woman who he also met on the M:I 6 set, and who is her­self a gen­uinely pro­fi­cient mar­tial artist, swings by the set to ob­serve qui­etly in the back­ground and keep tabs.

Cav­ill has done what he calls “movie mar­tial arts” be­fore. “All you re­ally need is to look like you can do it,” he says. “But I want to be able to ac­tu­ally do it. Fak­ing it just doesn’t feel right to me any­more.”

So when his (cur­rently clas­si­fied) role in M:I 6 called for at least the il­lu­sion of ca­pa­bil­ity, he thought he’d fit in some ex­tra prac­tice af­ter work. His mo­ti­va­tion was partly pro­fes­sional, but largely per­sonal. “It’s handy to be handy,” he says. “It’s nice to be able to pro­tect those around you, and your­self.”

And hand­ily, mar­tial arts train­ing is also a kick-ass form of con­di­tion­ing: “I like go­ing to the gym. I do. But if I’m go­ing to be sweat­ing and breath­ing hard, I’d far pre­fer to be do­ing it while learn­ing a skill, rather than just for the sake of sweat­ing and breath­ing hard.”

The taek­wondo-style strik­ing he’s prac­tis­ing is new to Cav­ill, but he’s long been a keen dis­ci­ple of the grap­pling-based dis­ci­pline of Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu. In fact, he oc­ca­sion­ally rolls with the sport’s big dogs like Roger Gra­cie, 10-time world cham­pion and scion of the South Amer­i­can com­bat sports dy­nasty. Cav­ill now lives in Lon­don, where the Gra­cies run a world-renowned academy.

A le­git dojo sounds like the

kind of place where an ac­tor might not dare tread for fear of a bruised ego – or worse. But, thank­fully, most fight club­bers are just ex­cited to meet Su­per­man, not try and kill him. And it’s a cul­ture of re­spect that starts with the guys at the top.

“The mar­tial artists that I know are all very nice, gen­tle peo­ple,” says Cav­ill. “There’s noth­ing ag­gres­sive or fast. It’s al­ways a big hug – not a bro hug, a two-arm hug: ‘How you do­ing?’ It’s like, ‘Stop. Take a breath. Let’s en­gage with each other. We’ll get to train­ing. And when we train, we’ll train hard.’ Ev­ery­thing is re­laxed and I like that. It’s enor­mously re­fresh­ing.”

Be­sides, pea­cock­ing is a waste of en­ergy: “Save it for that mo­ment just be­fore you have to beat the crap out of some­one. Be­cause you might need it.”

GO­ING THE DIS­TANCE

Cav­ill is into con­ser­va­tion, and not just in his ca­pac­ity as an am­bas­sador for the Jersey Zoo. He re­counts a rib­ald story – told by Tony in an episode of The So­pra­nos, pos­si­bly Bud­dhist in ori­gin – about two bulls stand­ing on a hill, look­ing down at a herd of cows. The younger one pro­poses run­ning down the hill and cop­u­lat­ing with a mate of their choice; the older one coun­sels walk­ing down in­stead and in­sem­i­nat­ing them all.

The par­al­lel is woolly, ad­mit­tedly, but Cav­ill ap­plied a sim­i­larly prag­matic and paced ap­proach to his prep for Justice League. While he was “re­ally rather strong” for 2016’s Batman vs Su­per­man, his em­pha­sis shifted to­wards im­prov­ing his move­ment and def­i­ni­tion, both of which are more crit­i­cal for look­ing good on cam­era than a one-rep max.

In league with his long-time trainer Michael Blevins (@ gri­tand­teeth), he fo­cused more on Crossfit-in­spired work­outs: less tech­ni­cal lifts for time, which might in­vite in­jury, and more “go re­ally hard, non-stop, which is great for getting lean”. The change up yielded a mixed re­sponse. On the one hand, Cav­ill’s ses­sions weren’t

“ES­PE­CIALLY WITH WHAT’S GO­ING ON IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW, IT’S IM­POR­TANT TO HAVE THAT KIND OF OUT­LET – THAT FIG­URE OF HOPE, RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY AND GOOD VIBES.”

quite as hard as be­fore, “be­cause I wasn’t lug­ging round use­less weight”. On the other hand, they were still very hard: “You have to be ea­ger to do that kind of thing, be­cause it can be a mis­er­able work­out – it re­ally can.”

Mean­while, the post-ex­er­cise en­dor­phin high – and sheer sense of re­lief – will only sus­tain you for so long when you’re putting in the hours at work and not putting much down your gul­let in or­der to chisel off ex­tra fat.

Cav­ill found him­self slowly ground down, phys­i­cally and men­tally, as if with Kryp­tonite sand­pa­per: “It wasn’t much fun,” he says plain­tively.

MOV­ING TAR­GETS

When pizza is off lim­its, you get by with a lit­tle help from your su­per­friends. Train­ing hard is a nec­es­sary evil for the su­per­hero-fran­chise ac­tor, and col­leagues tend to be there for each other – even if only in spirit.

“It’s more about en­cour­age­ment than any­thing else,” says Cav­ill. “Like, if you see some­one hav­ing one of those tough days, it’s about giv­ing them a quick cheer when they’re push­ing that sled past you, or giv­ing them a pat on the back and say­ing, ‘You’re look­ing great, mate.’”

His on-set con­ver­sa­tions with Af­fleck, how­ever, tended to re­volve more around the com­pli­cated lo­gis­tics of uri­nat­ing be­tween takes while in cos­tume: “‘Do you reckon we have time to go for a pee?’ ‘How long does it take you?’ ‘It takes me this long.’ ‘OK, cool. Do you reckon we have time?’ ‘Yeah, let’s go.’”

This mix­ture of dis­ci­pline and lev­ity is key. Now 35, Cav­ill has reached a point in his life where he un­der­stands the im­por­tance of bal­ance. “My per­spec­tive has changed some­what on the things that I want from life and the en­joy­ment I can get from it,” he says.

That’s not to say that he doesn’t recog­nise the mer­its of “work­ing hard and re­ally smash­ing ev­ery­thing”. Nei­ther are his stan­dards any less high or his goals less lofty.

But like the older, wiser bull in So­prano’s story, he isn’t go­ing to beat the piss out of him­self un­nec­es­sar­ily: “If I can cre­ate an aes­thetic one way with­out de­stroy­ing my­self, then great. And if I can learn a new skill and get my car­dio done that way, then I’ll do that. That’s just the way I see it now.” Out­side the gym and the stu­dio, Cav­ill is em­brac­ing ev­ery­day life more. When he’s not work­ing on set or work­ing out, he’s go-kart­ing, getting his mo­tor­bike li­cence or sleep­ing in “un­til my kid­neys start hurt­ing from ly­ing on them for so long”.

Last week­end, he taught him­self how to cook a shoul­der of lamb. “It ac­tu­ally went re­ally well,” he says, sur­prised, al­though he ad­mits the gravy could have been bet­ter.

“I just added chicken stock and scraped all the good stuff off the bot­tom, but I should have poured out more of the fat be­cause it ended up be­ing quite oily,” he says. “Still, more water and a bit of red wine vine­gar res­cued it.”

In roast din­ners, as in train­ing and life, Cav­ill has re­alised it’s im­por­tant not to overdo things. “I think I’m kind of find­ing my pace now in more of a life­style thing,” he says. “Like I can do this train­ing and it’ll make me look a cer­tain way. I’ll make sure my food is right, but I don’t feel like I’m on a diet all the time.

“I can have three cheat days in a row if I want – and then knuckle down, be good for a while and get back to a cer­tain point. You know where your base­line is.”

This kind of in­tu­itive ap­proach is more en­joy­able and sus­tain­able for a hard­charg­ing and de­mand­ing per­son­al­ity like Cav­ill’s: “I’m very sin­gle-minded and can be ex­tremely ded­i­cated when given a tar­get. And if that tar­get is con­stant, I ex­haust my­self.”

THE NEXT ROUND

Comic adap­ta­tions are con­stantly rolling off the Hol­ly­wood – or rather Leaves­den – pro­duc­tion line. But another Su­per­man movie is by no means in­evitable. Man of Steel grossed US$668m at the global box of­fice and was largely well re­ceived; Batman vs Su­per­man was crit­i­cally blud­geoned, with the US$860m haul scant con­so­la­tion.

“From a fi­nan­cial point of view, it was suc­cess­ful, yes. But it should’ve been more suc­cess­ful,” says Cav­ill. It also killed Su­per­man off when he’d only just been re­booted – and af­ter he’d been loathed by ev­ery­body for the whole film. Justice League res­ur­rected him, but the ini­tial fear was that there wouldn’t be room in the crowded ensem­ble piece to do him, well, justice.

“I think there is so much more to be told of Su­per­man,” ar­gues Cav­ill. “And es­pe­cially with what’s go­ing on in the world right now, it’s im­por­tant to have that kind of out­let – that fig­ure of hope, re­spon­si­bil­ity and good vibes.”

If not, then there’s al­ways Bond, of course – a role to which Cav­ill is peren­ni­ally linked. He’s 20/1 at the time of writ­ing, which seems overly gen­er­ous for some­one who only nar­rowly lost out to Daniel Craig for 2006’s Casino Royale and is a much bet­ter fit for 007’s din­ner suit now than he was at 22. But, ul­ti­mately, money talks and money is what Warner Bros will lis­ten to. Time will tell.

There’s a knock on the door and Kal’s bark­ing shakes the whole trailer. Cav­ill’s lunch is served. Be­fore it goes cold, there’s just time to ask him about work­ing with the age­less su­per­hu­man that is Tom Cruise.

“He is ex­tra­or­di­nary,” says Cav­ill. “He also does all his own stunts, as we know. I’m from a fam­ily of men who have done a lot of pretty cool things. Two of my broth­ers are in the armed forces. I’m very hard to im­press. But Tom’s done some stuff on the film where I re­ally have gone, ‘OK, mate, yeah, that’s un­de­ni­ably awe­some.’”

Al­though the un­cer­tain na­ture of the film in­dus­try means that he doesn’t know what will hap­pen next week, Cav­ill hopes to still be able to leap (be­tween) tall build­ings with a sin­gle bound when he’s 55 – prefer­ably with­out break­ing any bones in the process.

“You know, if I ever have kids one day, I want to be the dad who’s run­ning round af­ter them,” he says. “And if I do have kids, even now, it’s start­ing to get quite late. But I want to be a fit and healthy dad, not hob­bling round like, ‘OK, I’m just go­ing to catch a breather.’ Yeah, I’m go­ing to take care of my body – look good, but not smash it.’

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