Henry Cavill has found worldwide fame through a character who is, literally, out of this world.
He rocketed into the A-list playing Superman in the 2013 franchise reboot Man of Steel and its 2016 follow-up Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice – but despite the fame and fortune the role brought him, he works hard to keep his reallife self firmly grounded here on Earth. In fact, the 34-year-old star has shunned the trappings of a Hollywood lifestyle for a quieter, more friends-and-family-centric life in London. “If I ever become an egomaniac, then I’ve messed it up,” he says.
The Jersey-born actor is known for the powered-up workouts he undergoes to get into superhero shape, and recently he’s reinvented himself as a kind of online workout guru as well, posting videos of his sessions to social media and encouraging others to learn from his example. He spoke to MF about his reason behind that, as well as how he keeps himself strong and motivated when not preparing to play the last son of Krypton (which he does again in this year’s upcoming Justice League movie) – and, inevitably, the possibility of going from superhero to superspy and being the next James Bond. At the end of Batman v Superman, you looked extremely unlikely to return for another sequel – but you’re in Justice League, so… what happened?
I’m afraid I can’t talk about it. In fact, I’m sure there’s someone [from the studio] waiting outside my house in case they overhear me say something. Then I’ll be shuffled off involuntarily.
You’re the first British actor to play Superman. What’s it like playing this iconic American character?
Well, Superman, in my belief, is for everyone. He’s American, but he’s not necessarily just for Americans. People everywhere can relate to Superman.
I think I’d feel the same about playing Superman if I was American. Playing the character as a Brit doesn’t make a difference when it comes to the acting thing… ultimately, it’s an alien who flies around and stuff!
Did you grow up in a DC universe or a Marvel one?
I didn’t grow up in either in particular. When I was young I was into Superman, I was into Iron Man, I was into the X-Men. I didn’t really know there was a difference. To be honest, I’m not too sure if there is now. I think they’re all cool.
Since I got the role of Superman, I’ve been more into the character and delving into the DC universe. I’m loving what DC is doing. It’s everything a comic book should be. It’s inspirational, it’s joyful, it’s got heart, and it’s just fun. It’s the kind of thing kids read and want to grow up trying to emulate.
So what’s Henry Cavill’s personal Kryptonite?
The people I love. I think if someone went after them, that would change every single core characteristic of mine… I wouldn’t become weak, but I don’t think I’d be very good.
If I were walking my dog, for example, and someone were to kick him, I honestly don’t know what I would do. I think I’d probably get myself into trouble.
What kind of dog do you have?
I have an Akita named Kal – I got him during preproduction for
Batman v Superman. I got him in Arkansas, which I was sure was pronounced “Ar-kansas” before I got there. I said it in front of lots and lots of people, but no-one corrected me until I actually got to Arkansas and they said, “Oh yeah, it’s ‘Arkansaw’”. I thought, “Thanks, everyone else who’s heard me say that!”
Aside from the dog-walking, are your “off-season” workouts significantly different from the ones you do to bulk up and look like the Man of Steel? During an off-season period, I’ll be at a level where I’ve got fit so I’ll go to my gym here in London and be working, pushing hard – but not to the point where I’m getting up the next day and being really sore.
You’re looking pretty big these days. Can you really maintain that at a moderate intensity? Once you get to the level of being fit, there are days when you go, “You know what? Today I just want to dig a very deep hole and jump into it.” Then sometimes your energy is really high and you think, “I’m going to hurt myself today. Let’s see if I still bleed.” And you will bleed! Then you’ll wake up the next day and go, “Oh, holy moly…”
But it’s fun – it’s just going there, breathing, getting some endorphins flowing. Maybe you want to work on some muscle groups, maybe you want to get leaner, and so you can set little tasks for yourself.
It’s very, very important as well to have someone who genuinely knows what they’re talking about as far as training is concerned, who can advise you on diet and what you’re doing with it. These are all important things. These are things that I don’t know. Thankfully, I have my trainer here in London, Michael Blevins. If I say, “You know what? I want to have bigger hamstrings. They’re nice and strong, but I want them to be bigger. What do I do?” He goes, “OK, cool, well, do this, this and this, up your calories…”
You often post clips of yourself training online. Is that an important part of your interaction with fans?
A lot of people today want an easy fix. Do this, and do that, and you’ve got 60-second abs. My own approach to training is, I’m learning year after year after year and applying it and finding what fits and suits me best for my lifestyle. It’s been a long process. There’s no quick fix.
I was very fit, then I was not very fit, then very fit again, then not very fit. Now that I’m fit again, I think I’ve found a comfortable balance, which is enjoyable because we all like to go out for drinks and have pizza and have dinners and all the nice things in life, and not be a complete gym psycho.
But I stay fit enough to feel comfortable with taking my shirt off at the beach, because someone’s going to take a photo, and then it won’t all of a sudden be, “Hey look, fat Superman!” in the
Daily Mail or something like that. It’ll just be, “Hey, look, Henry Cavill at the beach”.
So through my Instagram and my social media, I’m trying to send the message that it’s a process. You don’t have to endure a psychotic, agonising workout. You don’t have to leave it all on the floor every time. Hopefully through my social media I can help educate people.
Could you imagine taking roles that require the opposite transformation – like Christian Bale in The Machinist, for which he dropped almost 30kg? Unless the script was very good, I would say no. If it were something I really cared about because its subject matter was very important to me, and I wanted to get it out there, then yeah, I could see myself doing it. Otherwise, no. I’m not going to be like, “Hey, I’m going to do a fat-man role or a really skinny role because that’s what all the big actors do these days!” I’m not going to choose work to make people go, “Oh, wow, he can really act because he can lose lots of weight”.
Is there another career you could’ve envisioned pursuing had things worked out differently? Thankfully, at this stage I’ve got my foot in the door enough that if someone tried to slam it shut, I could probably squeeze through a little bit and keep the door open! The full back-up plan was the armed forces. But I think I’m too old to join now.
Speaking of the armed forces, James Bond is a character you’ve spoken about to us before. Are you still interested in playing him one day? Absolutely. It’d be awesome to play Bond, a classic Bond
– I wouldn’t play the same kind of Bond as Daniel Craig. That’s an amazing Bond, and I don’t think I’d be the person to outdo Daniel Craig at doing Daniel Craig’s Bond!
I would love to do a different version and just have enormous amounts of fun with it. The great thing about Bond is that every different actor can play him so differently.
There’s always the element of the suave charmer who gets the girl. Do you have any advice along those lines – things that you try to do in your own life? That’s a tough one, giving advice to anyone. I’ve always been very careful because I think the best advice in the world is, “Don’t give advice when it’s asked for”.
But if, say, for example, a hypothetical reader were hypothetically asking for advice, then I would say stop looking to get laid, and look more for someone who can make you the better version of you. That’s going to make you happier, more than just getting laid will.
And finally, where are you on that journey? Well, I keep those kinds of things to myself now…
“We all like to go out for drinks and have pizza and have dinners and all the nice things in life, and not be a complete gym psycho”