“If an audience is watching Geralt on-screen, they must believe that it is me. If it’s not me, I feel like I’ve betrayed the character in some way” – Henry Cavill
There’s normally a clash when two comic book superheroes first meet, but when it comes to Patrick Stewart — partially known for playing the X-Men’s Professor Xavier — and Henry Cavill — best known for playing Superman — the circumstances were much different. Speaking with one another for Variety‘s Actors on Actors issue, Cavill reveals how he first met Stewart on a disastrous audition that nonetheless inspired him and speaks about his commitment to his role on Netflix’s The Witcher.
To begin the discussion, Cavill shared a wonderful anecdote about meeting Stewart during a failed audition. Cavill recalls, “You and I met many years ago — I think it was in 2003, when you were casting for [2003 TV movie] The Lion in Winter. I’d been acting for three years. I was incredibly nervous to audition in front of an actor of your caliber. I had spent weeks learning my lines, and by the time I got in there, I’d whipped myself into such a frenzy that I completely flubbed the audition. I forgot how to act, and then I left with my tail in between my legs. As I was walking down a street in London, I suddenly thought, I know I can do better. So I went back in — you said it was OK — and I did another audition. It wasn’t good enough to get the job, but it was far better. You said, ‘I’m so glad that you came back,’ and that gave me such strength throughout my career, and I’ve never forgotten it.”
During the conversation, Stewart remarks that he did not recognize Cavill when he initially appears in The Witcher. Regarding that, Cavill explains how the many layers of hair, makeup, and costuming affected his approach to playing the character:
“When it came to the character and how he looks, there are descriptions in the books, and there’s a very popular video game series. I wanted to draw on elements of all of those things. It was about an hour-and-a-half to two-hour process every morning before rehearsals. And by the time I was in my full Geralt rig, as I call it, it was like I was looking at a different person, and I felt halfway to the character just through the physicality. I would move slightly differently, and then as soon as the contact lenses went in, everything shifted. And my interactions were completely different, and the only time they went back to being truly Henry was when I was passed out asleep in a chair in my trailer for 20-minute breaks.”
Speaking further on the believability of his character, Cavill explains that ever since he starred opposite Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Fallout that he’s been even more committed to doing his own stuntwork whenever possible. He explains, “If an audience is watching Geralt on-screen, they must believe that it is me. If it’s not me, I feel like I’ve betrayed the character in some way, and so I try and do as much as a production will let me.”