Henry Cavill on Playing Superman, Taking on an Icon and Learning Clark Kent’s Midwestern Accent


man-of-steel-henry-cavill-supermanHenry Cavill almost played Superman several years ago while Warner Bros. was developing the project that would eventually become Superman Returns.  Though that ultimately didn’t work out, opportunity ended up knocking for Cavill when he was selected to portray Superman in director Zach Snyder‘s Man of Steel, a new origin movie of the world’s first superhero. 

In a long interview with Collider, Cavill talked about some of the difficulties of stepping into the boots of one of fiction’s most famous characters.

When asked if its intimidating to play the most iconic superhero, Cavill answers, “I don’t think there’s an intimidation to it as such.  Certainly if I really thought about it and concentrated, there’s been a couple of phases where people have said, 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.”

He also explains that Snyder’s decision to use handheld cameras for many sequences did not alter his performance.  He says “I mean, it’s intimate for the watcher, but it’s no different for the actor.  John’s [Clothier] very good — the cameraman — he’s fantastic because he’s not an obtrusive person.  He’s not in your way and in your space.  He’s there and you got a camera right here moving forward and backwards and side to side, but it’s easy to phase him out in your head.  But as far as ease of acting goes, it doesn’t really make much of a difference.  I mean, it’ll seem more intimate to you guys, but it’s exactly the same for us.”

Despite the fact that most of us would probably go insane just to have the opportunity to screen test for Superman, Cavill reveals that he refused to allow himself to get too excited about it — perhaps because it was his second time aroud.  He admits, “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.”

Once he got the role another challenge was the accent since Cavill is English.  He sums up his process of learning Clark Kent’s midwestern accent as, “Drill, drill, drill, drill, practice, practice, practice.  Like gym training, you just gotta build up those muscles so they’re used to doing that kind of movement.”  He adds, “I had done American accents before, and I’d worked with this coach before as well.  Some bits, initially tricky because you’re rusty, but then they got easier as time went on and it does become quite natural.  I often find during a day of shooting I will speak in an American accent all day long when I’m doing dialogue.  At the end of the day, it often takes an effort when I’m talking to my fiancée to bring my English back just because you’re so used to speaking that way.”

As a whole, he is thrilled to have the opportunity to make his mark on a world-renowned character.  He says, “As an actor, to leave an imprint upon a role which is so iconic is a wonderful opportunity.  It’s not necessarily my personality I’m putting in, it’s the choices I make as an actor to add a different — now don’t take this the wrong way, it’s still very much what the source material is — but my own way of interpreting what the character is.”

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