Star Henry Cavill and director Zack Sndyer talk Man of Steel on the set in Plano, Illinois
During my trip to the Man of Steel set in Plano, Illinois back in August 2011, the last two interviews of the day were the biggest, with star Henry Cavill and director Zack Snyder. Given how in-depth they both are, I thought it would be best to separate both interviews into a separate piece. If you haven't read the first part of my set visit piece, CLICK HERE. If you have, then read our long-ranging conversations with Henry Cavill, who conducted the interview in his full Superman costume, and director Zack Snyder.
Henry Cavill - Clark Kent/Superman
That suit does not look comfortable.
Henry Cavill: It's not too bad. I've got a harness on underneath it, so I'm moving quite stiffly, but it's really not so bad.
We heard you guys are shooting some six day weeks. We've heard that it involves you waking up at four in the morning, working some very long hours. Is this even more challenging of a role than you anticipated? Talk a little bit about just the daunting nature of this role and this project.
Henry Cavill: As far as anticipation? No. It's exactly as hard as I anticipated, so I'm okay, so I'm not going to sort of suddenly stop and went, 'Oh my god, this is impossible.' I was expecting very early mornings, so I've got to get up, train in the mornings and then go to work for a 12 hour day. That's all expected and fine. As far as the sheer scope of it, it's wonderful. The more the days go on, the more I'm enjoying it.
So have you flown around on wires yet?
Henry Cavill: There'll be no flying around on wires just yet. There has been a little bit of being, you know, heaved about the place.
What have you sort of learned about the character that's sort of surprised you since you've been playing him? Or maybe that you understand better?
Henry Cavill: Nothing, really. I had a pretty good grip on what was going to happen. Let me think about that for two seconds. I may have a better answer for you. No, nothing. (laughter)
It's certainly very rich in terms of coming to terms with two identities, Kal and Clark, and having to reconcile that. So, talk a little bit about what's involved with that dramatically and what it allows you to do.
Something that a lot of us are really happy to hear is it's very realistic. Talk a little bit about when you first heard that it was going to be so realistic based and just the way you guys are playing it?
Henry Cavill: The realism, I liked the idea immediately because as the traditional Superman fans know what it's all about. They will hopefully love and associate with the character anyway, sort of grown up with him and been there through his various stages of development. But, the people who aren't die-hard Superman fans still need to be able to associate with the character and that needs to have a sense of realism in today's world, certainly a sense of science as opposed to mythology attached to it as well. So, people, as I say, can associate and have an emotional connection with him.
You are shooting here in Plano and when we were driving by we saw one of the hardware stores had Superman painted on the glass. Would you say how community's really embraced the shoot so far?
Henry Cavill: From what I've heard, there's Superman stuff everywhere. I've heard about Superman ice cream, Superman cookies, a welcome sign to Superman cast and crew outside banks, that kind of stuff. I think that's really cool.
What's the key to making the relationship between Superman, Clark and Lois work?
Henry Cavill: Superman, Clark and Lois, the key to making it work? Hm... let me think about that so I can give you a decent answer. (long silence) No, it's just I want to answer that properly because I mean, the easy answer is acting, but there's a fine balance between - again, I've gotta be careful what I say here. There's an honesty to Clark, Kal-El-Kal-El's a better way of saying it because he is both Superman and Clark. There's an honesty to him which crosses over on both. I don't like to use the word identities, but I will because I can't think of a better one. So, it is not that tough to make that swap and change.
I understand that you've been reading some Superman comic books lately. I'm wondering what's some of your favorites, and possibly even what some of your least favorites?
Henry Cavill: Recently, my most recent favorites, the New Krypton saga and otherwise, "Death of Superman", "Return" and I quite like "Red Son", very different and that was great for character study because it gave me an entirely different perspective on the character, and therefore, gave me a couple of nuances on that. I won't tell you what they are. (Laughs) Least favorite? I don't really know. I haven't thought about that one.
How is it portraying such an American icon? Is it intimidating?
Henry Cavill: How is it? It's a lot of fun. 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.
Now we know that Zack is shooting a lot in handheld with a lot of intimacy in the way he was shooting the scenes we saw earlier today. What are the advantages of that for you in your character?
Henry Cavill: I mean, it's intimate for the watcher, but it's no different for the actor. John is very good, the cameraman, he's fantastic because he's not an obtrusive person. He's not in your way in the 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.
David S. Goyer said that Superman has to make some terrible choices in this story. Again, without going into detail, which he didn't of course, does that make it more interesting? I mean, even when you were in the running to play this, is it just more interesting as an actor to play a flawed Superman as opposed to a sort of god-like being that's invulnerable?
Henry Cavill: My instinctual answer will be yes, however, a flawed being is closer to human, and therefore, potentially less interesting to play than something further away from human. I think it certainly adds an interesting touch to a character which we've become so used to being god-like, to use your word. It makes it more fun to play because there's more choice in reactions to everything as opposed to, "Oh yeah, well, I'm god-like, so therefore this. Oh, I can actually do this, this, this, this, this or this." It allows me to add more of my own flavor to this character.
In several movies, the interpretation of Clark has been way more extreme, maybe less so in the comics where he's bumbling and really kind of goofy. Where does Clark fall for you, the way you're playing him?
Henry Cavill: I'm sorry man. I'd love to answer that because I've put a lot of work into it, but I can't.
Were there any particularly memorable moments in the audition process, in the casting process leading up to this, things that happened already?
Henry Cavill: Naturally, 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 and 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.
What was your first reaction to seeing the changes in the suit?
Henry Cavill: My first reaction? I honestly thought it was really cool. There's something about the suit which you don't know what to expect. You come onto a project like this and you hear about modernization and you hear about bringing everything forward and to today. All you can do is hope that it's going to look cool and different from anything else you've seen before. I'm pretty sure it does. I love putting it on. I love going through all the different phases of how the suit developed. Yeah, it was really exciting.
Can you talk a little bit about your physical training for the role?
Henry Cavill: Okay, physical training for the role has been extraordinary intense. Mark Twight, the chap from Gym Jones, has been putting me through the ringer big time. Two hours a day on a mix of calories depending on what sort of work we're doing. We started off at about 3,000 a day plus shake. That's about 3,500. But, two hours of work and then we moved up to 4,000 and then up to 5,000 calories. Now, we've dropped down to about 3,500 while we're doing an hour's training every morning because if I keep that high calorie intake I'm going to start putting on fat weight, but if I drop too low I'm going to start losing all the new muscle I've gained. But, an example of the sort of workouts we've been doing recently? A couple of weeks ago it was 100 front squats in body weight. We've been quite fond of doing the 100 repetition stuff recently and heavy as well. I'm trying to think of the other good stuff. But generally, the guys work out with me now. And so, we all have a bit of fun doing it as well. For example, if Mike Levitz, who's the assistant trainer, we'll just do 10 reps of a weight and then someone drops out, they do 10, someone drops out, they do 10. By the time the third person's finished their set, you come in and do your 10, up to 100. Otherwise, training stuff, I mean, it's huge amounts of kettle bell workouts.
What's it like seeing kids and people react to you in the costume?
Henry Cavill: That is the biggest of effects so far. Everyone else, you know, when people say, 'Oh, it's Superman,' and all sorts, you just sort of ignore the pressure. But when it comes to seeing a kid who actually believes you're Superman, doesn't see Henry Cavill, the actor playing Superman, it's, 'Daddy, it's Superman,' and he's hiding his face. That is nuts because the responsibility attached to that, they're going to have that experience for the rest of their life when they met Superman, not when they met Henry Cavill who is an actor playing Superman. I think that's really important, for such an incredible icon to do that just right. If you mess that up, you're the wrong guy for the role.
Zack Snyder - Director
You've been shooting this in a more real world style than your previous films. What kind of challenges does that bring to you?
Zack Snyder: I guess for me, in the TV commercial world I was known for shooting locations, beautiful landscapes and things like that. So, it's interesting. It's challenging in that it's been a while since I've been pressured by the sun and things of that nature. I try to stay away from those problems. But, on the other hand, you know, when the sun goes down you go home, so that's good. I don't know. It's fun. It's been exciting. It's kinda cool. I miss being outside. (Laughs) But now I'm tired of being outside.
We've got an image of Faded Glory on that building over there in a way I guess could be looked at as a metaphor for Superman at this particular time. What does Superman mean for you, for all of us, coming back today?
Zack Snyder: You know, I think Superman, for me, I've been a big fan of the character and honestly I wasn't sure about this project before I talked to Chris (Nolan) about what he and David (S. Goyer) had come up with. So, I don't know. I think that I like the fact that Superman's American, you know? I think that that's cool. I know that in the past or in recent years, his Americanism, his Americanness has been a liability for him. But I think that there is an amazing amount of naïveté. Superman could not be of any other nationality other than American because he's so naïve. (Laughs) But at the same time, he has this weird morality that actually makes him ideal superhero material. I don't know that you can't have a Superman that is reasoning. You can't have a Superman that is battling cultural morality. You need a Superman that has built in sort of values. I think that that's him growing up in Kansas. I always remember everyone saying like, 'You're not going to show him growing up in Kansas, are you?' I'm like, 'Why make Superman? To understand him, you have to understand the why of him.' By the way, I'll say the first scene that Chris pitched me was a scene that was about his childhood. It had nothing to do with like, smashing s--t or anything like that, which is cool. But, it was very much a character childhood character moment that made me say, 'Okay, that's different.' It's a different point of view of Superman that made me go, 'Yeah, that grown up version of that guy is interesting to me.'
Everyone's had a hard time sort of discussing Clark and how he's different than other versions of Clark. Is there anything you can tell us about how different he might be?
Zack Snyder: In the movies, he always jumps straight from childhood to Clark. Like, he jumps from sort of his teenage version of himself to the adult version of himself. Frankly, 'The Daily Planet' Clark, that happens pretty quick. I just think that our Clark, he's not fully realized and I think, by the way, that's huge information. But I think that's the big difference. That's why there's this talk about who Clark is. In a lot of ways, that the movie sort of really is about the why of Clark, not to say that his mock nerdy Clark is, but that's not the Clark that we went after or are going after. We're going after sort of a different take on Clark, how Clark is.
How long did you spend searching for the right pair of glasses that he may or may not wear?
Zack Snyder: The ones that he may or may not wear could've taken or may not have taken some time to find. (Laughs) That's awesome.
I know that you can't talk about the origin of the suit. That's something that we're probably going to have to wait until the film comes out for. But, can you talk a little bit about the utility of the suit, what makes it different?
Zack Snyder: It's a very difficult suit, trust me. I have seen every possible version of that suit, versions with underwear, versions without underwear, but, I'll say that we had versions without the red, without red, without a cape, with a cape, everything you can imagine. Just to look, to see it. It's funny because the suit, it's really all about, for me, it's all about sort of the squint test kind of concept. I don't know. It's got to be Superman instantly. When we tested Henry, we didn't have a costume, so we put him in the Christopher Reeve costume, right, just because Warner Bros. owns it. So I was like, 'Oh, just put him in that. It's fine. We'll know whether it'll work, right?' Of course, then Warner Bros. said, 'You're not allowed to use our costume because it's collectors. It's worth millions of dollars.' I was like, "It's okay. Fair enough." So we made one based on it. So we ended up doing R&D. He put it on and the point is is that it's iconographic. Nobody laughed even though it was ridiculously goofy when you actually looked at it, the costume itself, the Christopher Reeve costume. The shoes are made out of tape. It's like, a disaster, right? So, ours was okay. It was the whole thing and it's spandex and it's really not cool.
What does Henry bring to this?
Zack Snyder: Well, Henry is like, Superman-ish, you know, in his feel. He's really kind. He's incredibly humble in real life. He can project a naïveté, which is nice, without seeming naïve, (Laughs) which is really a difficult quality. I don't feel like you can take advantage of him, but he'd still help you change your tire if you had a flat tire on the side of the road. There's a fine line there.
I have a question that you can probably answer very quickly. I saw that you set Smallville in Kansas like the first movie did. Where is Metropolis going to be set in a specific state? Will it be New York?
Zack Snyder: What we did is, I created this thing called the District of Metropolis. The problem was is that it happened because legal wanted a state. Legal was like, 'What state is Metropolis in?' Legal called me and said it. I was like, 'I don't know. I don't want to say.' They were like, 'You have to say because there's a Metropolis, Illinois and you could be sued and blah, blah, blah.' I was like, 'Okay.'So we created this thing called the District of Metropolis and Metropolis is inside of it. It's sort of an east coast city, but it's like, right there in Chesapeake Bay, you know? It's kind of those islands. You could imagine if one of those had been a city had been built on one of those. That's kinda where we put it.
Can you talk about some of the other cast members?
Zack Snyder: Well, Kevin (Costner) playing Jonathan, he's just done an amazing job. We've shot all his scenes except for one already. He's just awesome because he's an amazing actor, amazing instincts, wants to make the work better. He's always looking at every scene like, 'You know what would be cool? Would it be more emotional if I did this?' He's really awesome that way. Diane (Lane) is kind of the same way. She's cool. You get one f**k in a PG-13 movie, but we haven't used it yet, but I wanted Diane to say it. (laughter) We couldn't figure out a way for her to say it.
Can you talk a little bit about the 3D and the fact that you guys are post converting? Your thoughts on the 3D process, all that stuff?
Zack Snyder: I don't know. Look, I'll be frank about 3D. I think it's cool. We spent quite a while talking about shooting the movie in 3D and we tested a bunch of rigs. I said, 'Look, the movie's handheld. If you guys can give me a handheld grade that I think is viable, I'm happy to talk about it.' No one could find me a rig. I think I did 20 set-ups today, 21 set-ups. I think that I would've done four, honestly, and especially handheld. John (Clothier) would be at the chiropractor right now. So, I guess my feeling is that I wasn't going to change the style of the movie for 3-D. I wasn't going to be like, 'Oh, it's 3-D, so it's not handheld anymore.' So I guess that was one of the big things that made us just go like, 'Well, we'll post convert and that's cool. We'll spend time and we'll make it as awesome as we can. We'll collect all the data we need and we'll just do as good a job as we can.'
Going back to the cast, David S. Goyer said that Michael Shannon's Zod is sort of like Heath Ledger's Joker in sort of re-envisioning in sort of a psychological way. Could you talk a bit about how your viewings are and how Shannon is bringing that?
Zack Snyder: Yeah, we're just trying to make his point of view. He's not maniacal or f--ked up. He's got a point of view that is not crazy. I think Shannon also is just, he's a force of nature and I think that that is really fun and helpful. Whatever the stakes are, you have to figure that Shannon will raise them just by being Shannon. Then, I think that's fun because I think that you've gotta have a real threat. That's a lot of reasons the Zod of it all comes from that, right? We didn't want to start this adventure with a Superman that didn't have an enemy that showed why he needs to be Superman. Zod is Kryptonian as well.
If you were doing the sequel, who would you cast as Lex Luthor?
Zack Snyder: Awesome, you guys are great. Thank you so much.
As we were wrapping up our day, one of the last things we saw was Zack Snyder rehearsing a fight scene with Henry Cavill, when a portion of Henry Cavill's interview struck me. He was talking about seeing kids react to the costume and saying, 'Oh, that's Superman,' instead of an actor in a form-fitting suit with a red cape. Despite having talked to him less than an hour prior, watching him go through the motions of an intricate fight scene, I truly believed that Henry Cavill was Superman.
I understand the irony within, since he wasn't actually doing anything Superman-esque at the time, but, for whatever reason, that entire day culminated in that one moment. It might also have had something to do with watching a star being born right before our eyes. This was two full months before the release of Immortals, when moviegoers worldwide were properly introduced to this talented young actor. If only for a brief moment, I half-expected him to take off into the sky, and go fight whatever battles needed to be fought on that particular day. Of course, he didn't, because he is Henry Cavill the actor, but still, it was quite a powerful feeling to walk away with after an incredibly memorable day.