Talk about motivation. Henry Cavill knew when he took on the role of Superman he would be immortalized on movie screens in a form-fitting suit as honest as the superhero.
He had to achieve physical perfection. Fans wouldn’t accept less.
“It was a big responsibility,” the 30-year-old admits. “It was very important to represent the character’s physicality in the right way. I was living and breathing Superman. I just wanted to do this right.”
Consider it a job well done. Man of Steel (opening June 14) shows the British actor has more than the demeanor, killer chin and cheekbones to take on Superman. He also buffed his 6-foot-1 bod in a rigorous four-month workout and diet program.
Even Cavill is impressed.
“I have shrunk down to a more normal size now. You should have seen me then,” he says after filling the doorway of a seafood joint in Manhattan Beach, Calif. “I was considerably bigger. There are a couple of shots of me that I think, ‘My goodness. I was definitely a large chap.’”
Cavill first showed he could rock the buff hero look as Theseus in 2011’s Immortals. But his next movie gig, The Cold Light of Day, came with orders from his director to flab out on pizza and beer to appear normal.
The party stopped with a call from director Zack Snyder to try out for Man of Steel. Cavill shudders to recall his screen test in a Christopher Reeve replica Lycra suit.
“You’re looking at yourself going: ‘This is not going to work. I’m not going to get this job.’I wasn’t in terrible shape, but I didn’t look good in Lycra. Thankfully Zack had an idea of what I could look like.”
Cavill immediately began work with 300 trainer Mark Twight. He recalls the first meeting, when Twight peppered him with workout questions.
“Then he asked, ‘Would you like to use steroids or HGH (human growth hormone) to get to where you want to go?’ I immediately said no. And he said, ‘Good. Because if you did, I wouldn’t train you.’”
Playing Superman without steroid cheating was vital to Cavill. He wanted to be as clean as the character. “To take a shortcut to get to that place is not what Superman represents. That was important to me,” Cavill says. “That’s when I learned what work was.”
Training included a bulking-up period when he packed in 5,000 calories a day. At the end of each two-hour training session, he downed every drop of a 1,500-calorie protein shake.
He knew he was growing when his thighs nearly ripped through one of his suits.
And when he put on the entire new Superman suit for the first time at a Los Angeles fitting, it was magic.
“I turned around and it’s a moment I really won’t forget,” Cavill says. “I was aware it was me — that was the exciting part — but I also saw Superman.”
Cavill insisted his shirtless scenes not be enhanced by computer graphics or makeup. So to reveal defined muscles, he went on a strict get-lean diet that he calls six weeks of misery.
Filming done, Cavill relaxed. He still works out, but he chooses exercises he enjoys (“whatever I feel really”). His waist is a lean 34 inches (up from his 32-inch super-waist).
He might get Super-sized again. Cavill has a contract for two more movies should Warner Bros. continue the franchise. He’d leap over tall buildings to play Superman in a sequel, despite the physical work required.
“Absolutely,” Cavill says. “Yes, it was hard work. Yes, there were points I thought I couldn’t do it. But you can do it. And I did.”