With director Tarsem Singh’s new film Immortals opening this weekend, Collider will be overrun with exclusive interviews with the filmmakers and cast over the next few days. For those not familiar with Immortals (watch the trailer and clips), the film centers on Theseus (Henry Cavill), a mortal who teams up with the Greek gods in order to defeat the power-hungry King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). The film also stars Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, Isabel Lucas, Joseph Morgan, Kellan Lutz, and Stephen Dorff.
Anyway, earlier today I got on the phone with Henry Cavill for an exclusive interview. We talked about how he got involved in Immortals, the training, working with Tarsem and Mickey Rourke, the practical sets, his reaction to seeing the finished film, and what it was like to promote the film at WonderCon and Comic-Con. In addition, since Cavill is currently filming Man of Steel for director Zack Snyder, he talked about what has surprised him about the production, his interaction with producer Christopher Nolan, his reaction to getting cast as Superman, how he prepared for the role, and whether he ever dressed up as Superman as a kid.
Collider: What have the last few weeks been like for you with filming a movie and promoting a major release?
Henry Cavill: In one word: busy. It’s been quite the experience. I’ve been quite busy at work on Man of Steel and weekends with press junkets and coming here as well, it starts to add up. This weekend, however, has been absolutely fantastic because I finally got time to spend time with my family, which I haven’t done. It’s just been great, really great.
I spoke to the producers of Immortals. They were telling me that there was a very interesting way that you got on this project. You were basically told that you were going to be doing this, but the start date kept getting pushed and you were training the entire time.
Cavill: Well, I wasn’t training the entire time. I was cast in, I think it was 2008 and we were supposed to start shooting in 2009. It got pushed back from spring through to starting the middle of summer which couldn’t happen, because I was on Tudors, and then to after that, to after Tudors. I started training just before I finished Tudors and then the movie got pushed back again and I thought, “Well, I’m training at this stage so I’ll keep on going.” It was about six months later that we actually started shooting.
How do you think that extra training helped you in the role?
Cavill: I think it helps an awful lot because the type of training which I was doing, the training which Roger Yuan, the guy who was training me, had me doing was initially circuit training type stuff, physical aesthetic type training. Then he had me learning the basics of martial arts and doing boxing training and doing knife fighting and stuff, anything sort of cardiovascular, but fun and martial-based. So, that I could apply to learning all my sword choreography when it came to the time to actually start learning it when we were there a month beforehand, before we started shooting. It really helped, it helped an enormous amount.
One of the great things about the film is the practical sets. Can you talk a little bit about working on those practical sets?
Cavill: The sets were absolutely fantastic and elaborate and that helps us as actors, if I might speak for myself, helped me as an actor enormously because we had our immediate surroundings and they were so well designed with such a fantastic attention to detail that you could quite easily, if you turned your back to the green screen portion and you just faced, say, the village set, it literally felt like you were there! There were little things burning and it smelled like it was not in a studio. It was all really, really well done. It made an enormous difference to all of our performances, I believe.
What was your reaction to seeing the finished film for the first time?
Cavill: It completely blew me away. The visuals of it are even better then I thought they would be. When we’re shooting, Tarsem [Singh] has his monitor there and we’re seeing stuff as we’re shooting it. If there’s a bit of green screen in there, he’ll show us art work or scale models. If there’s no green screen, you kind of have an idea of what it’s supposed to be like. It looked beautiful then. It literally looked like a painting. And then to see everything with color correction and the way everything’s been tweaked and the true mastery of what Tarsem does has been added to it, it really, really blew me away. It’s a stunning, stunning movie.
What would be the most surprising thing for fans of Tarsem to learn about him? Is there something surprising about Tarsem that you learned?
Cavill: The most surprising thing for fans of Tarsem to learn about him…Goodness, his boundless energy. It’s non-stop. He’s the one person that keeps all of us going on set. He really has energy to give around. It’s remarkable. You see how high-energy he is and how friendly he is. That is even more so when he’s on set. Everyone feeds off him. Without him giving that energy to everyone else on set, I don’t know if we would have got through the days to be honest.
What would be something surprising for fans of Mickey Rourke to learn? His honesty?
Cavill: Yes, he’s very forward. He will ask a very direct question which most people would probably think, “Oh, I better not ask that just in case.” He’ll actually go ahead and ask or say something along those lines.
What was it like doing the fight scene with him and working with him?
Cavill: Fantastic! We both had stunt doubles sort of filling in some of the really, really tricky stuff for us. But it was great. He’s been a boxer and so, he knows about balance and movement and stuff. It was wonderfully put together, that fight. And the experience of shooting with someone like that is great.
What were some of your fun experiences of being at WonderCon and Comic-Con while promoting Immortals?
Cavill: Wow, I just remember it being very long with a lot of interviews. What did I take away from it… I never got the chance to walk the floor at either of those places. I don’t know if I ever will have the chance at this stage. It’s something that maybe I’ll dress up as a Stormtrooper or something next year and have a walk around. I really want to experience and feel what that energy’s like, because that’s what everyone talks about and I didn’t get a chance to see it.
There are a lot of very famous people who just put on costumes and walk the floor. I’d imagine that’s what you’ll be doing next year.
What was the last Halloween costume that you wore?
Cavill: Actually, I dressed up as Superman this last Halloween.
Were you filming on Halloween, in costume?
Cavill: I was, yeah.
Did you ever dress up as Superman when you were a kid?
Cavill: Yeah! Yeah, I think all of my brothers did at some stage. I’ve even got photos of my little nephews in Superman outfits. Apparently, they went to school when I first heard the news. One of them was wearing a little Superman outfit and the teacher sort of told them off and then spoke to my sister-in-law after, saying, “I don’t know what’s going on with the boys. I don’t know what you’ve been telling them. They’ve been lying to me, because they’re telling me that their uncle is Superman and frankly it’s ridiculous.” Which brought my sister-in-law out there and she said, “Actually, it’s not ridiculous; he is [Superman]. So you’ve got to let them wear their little outfits. Thank you very much.” [laughs]
I know you can’t get into specifics on Man of Steel, but what has surprised you about making the film thus far?
Cavill: I haven’t had any surprises. It’s a really long shoot. The stuff we were shooting in Chicago…it feels like an age ago, it feels like a different movie altogether. I’ve been a part of this project for a while and been in pre-production since April. It’s fantastic. You get fully immersed in the world. It’s a wonderful experience.
Did you get to meet [Christopher] Nolan before you got the role or even after you got the role? What was it like to talk to him about Superman?
Cavill: I have not met Mr. Nolan.
You were linked to a lot of big roles before you landed Superman. I heard that you were sort of up for Twilight or even Batman Begins. From what I understand you were close with a number of different things. How big was your smile when you finally landed Man of Steel?
Cavill: [laughs] My smile was absolutely enormous. I was trying very, very hard to play it cool on the phone with Zack Snyder when he called me. I thought, “Okay, play it cool. Not too cool, obviously. But, play it cool.” As soon as I hung up, I was leaping up and down and running up and down the stairs and roaring and shouting, and then trying to call everyone. No one picked up their phones believe it or not! Apart from my assistant. I eventually got through. I was trying to tell the news to everyone and no one was answering their phones!
A lot of actors that I’ve spoken with, when they land a big part, they buy themselves something they’ve wanted for a while, a reward. Did you end up buying yourself anything once you were cast in Man of Steel?
Cavill: No, I didn’t really. I haven’t had time! As soon as I got the role, I was hopping backwards and forwards to L.A. for initial costume fittings and screen testing other actors and then it just all started. I’ve literally been head down, working hard and I haven’t had time to think about buying myself something special yet. Maybe I’ll think about something over Christmas.
Did you read any of the Superman runs? Did you watch any of the Christopher Reeve movies? What did you try to take in from the previous material that’s been released and possibly incorporate into your version of Clark Kent/the Man of Steel?
Cavill: I avoided watching anything which was someone else’s interpretation of the source material. I didn’t go back to the movies and watch them. I didn’t go back to the TV series and watch them. I didn’t want to take that and have that influence my interpretation and my performance of the character. Where the character truly belongs and where the character truly comes from is not from the movies or the TV shows; it’s from the comic books. So I went straight to the comic books and had stacks of them and just read and read and read and read and read. I enjoyed so much learning about the character in such a dense manner. The comic books were my source of material; the TV shows and movies were someone else’s interpretation and so I left that to them.