Looking past Henry Cavill’s infinitely blue eyes and goofy grin, it’s not difficult to imagine the 28-year-old British actor transforming into an extremely intense dude as he describes the roughest day he experienced on the “Immortals” set - grasping the complex choreography for the film’s epic final battle.
“I was literally learning it minutes before doing it,” Mr. Cavill said during a recent interview to promote the mythological 3-D action flick, which opened Friday. “That was fun and a great challenge, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I get [mad] at myself if I don’t get it exactly right.”
Not getting it exactly right is a feeling that Mr. Cavill, who has achieved Hollywood infamy in recent years as a runner-up for such high-profile parts as James Bond and Superman, was beginning to know too well. That’s finally changing with his starring turns as buff Grecian hero Theseus in “Immortals” and, after getting another at the part, Superman in “Man of Steel,” which he’s currently shooting in Vancouver.
“As an actor, when you get rejected and rejected, you start to wonder if you’ve got the goods,” Mr. Cavill said. “People are telling me that I’m a good actor. They’re saying I’m good in the room during the audition, but I’m not getting the … jobs. Either someone is lying or this industry is really messed up. I think it’s a combination of the two.”
The stubbly, dark-haired actor, the fourth of five brothers, is equal parts gentleman, guy’s guy and geek, cautiously lowering his voice when peppering his charming English timbre with saucy language and nervously chattering his gleaming white teeth before formulating responses to perplexing questions.
Tarsem Singh, the director of such visually arresting films as “The Cell” and “The Fall,” selected Mr. Cavill to serve as his “Immortals” leading man long before Mr. Singh’s version of the mythological demigod was defined. Mr. Singh said he was sold on Mr. Cavill when he gave the actor a simple scene to read, and he effortlessly interpreted it five different ways.
“He was just so malleable and tactile,” Mr. Singh said. “When I came to the studio, I told them that the script needs a lot of work, and it’s going to change, but this is the guy. He can act. He can be physical. He can do everything we need him to do. We should stick by him.”
In this version of the Greek tale, Theseus is a peasant who goes in search of a powerful weapon to stop King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) from awakening the Titans. Along his journey, he’s aided by oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and thief Stavros (Stephen Dorff), and he encounters gods such as Zeus (Luke Evans), Poseidon (Kellan Lutz) and Athena (Isabel Lucas).
“Immortals” no doubt will be closely monitored by industry watchers and Superman devotees alike in anticipation of “Man of Steel,” which is scheduled for release in 2013. Until he was cast as the new Superman, Mr. Cavill was best known for playing the randy Duke of Suffolk on the Showtime period drama “The Tudors” for four seasons.
Eight years ago, Mr. Cavill was this close to donning Superman’s red cape when director McG was working on a film about the DC Comics superhero. That project was scrapped, and director Bryan Singer later presented his take on the Kryptonian orphan with newcomer Brandon Routh in the title role. Mr. Cavill hasn’t been deterred by his long route to Metropolis though.
“It’s actually been proven that just because I didn’t get Superman then doesn’t mean that I can’t get Superman now,” said Mr. Cavill without sounding the least bit arrogant. “You can’t let it get you down. You’ve got to look at the positives. I got to meet with Warner Bros. and everyone there. It’s beneficial, really.”