Looking through his career you’ll find a fresh faced Cavill hanging out in the background of The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). While no one else may have noticed him back then, Stephanie Meyers had her eye on the young guy. While writing the Twilight novels, she mentally cast him as Edward Cullen, the Vampire. So, we know there’s at least one woman out there who’s fantasized about the guy. By the time the movies were a possibility, the studios had decided Cavill looked too old to play a kid that hangs out at high schools for no reason. They instead picked up Robert Pattinson who was 3 years younger than Cavill.
But it wasn’t till 2013’s Man Of Steel that he properly entered the mainstream consciousness. That’s what it takes to go mainstream. Solid supporting roles won’t get you anywhere, you need to be Superman before anyone notices you. In an amusing aside, World of Warcraft almost cost him the role when Director Zack Snyder called him in the middle of a raid to tell him he got the position. Cavill ignored the call at first as he didn’t want to let his clan down, but quickly rushed to his phone when he noticed who’s name it was coming up.
What an introduction it was as well. Not only did it become the biggest Superman film of all time when it brought in US$668 Million, it also proved that hairy chests belonged to more than just 80s pornstars and Wolverine.
Cavill’s Superman in the follow up films have always had a slightly scary bent, laughing away as he tosses batman around like a rag doll. But, you know, he’s still the embodiment of human potential and kindness. Now Cavill has stepped out of one cinematic universe (albeit temporarily) and into another, with the release of Mission Impossible: Fallout. This wasn’t without it’s drawbacks for his Superman character, where his moustache was an unwelcome guest on reshoots for Justice League. Removing a moustache isn’t without its consequences. Critics and fans were weirded out by the baby smooth upper lip in Justice League. Cavill himself needed to jump in to make a joke out of it when he posted a video of himself reminiscing about his now-absent friend.
“Hello, don’t be alarmed. It’s me, Henry Cavill. Sometime superhero and former secret agent. But now, completely clean-shaven. I know, it’s hard to recognise me without KingStache. Sometimes I even have trouble recognising myself,” he reflects. “It’s hard for me to admit: this is not CGI. He’s really gone. I can tell you this though, I will remember him, always.” Even director Zach Snyder had a crack on Twitter, when he himself needed to shave his moustache. When a fan tweeted at him telling him he could just remove it with CGI, Snyder responded “We all know that doesn’t work”.
We go into it later in the interview, but there isn’t much funnier than a moustache that needs to be digitally painted out of a movie. Working on Fallout was also a far different beast to working on a superhero movie. Talking to Digital Spy, he confessed that working on a comic book film can be “quite draining because you’re in a green box for six months, which doesn’t do great things for the mind or the psyche”, while hanging out the side of a helicopter with a machine gun in New Zealand can be rather invigorating.
The tangle Cavill has found himself in with Mission Impossible keeps growing. He auditioned for the co-starring role with Tom Cruise on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but when Tom stepped down to do M:I Rogue, Nation Cavill stepped in to his lead role as Napoleon Solo. The fact that Cavill easily and comfortably wears the shoes of ticket selling heavyweights like Tom Cruise is definitely telling of something. Telling of what I’m not sure, but it’s probably good.
With all the talk of being a British spy action hero, with a touch of the muscular jaw and one half raised eyebrow, you might be wondering when he’ll start getting scouted to take over from Daniel Craig as James Bond. It wouldn’t be an issue of M2 if we didn’t discuss that possibility for a moment. While in previous issues I myself have been a personal supporter of the Idris Elba camp, I think that Cavill would also be great in the role. In fact, he’s already had a shot at it once back when Craig was auditioning in 2005. He was told the only thing holding him back was his age.
Back in 2005, Daniel Craig was 37 when he replaced Pierce Brosnan, and now in 2018 Cavill is 35. Suffice to say casting calls are a couple years away at least until Daniel Craig’s Bond 25 comes out. So, it may be worth placing a couple bets. Also since 2005, Cavill has grown a pretty impressive portfolio of roles. Perhaps the only thing that would stop him from being Bond is the fact he’s already gotten enough iconic roles for one lifetime. Either way, whenever he’s been asked about it, Cavill still seems keen to make his mark on Bond.
It wouldn’t even be the first time Cavill has had to audition twice for the same role. Cavill narrowly missed out on playing Superman in Superman Returns, but the position went back
to Brandon Routh who had played Superman previously. In the following interview, we also discuss the exhilaration of possible death while filming in stunt helicopters and during high altitude military jumps.
You’ve obviously made movies with big set-pieces before, but have you ever done anything on the sheer scale of Mission: Impossible – Fallout?
Frankly, no. This movie does stuff that is genuinely astonishing. My favourite sequence was the helicopters in New Zealand. That was all kinds of hair-raising and all kinds of amazing. Just to watch Tom Cruise stunt-flying in a helicopter, thinking [to myself], ‘Okay, surely he’s going to die this time!’ That was one of those moments in my life where I was just like, ‘Wow. I’m here… And I’m watching history being made. I’m part of something new.’ It was incredibly exciting. It was also amazing sitting in a helicopter, travelling at top speed through very tight canyons and high mountains, and in high winds, and getting very close to Tom Cruise’s helicopter and his getting very close to mine – all with the doors open! And it being freezing, icy cold, which just adds to the whole experience. It was truly, truly amazing, and something I’ll not soon forget, I can tell you.
Where does your character, August Walker, fit into the Mission: Impossible universe?
He and Ethan seem to have a fairly difficult relationship… You could say that. The relationship between Walker and Hunt is strained, to say the least. August Walker is the kind of guy who is a weapon for the CIA, more than anything else. He’s a sledgehammer. He’s the kind of guy who gets sent in when there’s a real problem, and there are real bad guys who need to be stopped. He will always accomplish the mission, regardless of the cost. As long as the result ultimately outweighs the cost, he’s your guy to call. His methodology is that often, if you kill just one particularly bad person you are saving 10,000 lives or more. So for him, if you take out maybe 20 [innocent] people in the process that’s okay, you know? It’s a necessary cost. So because of that, and because of Ethan Hunt’s nature, they obviously come to loggerheads, especially when Walker is forced upon Hunt and his team. Ultimately, Walker has issues with Hunt’s methodology. He thinks it’s childish. He thinks it’s a waste of time and it puts too many lives at risk, ironically.
All of that leads to some spectacularly physical disagreements between the pair of you. Not least a bone-crunching bathroom fight. Presumably you had to get into peak condition to pull that off?
Yes, but I try and keep myself in reasonable shape regardless. One, it’s really useful for being in movies. And two, the characters I’ve played so far have called for it. The physicality of the character is something I find fun. It’s fun being a physical person. I’ve got five brothers and we grew up fighting each other, so I’m not necessarily a stranger to fighting! And we tried some stuff and the stunt guys discovered I had some potential in there and could actually do it. So they pushed the envelope a bit, especially when it came to the fight in that bathroom. That one is seriously intense.
Is it right that you and Tom had to shoot a chunk of that after he’d broken his ankle? Presumably that meant you had to go easy on him?
There are parts of that sequence that we shot after the ankle-break and there are parts that we shot before the ankle-break. But Tom’s not really one for people going easy on him! When it comes to injuries, it comes down to you just having to trust the guy. Because you’re in a really personal space with someone you’re fighting with, you do develop a closeness, especially if one of you is injured, because you have to trust the other one enormously. Also, the other guy is a great sounding board for you. If you’re in pain and the other one is asking if you’re okay and you’re like, ‘It stings a bit…’ it’s almost the other one’s job to say, ‘Okay, let’s not do it. Let’s not risk it’. And that’s the kind of relationship Tom and I developed. I had to trust him as well. These moves are violent and they are big and they are aggressive, so if you half-arse that, you end up injuring someone more than if you just give it your all. It’s going to hurt anyway, it just all depends on how you land. And Tom is very good at performing stunts. He knows how to land, so if he said he was good to go then that was it – we’d fist-pump and smash it. We’d go all-in…
What did the hiatus that arose from Tom’s injury mean for you? Did you get a cheeky holiday out of it?
[Making movies] is always a bit of a nightmare because you’re always planning ahead – working on your next project before you finish your current one. So it’s never an ideal scenario for something like that to happen, for human reasons, for practical reasons, and for professional reasons. Ultimately, what you do is make the best of it. It was in the summer, we’d been working a long shoot and we were all really tired. So it was like, ‘I’m going to take a month’s break now. I’m going to relax, recuperate, get my head back in the right place and I’ll deal with whatever fallout happens afterwards… Fallout? That wasn’t intentional! That just came out!
Talking of the complexities of multiple projects, we have to talk about moustache-gate – when you had to go back for reshoots as Superman, on Justice League, still sporting your Mission: Impossible moustache. You couldn’t shave it off, right?
I actually pitched the idea of August having a moustache, and I really miss it now [that he has shaved it off]. I think there’s something about a moustache that says, ‘I’m a man who makes decisions by myself’. And as soon as I heard that reshoots were planned [on Justice League], I realised that the moustache was going to be an issue. Because I knew what was planned for our movie, and that a fake moustache just wasn’t going to work! I thought, ‘Well, the studios up there are going to have to work it out and find whatever solution works for everyone, because we can’t just glue a moustache on, that’s for sure.’
You know, I’m hanging out the side of a helicopter! A fake one just isn’t going to stay on. And it’s not like I can have a make-up person in the back of the helicopter, either, glueing it back on again! So it was an imperfect situation, obviously, and it was a shame that the [Justice League] reshoots had to happen, at the time they had to happen, because if they had just been a month or so later, I could have shaved. We didn’t know that at the time. We didn’t know that Tom was going to break his ankle. But that’s just the irony of the world, isn’t it? The world playing games with us!
How did you find working with Tom? You’d met him before, right?
Yes, we’d actually met when I was auditioning for Illya Kuryakin in Man From U.N.C.L.E. and he was playing Napoleon Solo. I ended up playing Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer ended up playing Illya Kuryakin. So it was great to finally get a chance to work with him.
Famously, you came close to getting the role of James Bond when Daniel Craig did. With Craig saying he’s moving on after the next Bond movie, is Fallout effectively the best audition piece you’re going to get for 007? Or have you moved on from that?
I would be very interested in getting my teeth stuck into the character of Bond. And building a Bond which is interesting, and mine, and ever so slightly unique, like all the other actors who have played him over the years. I would love that. I think that would be an extraordinary experience and something that I could really get behind.
What did you make of working with Christopher McQuarrie? As an actor, is it a help or a hindrance to work with someone who is both the writer and the director?
McQuarrie is an exceptional person to work with. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. He’s incredible. He’s doing the same thing as Tom. He’s always thinking about what the audience wants. He can write a plot that has all sorts of ins and outs, all sorts of zigs and zags, and all sorts of left and right turns, and it’ll all lead somewhere, and he’ll tie up all of the loose ends as required – or not, as required. And his ability to then direct that stuff as well, to know what’s going on for each character, is a huge benefit. He’s collaborative, kind, and a very professional man. He’s always there. No matter what the hour is, he’s always there for you as an actor if you want to come and talk to him. He’s working just as late as Tom Cruise, if not later. I have enormous respect for him. He’s a fantastic man, and a gentleman to boot.
There’s a lot of talk on this movie about the huge set piece of the HALO jump. What can you tell us about that?
With the HALO jump, there were aspects of that I wasn’t allowed to do in the air, despite my protestations. Because, despite my protests and struggles that I should be in the air with Mr Cruise, to have two actors up there, doing the kinds of things that we were planning on doing, just increases the risk too much, to the point that I would probably, or we would probably, end up killing each other, and the camera crew.
Presumably there’s not really any arguing with that..?
Well, no. When they gave me that as an excuse, I thought, ‘Okay… I’m not going to push it then!’ But, for me, what was the absolute biggest deal was the idea of jumping out of a C17 at 25,000 feet. And that’s not something I’m going to let slide! I’m gonna do it eventually. I just need to find a C17. At 25,000 feet.