Editor’s Note: This feature originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Men’s Fitness.
Though Henry Cavill has found worldly fame through a character who is, very literally, out of this world—of course, he’s best known as the last son of Krypton in director Zack Snyder’s 2013 franchise reboot, Man of Steel, and its follow-up, this year’s megahit Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice—he works pretty damn hard to keep his real-life self firmly grounded here on Earth. In fact, the 33-year-old English superstar has shunned the trappings of a full-time Hollywood lifestyle for a quieter, more friends-and-family-centric life in London. “If I ever become an egomaniac, then I’ve messed it up,” he says.
Here, Cavill shares more about keeping his head screwed on straight while supersizing his muscles, how he’d prefer roles more in the vein of Bond than Bale, and why no one should ever dare to push around his pooch. Of course, there’s also one particularly buzzy thing he simply can’t talk about. So we’ll get to that first. [Speaking of: major spoiler alert.]
Your character gets killed off at the end of Batman v Superman, but you’re making Justice League now, so clearly Superman comes back to life. How does he do it?
I’m afraid I can’t talk about it. In fact, I’m sure there’s someone [from the studio] waiting just outside my house in case they overhear me say something. Then I’ll be shuffled off involuntarily.
You’re the first British Superman. What’s it like playing this iconic American character?
Well, Superman, in my belief, is for everyone. I mean, he’s American, but he’s not necessarily just for Americans. I think people everywhere know who Superman is, and they can relate to Superman. I think the feeling I have for Superman would be the same as the American version of me would have for Superman. My playing the character, as a Brit, doesn’t make a difference because when it comes to the whole acting thing, ultimately, it’s an alien who flies around and stuff. It’s an acting job.
Did you grow up in a DC universe or a Marvel one?
I didn’t grow up in either in particular. When I was a young lad I was into Superman, I was into Iron Man, I was into the X-Men. I didn’t really know there was a difference. To be honest—I’m really not too sure if there is now. I think they’re all damn cool. Since I got the role of Superman, I’ve been more into the character and delving into the DC universe. I’m loving what DC is doing. I think it’s just fun, and it’s everything it should be in a comic book. It’s inspirational, it’s joyful, it’s got heart. It’s the kind of thing kids read and want to grow up trying to emulate, and that’s what it should be.
So what’s Henry Cavill’s personal Kryptonite?
The people I love. I think if someone went after them, then that would change every single core characteristic of mine. I wouldn’t become weak, but I don’t think I’d be very good, if you know what I mean. If I were to be walking my dog, for example, and someone were to kick my dog, I honestly don’t know what I would do. I think I’d probably get myself into a big amount of trouble.
What kind of dog do you have?
I have an Akita named Kal. I picked up Kal for the first time during preproduction for Batman v Superman. I got him in Arkansas, which I was sure was pronounced “Ar-Kansas” before I got there. I said it in front of lots and lots of people, but no one corrected me until I actually got to Arkansas, and they said, “Oh yeah, it’s ‘Arkansaw,’ not ‘Ar-Kansas.’” I thought, “Thanks, everyone else who’s heard me say that.”
Are your regular “off-season” workouts significantly different from the ones you do when you have to bulk up and look like the Man of Steel?
During an off-season period, I’ll be at a level of having gotten fit, so I’ll be going to the gym I train at here in London. It’s just about working, pushing hard, but not to the point where I’m getting up the next day and being really sore.
You’re looking pretty big these days. Do you really keep it to such a moderate intensity?
Once you get to the level of being fit, there are days when you go, “You know what? Today I just want to dig a very deep hole and jump into it.” Then sometimes your energy is really high and you think, “I’m going to hurt myself today. Let’s see if I still bleed.” And you will bleed! Then you’ll wake up the next day and go, “Oh, holy moly—but it was fun.” It’s just going there, breathing, getting some endorphins flowing. Maybe you want to work on some muscle groups. Maybe you want to get leaner. And so you can set little tasks for yourself. It’s very, very important as well to have someone who genuinely knows what they’re talking about, who can advise you on diet and what you’re doing with it, as far as training is concerned. These are all important things. These are things that I don’t know. Thankfully, I have my trainer here in London, Michael Blevins. If I say, “You know what? I want to have bigger hamstrings. They’re nice and strong, but I want them to be bigger. What do I do?” He goes, “OK, cool. Well, do this, this, and this. Up your calories…”
You’re pretty forthcoming about your workouts, often posting online clips of yourself training. Is that an important conversation to have with your fans?
A lot of working out today is, “Let’s make it an easy fix.” Do this, and do that, and you’ve got 60-second abs. My own personal approach to training is, I’m learning year after year after year and applying it and finding what fits and suits me best for my lifestyle. It’s been a long process. There’s no quick fix. I was very fit, then I was not very fit, then I was very fit again, then I was not very fit. Now that I’m fit again, I think I’ve found a comfortable balance, which is enjoyable because we all like to go out for drinks and have pizza and have dinners and all the nice things in life, and not being a complete gym psycho. But I stay fit enough to feel comfortable with taking my shirt off at the beach, because someone’s going to take a photo, and then it won’t all of a sudden be, “Hey look, fat Superman!” in the Daily Mail or something like that. It’ll just be, “Hey, look, Henry Cavill at the beach,” and I won’t be ashamed to see that photo. So through my Instagram and my social media, I’m trying to sort of send the message out there that it’s a process. As much as I can, I like to get it out there that you don’t have to endure a psychotic, agonizing workout. You don’t have to leave it all on the floor every time. Hopefully through my social media I can help educate people.
Could you see taking roles down the line that require sort of the opposite transformation, like Christian Bale in The Machinist, for which you’d have to drop 60lbs?
Unless the script was very good, I would say no. If it were something I really cared about and I really wanted to have, like, an effect on an audience because it’s subject matter that’s very, very important to me, and I wanted to get it out there, then yeah, I could see myself doing it. Otherwise, no. I’m not going to be like, “Hey, I’m going to do a big fat-man role or a really skinny role because that’s what all the big actors do these days!” I’m not going to choose work to make people go, “Oh, wow, he can really act because he can lose lots of weight.”
Is there another career you could’ve envisioned pursuing had things worked out differently?
Thankfully, at this stage I’ve got my foot in the door enough that if someone tried to slam it shut, I could probably squeeze through a little bit and keep the door open. As far as a full backup plan, it was the British Armed Forces. But being 33 years old, I think I’m too old to join now.
Speaking of the armed forces: James Bond is a character you’ve spoken to us about before. Are you still interested in playing him one day?
Absolutely. It’d be awesome to play Bond, a classic Bond, really. I wouldn’t play the same kind of Bond as Daniel Craig because that’s an amazing Bond, and I don’t think I’d be the person to outdo Daniel Craig at doing Daniel Craig’s Bond. I would love to do a different version and just have enormous amounts of fun with it. The great thing about Bond is that every different actor can play him so differently.
I’ve noticed the bookmakers in London keep adjusting the odds on who has the best shot right now to become the new Bond. Tom Hiddleston seems to be among the top choices. Do you think that’s because he’s already cast his own real-life Bond Girl in Taylor Swift?
Oh, I know nothing about that. The greatest thing about this entertainment industry is that whether there’s a movie out or not, people can find some entertainment from it.
I think a lot of people see you as sort of a real-life James Bond, a suave, charming lady-killer who always gets the girl. Do you have any dating and love advice that you think young men should keep in mind—things that you try to do in your own life?
That’s a tough one, giving advice to anyone. I’ve always been very careful at giving advice because I think the best advice in the world is “Don’t give advice unless it’s asked for”. But if, say, for example, a hypothetical reader were hypothetically asking for advice, then I would say: Stop looking to get laid, and look more for someone who can make you the better version of you in a good, happy way. That’s going to make you happier, more than just getting laid will.
And where are you on that journey?
Well, I keep those kinds of things to myself for now.