Every little boy dreams of being him, and every grown man, well...some things never change. The chance to actually play Superman on film is an honor bestowed upon few in history, and Henry Cavill is aware of just how many doors can be opened should Zack Snyder's Man of Steel reboot be a success.
Great opportunities come at the cost of great risks, and Cavill is all too aware of just how many people could be let down if his performance as the Man of Steel is found lacking. With all that pressure on his all-too-human shoulders, Cavill is focusing on his own concerns for the film, not those of comic book fandom.
Any fan of the character has likely heard of the 'Superman Curse' that struck both George Reeves and Christopher Reeve following their portrayals of the Last Son of Krypton. But these days, the risks of occupying the blue spandex aren't supernatural at all. Bryan Singer gave what could have been a one-way ticket to leading man status to Brandon Routh in his Superman Returns (2006) - but things, as we know, ended up quite differently; and as far as we know, Tom Welling is doing fine.
All things considered, it's worth thinking about just how much pressure is being placed on Henry Cavill: playing the most famous superhero of all time, at the peak of comic book movie popularity (not to mention budget), with a successful film beginning a multi-picture deal rivaling Marvel's movie universe. Cavill has explained how his work on Immortals prepared him for the physical strain of becoming Superman, but keeping one's head clear with that kind of expectation has to be taxing for the most grizzled thespian.
In an interview with Cineplex, Cavill explained that the amount of people hoping for Man of Steel to deliver the goods is something he acknowledges. But at the end of the day, he's got the memory of the Big Blue Boy Scout to answer to:
"...It’s important to do the role justice. There are a lot of people relying on me to do this well. I gladly accept that responsibility, and it’s a great one to have because it’s a wonderful opportunity. I don’t let the pressures get to me because that’s going to hinder my performance and, therefore, let people down. So I choose to ignore the pressure side of it and focus on doing justice to Superman."
Again reemphasizing Snyder's goal of modernizing Superman and making him easier to identify with, it's becoming clear just how much of an optimist Cavill truly is. Not that it wouldn't be anyone's dream to play as universal an icon as Superman, but for someone with a promising acting career already built, that's quite a gamble. Some may see the odds as stacked against Cavill from the start, since his face will be the one linked to Man of Steel's success or failure.
But for every Brandon Routh, there's been a Christian Bale, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans; the list of overnight stars goes on. Obviously the established names had more experience in the spotlight prior to their time in costume, but then again, Cavill is British - and they tend to have a knack for this kind of thing. Success in this case might even mean a future stint as the world' most famous spy, but Cavill is clearly looking at the task at hand.
As far as betting on the outcome of his being cast as Clark Kent, it's hard to deny the quality of his past performances. And as much as Zack Snyder may be a somewhat divisive name among comic book fans, his casting choices have spoken for themselves. The selection of not just Gerard Butler for 300 (2006), but the casting of then-relatively-unknown Michael Fassbender earned praise. Patrick Wilson and Jackie Earle Haley being cast as Nightowl and Rorschach, respectively, were two aspects of Watchmen (2009) that are rarely attacked.
Now he's hand-picked a young British actor over other well-known names and faces in the running, despite his being passed on the last time around. Whatever else may happen, it seems unlikely that comparisons between Man of Steel and Superman Returns will be obvious. With a new face, a completely redesigned suit, a far more grounded artistic direction, and even a new origin story to tell, the tools are in place for a fresh start.
Just don't tell that to Cavill: he needs to focus.
Man of Steel will be arriving in theaters on June 14, 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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