It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman! Taking on the role of the Man of Steel is no small task. Many have dawned the famous red and blue suit over the years. Only a few have embodied Kal-El in mind, body, and spirit. Henry Cavill almost missed out on his opportunity to play the famous caped crusader thanks to World of Warcraft. He was playing the game when Zach Snyder tried calling him about the role of Superman. Cavill has been quoted as saying, “You can’t save it, you can’t pause it or anything,” Cavill lamented. He tried to call back but got no answer. “I’m thinking, great, I’ve lost the job or I’m never going to get the job.” As luck would have it Snyder called back and the rest is history.
Henry Cavill refused to take any enhancing substances to get into shape for Superman. Cavill wanted to do it the natural way and did not want muscles added to his suit via special effects. He wanted to fully embody Superman and felt that it was only right to represent the character and the legacy in the right way. It wasn't easy at any point but Henry Cavill pulled it off. Here are 20 things Henry Cavill did to become Superman.
First off, Henry had to be cast as the Man of Steel. This was Cavill's second chance at playing Superman. In 2006, he was passed over for the role that eventually went to Brandon Roth, after McG left the project and Bryan Singer signed on to direct it. During the casting process, Snyder had actors put on a replica of Christopher Reeves Superman costume.
"If you can put on that suit and pull it off, that's an awesome achievement," Snyder said.
The idea of this made Cavill nervous. He had bulked up for his role in Immortals, however, he had to lose this physique for his role in The Cold Light of Day, opposite Bruce Willis.
"All I could think was: Oh, god. They're going to look at me and go, 'He's not Superman. Not a chance. The actor inside me was going: 'You're not ready! You're not ready!'" When Cavill walked into the room in the super-suit, there was no question that his time had come. Snyder has said: "He walked out, and no one laughed. Other actors put that suit on, and it's a joke, even if they're great actors. Henry put it on, and he exuded this kind of crazy-calm confidence that just made me go, "Wow.' Ok. This was Superman."
19 Gym Jones
Henry Cavill trained at the "invite only" Gym Jones. Founded by Mark Twight, an American climber, in 2003. Gym Jones is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. From the success of his students, Twight developed the Mountain Mobility Group, LLC which helped to advise the Department of Defense in Special-Ops training. Mark and Gym Jones are well known in the industry for training the cast and stunt crew of the film 300. This gym is not for the faint-hearted. A quote from their website says,
"Gym Jones is not a cozy place. There are no televisions, no machines, no comfortable spot to sit. Effort and pain may not be avoided. Physical and psychological breakdowns occur."
Cavill spent 5 months training in preparation for the film. In the beginning, he was training 7 hours a day for a while. Henry also had to pack on 20 pounds of muscle to his frame through intensive cardiovascular workouts, bodyweight training, and mixed martial arts.
18 Mental Readiness
The number one philosophy at Gym Jones is "The Mind is Primary". Cavill had to mentally prepare himself and commit not only his body but his mind to his training. There would be times when he wanted to give up, to quit, but he could not give into that.
Cavill also had to prepare for becoming Superman and how he wanted to play the character. Henry did not watch any of the previous films or television shows. He relied on the comics that were originally created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster as his main focus of reference. Zack Snyder's vision for the film was a more realistic Clark Kent. An alien that doesn't know quite where he fits in, but does his best to save the world. That was the Clark that Henry fell in love with.
17 Meal Plan
Due to the intense, grueling workout that Henry Cavill was enduring to get into Superman shape, his diet was extremely important. In order to make sure that his body was getting enough fuel, Cavill was eating up to 5000 calories a day. His diet consisted of massive amounts of protein from eggs, chicken, meat, and pulses. Henry also needed to eat healthy carbs like those found in fruits and vegetables.
In an interview with Total Film, Henry said, "You've got to eat protein first, then a little bit of carbs... you've gotta keep your hunger levels going." He added, "The leaning down phase is the hardest because although you're looking great, you're always in a bad mood because you're so hungry."
In addition to weightlifting, Henry Cavill did massive amounts of cardio during his training. This cardio included things like running, swimming, bike riding and rowing. Cavill caused many fans to blush in 2015 during an appearance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. When asked by Fallon what he did for cardio, Henry smirked and glanced to the audience and then said to Fallon,
"I...run", and with a Cheshire cat smile added, "That's the savory answer."
When Fallon asked further, "So what do you really do?" Henry paused, glanced at the audience, which brought on some cheers from the audience. "I think they get it," he said as he pointed to the audience.
15 Legs, legs, legs
Superman is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and though Henry Cavill can't do that, his legs got the workout as if they would. In an interview, Cavill stated:
“A couple of weeks ago it was 100 front squats in body weight. We’ve been quite fond of doing the 100 repetition stuff recently and heavy as well. Generally, the guys work out with me now. And so, we all have a bit of fun doing it as well. For example, we’ll just do 10 reps of a weight and then someone drops out, they do 10, someone drops out, they do 10. By the time the third person’s finished their set, you come in and do your 10, up to 100. Otherwise, training stuff, I mean, it’s huge amounts of kettle-bell workouts.”
14 The tailpipe
The name says it all. Have you ever wondered what sucking on a car's tailpipe felt like in your throat and lungs? This workout will cause more pain than that.
The tailpipe is a 100 rep workout said to "smoke calories, torch fat, and leave you exhausted."
It consists of exercise and recovery. Mark Twight's tailpipe recovery method begins the second you finish an exercise. You calmly take eight controlled breathes in and out of your nose and right before you start again, you "fight the urge to gasp, throw yourself around, or change songs on your iPod," said Dan John, a colleague of Twight's. This is a partner workout involving kettlebells and rowing 250 meters. Tired yet?
Henry Cavill's weightlifting consisted mainly of powerlifting, which is where you do more sets and fewer reps. This helps stimulate muscle growth and burn a lot of energy at the same time. Cavill did exercises like squats, deadlifts, clean lifts, presses and bench presses. Mark Twight gave him a workout similar to the 300 workout, with extra mass building added to it. This workout involves targeting three body parts per workout with eight exercises and training several sets per exercise for 8-12 reps.
At the beginning of his preparation to play Superman, Cavill's trained with weights 2-3 hours a day.
12 Pushing past limits
Henry Cavill has said that if he could pin the process of "becoming Superman" to a single moment this was probably it."- An article from Men's Fitness Magazine explains that moment.
He was on the final rep of his final set of front squats when his leg muscles froze under the stress of the 305 pounds sitting across his shoulders. He had dutifully pounded out three sets of four with the weight already, but at the bottom of the fourth rep of his fourth set, Cavill's muscles flat-out quit on him. He was pinned to the ground and his knees started to buckle inward. His trainer, Gym Jones founder Mark Twight, who closely monitored Cavill throughout his Man of Steel training, waited for his client to lean forward and dump the bar to the ground.
Instead, Cavill did something that Twight—a man not easily impressed—would remember forever. He drove his heels into the ground and pushed, his face twisting into an expression showing supreme effort, his body working harder than at any time during his entire year of training for the role.
And slowly he began to rise out of the hole, grinding his way back up, until he completed the rep. He racked the bar, lifted his head, and opened his eyes... and everything seemed different. Suddenly there was confidence and elation. But beyond that, there was puzzlement—the eyes of a man trying to process a whole new world of possibility.
“Somehow he got his sh-t together,” Twight says later, still astonished. “To see him do that, then walk around like he’s on air, to believe in himself enough to try that hard, that was one of the more impressive things that happened during the whole course of this process.”
11 sweet dreams henry
A critical piece of Henry's training was sleep. Yes, you read that correctly. Mark Twight was adamant about Henry getting 9-10 hours a night of sleep during training to allow his body and mind time to recover from workouts. A plan and focus on your recovery is key to improvement.
When you sleep, muscle building hormones like HGH and testosterone are released. According to Mark Twight and Gym Jones, recovery is more than 50% of the training process. After all of that working out, falling asleep is probably a lot easier than waking up the next morning and trying to move your muscles. Henry was committed to following Mark Twight's direction and took it all to heart.
10 New superman, new suit
Yes, the super suit was one of the things that Henry Cavill had to do to play the Man of Steel. Michael Wilkinson was the costume designer for the film. Zack Snyder and Wilkinson wanted to create a costume that was appealing to modern audiences as well as one that was grounded in the mythology of the story. At the beginning of the film, the audience is shown that all Kryptonians had a family crest or "glyph" on their chest, which spoke to their lineage.
Henry Cavill had multiple fittings and one that lasted over four and a half hours. Wilkinson said that he never complained, even when working in 100-degree heat. "Henry's perfection--he really is an incredible specimen of humanity!"
9 no cgi
Henry Cavill did not want any performance-enhancing supplements nor computer graphic tricks to make his body look bigger on screen. He wanted it to be one hundred percent himself, he wanted to become a Clark Kent that people would be proud of. He wanted to become the hero that people had been looking up to for so long.
"I wanted it to be me,' 'It helped me get into character. And also because it's my name. I wanted to provide that image of Superman and make it reality." Henry stated.
Though his cape was CGI in many of the scenes, the rest of the suit was all Henry. This speaks heavily to Cavill's commitment once again to a character that he has embodied on screen and off. Many have said in regards to Henry Cavill, "He is Superman."
8 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu
Henry also began taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes. His trainer, Roger Gracie, a 14x World Champion in Jiu-Jitsu and a former mixed martial artist (MMA).
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art based on grappling and ground fighting. It focuses on the skill of controlling your opponent through techniques that force them to submit. With 95% of street fights ending on the ground, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu would give you the upper hand in real life self-defence. It is sometimes referred to as the "game of human chess," because you must utilize a lot of strategy and technique in order to beat your opponent. Henry has become a pro at it, using it to help himself get fit and good at fighting in different ways. Lifting weights makes him built, but it takes more than that to become the Man of Steel.
7 Training on set
During filming, Cavill still had to keep up the physique, and though it wasn't 2-3 hours a day, Henry was doing vigorous physical work in scenes as well as training with Mark. As he described during filming,
"Now we’ve dropped down to about 3,500 while we’re doing an hour’s training every morning because if I keep that high-calorie intake I’m going to start putting on fat weight. But if I drop too low, I’m going to start losing all the new muscle I’ve gained.”
Already, a day of filming is long and tiring, so the fact that he would have to train on set to keep himself up, means even more to the fans. He must have been exhausted filming some of those scenes, considering he is really tiring himself out for the entire thing, but that's what makes him the best Superman, after all.
6 Know when to reward yourself
Henry Cavill explained how after the six-week training phase when he was getting in shape for shirtless scenes, he was given the biggest treat by his director once the scenes were filmed. Cavill told Shortlist in an interview,
"Zack Snyder bought me an amazing apple pie and a tub of ice cream. I ordered a pizza as well and didn't even go home. I just sat in a trailer afterward and ate it. I passed out into a food coma after that."
Most of us can't imagine going through the training that Cavill did, let alone the diet he had to adhere to in order to become Superman. These treats from Snyder were much deserved. Besides, for a guy who is literally changing his entire life to become someone else, he deserves a nice reward for doing such an amazing job at it.
5 american accent
For a Brit playing the most recognized superhero, it was critical for Cavill to master an American accent. When asked during an interview if he could let the interviewer hear his accent, Henry said:
"Under normal circumstances, if you came in on a day where I was doing dialogue, I'd be more than happy to. But because I have not warmed it up at all- it's like, doing an accent is like going into the gym for a workout. If you pick up the heaviest weight possible and try and clean press it, you're going to pull something. So you need to warm it up and then you can go into doing all the heavy weight exercises. You have to practice, practice, practice, like gym training, you gotta build up those muscles so they're used to doing that kind of movement."
4 becoming a superhero
Being a superhero on the screen means also becoming that superhero in the eyes of children in real life. Henry Cavill spoke to this,
"When it comes to seeing a kid who actually believes you're Superman, doesn't see Henry Cavill, the actor playing Superman, it's "Daddy, it's Superman," and he's hiding his face."
Henry went on to say, "He's scared and then wants to- little babies reaching out for you. That is nuts because the responsibility attached to that... They're going to have that experience for the rest of their life when they met Superman, not when they met Henry Cavill who is an actor playing Superman. I think that's really important, for such an incredible icon to do that just right. If you mess that up, you're the wrong guy for the role."
Russell Crowe not only played an integral role in Kal-El's life as his father but also in Henry's life as a motivator. When Henry was younger, a scene from the film Proof of Life was being shot at his school. Henry has recalled meeting Crowe in a few interviews,
"I thought we kind of looked ridiculous, standing there, looking over at this famous actor." A 16-year-old Henry approached Crowe and stuck his hand out, "Hi, my name's Henry. I want to be an actor. What's it like?" Russell Crowe gave it to Cavill straight, being impressed with the youngsters focused line of questions about acting.
Henry Cavill made such an impression on Crowe, that two days later he received a care package from the A-list celebrity.
The package contained Vegemite, a CD of Crowe's band, an Aussie rugby jersey and a picture from the film Gladiator with a note: "Dear Henry, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Russell." Henry Cavill has stated that throughout his career and preparation that he thinks of that picture and note from Crowe and how it has kept him motivated.
No one could say it better than the man himself, Henry Cavill: "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!"
But it doesn't stop there. He also said, "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...”
For anyone taking on the role of Superman, the pressure would be more than daunting. Henry Cavill at the age of 27 faced the most challenging time in his life, both physically and mentally, thus far. He spent 11 months total training, 5 months before filming and for 6 months during filming. He faced extremely long 15 hour days of shooting on top of training. Becoming Superman was arduous, exhausting, but wonderful at the same time for Cavill.
Stepping out in the suit, he could feel this energy, and love of all the hard work that went into making it by hand. The symbol on his suit is the crest of the house of El and means "hope".
Henry Cavill's commitment to Kal-El and Clark Kent gave hope to those involved in the film and in its success. Which in turn provided Henry with hope and promise to do right by the character of Superman. Maybe Henry Cavill really is Kal-El.