Immortals - Henry Cavill and Stephen Dorff
Theseus (Henry Cavill) and Stavros (Stephen Dorff) © 2011 War of the Gods

British actor Henry Cavill made his feature film debut in The Count of Monte Cristo and went on to star in Tristan & Isolde, Stardust and for four seasons on the Showtime series The Tudors.

In his new movie Immortals, directed by visionary director Tarsem Singh, he portrays Theseus, a stonemason whose mother is killed by King Hyperion (Mickey Rouke) as he and his murderous army make their way through Greece, demolishing everything in their path, with the goal of unleashing the power of the sleeping Titans to vanquish humankind and the Gods of Olympus. With a small band of followers, Theseus embraces his destiny to destroy Hyperion.

Cavill must be getting used to playing heroes, for when he finished portraying Theseus, he signed on for the role of his career in Superman: Man of Steel for Zack Snyder. The actor spoke of both heroes at the press event for the movie.

Is there a trick as an actor buying into something that’s not there, that’s primarily done with green screen?

Immortals - Henry Cavill and Stephen Dorff
Theseus (Henry Cavill, front) and Stavros (Stephen Dorff, rear right) © 2011 War of the Gods

Someone like Tarsem’s got such an incredible imagination and a creative side. He can make you see what it is he’s seeing in his head through artwork and models, and so once you’ve seen it physically it’s very easy to buy into. Plus we all have the imagination and the creativity in our heads; it’s just a matter of letting it bleed out into the real world.

When you’re working with someone like Tarsem, it’s very easy and very enjoyable to do.

How do you handle doing the fight scenes as compared to the acting scenes?

When you’re acting you’re not thinking about how your face is moving and what faces you’re pulling, you’re emoting. And as much as you’re emoting when you’re doing a fight scene, it’s so much about precision and exact movements that the two become two very separate entities, doing an acting scene and a fight scene.

An acting scene will take a day; a fight scene can take up to two weeks, because of the necessary precision. You’re still emoting, but it’s a dance; it’s called choreography, so it’s a planned, precise thing.

Can you talk about playing a hero, how much do you depend on the flaws and the doubts of the character?

Immortals - Henry Cavill
Theseus (Henry Cavill) looses his armour to fight the enermy © 2011 War of the Gods

To play a hero effectively I think you have to focus entirely on the flaws and doubts of the hero.

In modern and past society heroes are very prevalent and it’s a little boring to be too good, and too great at everything that you do. And so to focus on all of the things which make life and everything so difficult for that individual, therefore makes them more heroic when they overcome them.

The personal difficulties and problems they have is, I think, what makes the hero interesting.

Is that something that you’ve also incorporated in playing the hero of heroes, for Superman?

Gosh, who knows? You’ll have to wait and see!

People call comic books our modern mythology. You’ve done an ancient mythology with Immortals, and you’re doing the modern one with Superman. Do you think a kid who sees this movie and Man of Steel in two years can see the connections between these films?

Immortals - Henry Cavill and Joseph Morgan
Theseus (Henry Cavill) and Lysander (Joseph Morgan) © 2011 War of the Gods

Whether they see the connections depends on the individual, of course. What mythology is, is a set of ideals represented by individuals. And in Superman it’s a very clear ideal. With mythological characters, especially the Greek ones, it’s a bit more circumspect, they have a lot more in the way of flaws.

Hopefully, kids will see that and take the good message from it as opposed to just going around stabbing people with a spear.

It’s a really good time to be you, you have Immortals opening and Man of Steel in the future, which is highly anticipated. Is there something you did right to get in this position?

I’ve worked incredibly hard to get where I am, and there has been a lot of heartache along the way professionally, and a lot of rejection and a lot of being turned down, a lot of just having faith in yourself and being the only person who has faith in you.

Immortals - Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto and Stephen Dorff
Theseus (Henry Cavill), Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and Stavros (Stephen Dorff) © 2011 War of the Gods

It’s wonderfully rewarding to have everything recognized and for people to be exciting about a [film] which you’re in that is coming out.

What have I done? Really hard work, I’ve enjoyed every step of the way, it’s been difficult but wonderful. You make your life through how much work and effort you put into it, and I think this is a result of what I’ve put in.

With Man of Steel, your life may change where you can’t do the things you can now, because people will know your face better. Does that worry you?

You can’t spend your life worrying about what’s going to be or what might be, you’ve just got to get on with it and deal with it as it comes.

You’ve got to enjoy it.

I know you’re not going to give me any specifics of Man of Steel, but can you talk about the sense of stepping into a role that so many people have an impression of already? How do you put all of the actors who have played Superman out of your mind to create him anew?

I have made a concerted effort to focus purely on the source material, which is the comic. I personally believe that to focus too much on other people’s interpretation of the source material is going to detract from my performance and my interpretation. It’s a wonderful opportunity and there is so much material there, it’s a deep well to choose from.

I’m daily learning more as I’m experiencing it, as I’m performing, and hopefully, if I do my job right, I’ll be remembered and maybe fifteen years in the future the next chap playing Superman will say, ‘Henry Cavill.’

Immortals opens in theaters November 11, 2011

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.