Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill is a British actor who started his acting career starring as Albert Mondego in the 2002 film adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo. Depending on your point of view, Cavill — 29 years old, the second youngest of five brothers, still probably best known as the guy who got naked a lot in The Tudors — is either the luckiest man in Hollywood, or the unluckiest. Because it is true that he met the man who would play his on screen father when he was 16. True that Crowe was, and remains, his favourite actor, and true that Gladiator was, and still is, his favourite film. And certainly true that, having now landed the role of Superman, in a $225m behemoth of a summer blockbuster with a supporting cast that includes Michael Shannon (as villain Zod) and Amy Adams (as Lois Lane), Cavill is set for the kind of superstardom that only comes with a dose of good fortune. It’s also true that there’s barely an iconic star-making role of the last decade that Cavill has not come within a hair’s breadth of getting and then missed out on.
He would later star in minor and supporting roles in television shows such as BBC’s The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Midsomer Murders and The Tudors before transitioning to more mainstream Hollywood films such as Tristan & Isolde, Stardust and Immortals.
In 2008, Cavill became the face and official spokesperson of the Dunhill fragrance collection for men campaign. He was also cast in the main ensemble of the 2007 Showtime series The Tudors, starring as Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk until the series’ end in 2010.
Entertainment Weekly named him the “Most Dashing Duke” and praised his work on The Tudors for displaying “charm, depth and a killer bod”.
Cavill would gain further prominence and international fame playing the titular superhero Superman in the 2013 reboot film Man of Steel, which became a commercial success and the highest-grossing Superman film of all time, a role that he will reprise in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. In 2015, he co-starred with Armie Hammer in the spy film The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
For now, Cavill is busy promoting a more frivolous sort of spy thriller: The Man from UNCLE, which turns the wacky 1960s TV series into a crash-bang-wallop action movie without jettisoning its small-screen silliness. The director is Guy Ritchie, the tone risque and metrosexual. Despite the cold war backdrop and the snazzy threads, this stylised romp bears as much resemblance to the real 1960s as The Flintstones did to the stone age.
“Guy was always telling us, ‘No one’s too cool, no one’s too funny, no one’s too stupid,’” he says. His square, striking face is dusted with stubble, his black hair meticulously gelled in to place. “It’s got that lovely thing of people seeming to be very sharp, then suddenly falling through a doorway. It makes larger-than-life characters human.” The film might be crushingly insincere without the grudging rapport between its stars. Cavill, as the CIA agent Napoleon Solo, keeps his cool even when the back of his car is being torn apart by an unseemly brute: Armie Hammer playing his KGB counterpart Illya Kuryakin.