By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Henry Cavill reprises his role as the Man of Steel and is joined by Ben Affleck as The Dark Knight in Zack Snyder’s heavyweight matchup “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the first big studio tent pole of the year.
The legendary DC Comics superheroes square off in this highly anticipated big budget sequel to 2013’s “Man of Steel.”
In this action-packed drama, billionaire Bruce Wayne/Batman believes Superman, who has left a wake of death and destruction in his battle against Zod (Michael Shannon, in the last film), is a danger to humanity and takes it upon himself to stop him. At the same time, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is plotting his own campaign against Superman while a female heroine emerges. (Wonder who she is?)
Cavill and Affleck spoke at a press conference about bringing humanity to their larger-than-life superhero roles, becoming part of the Batman/Superman legacy, the underpinnings of their characters and working with Snyder and each other.
Q: Henry, what went into working out your own identities and pairing them against each other?
Cavill: As I always say, it goes back to the source material. There’s an awful lot of psychology in Superman because it’s the one way you can find to crack the shell. When it comes to playing the character, especially in this movie, where we still see the growth of Superman, before seeing the finished product of what we know and love from the character of the comic books, it was just diving into the psychology and the weaknesses they’re in and playing with the relationship between him and Lois and him and Martha, and then of course the conflict he has facing Batman.
Q: Ben, how much pressure did you feel in accepting to play the role of Batman?
Affleck: There was really enough material in the screenplay that Chris (Terrio) wrote and with Zack’s (Snyder) direction there was plenty for me to grab onto and use my imagination to build this character. It’s certainly daunting because of the people who’ve played this character before, most recently Christian Bale who’s made three brilliant movies and all the guys that went before him. There’s that element of healthy respect you have for the project, the history, and it raises the bar, certainly. I thought I was in really good hands with this script and (with) Zack. That’s where I focused my attention.
Q: What did you think about the Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman?
Affleck: It was a tremendous treat. She’s the best. It sounds like ********, but Gal did such a great amazing job and made all the scenes that I was in with her better. She made me better. She’s my favorite part of the movie when she shows up. I don’t want to give anything away, but she helps me out. She’s a terrific actress. This is a lot of fun. I’m excited to keep working with her.
Cavill: It’s tough to sound genuine by just repeating that, but it’s true. Gal defines Wonder Woman. She brings something particular, something statuesque, something otherworldly to the character and it’s remarkable to see.
Q: Is it true that you turned down the offer to direct the movie “Man of Steel?” Would you ever want to direct a Batman movie?
Affleck: It’s not true that I turned down “Man of Steel.” I learned a lot from Zack on this movie. Aside from the personal experience of playing the part was watching a guy who really understands how to make films in this level with cutting edge technology, combining camera stuff with visual effects and stunts, practical effects and all the tools at a director’s disposal, and seeing how Zack sort of meticulously constructed them using, literally, hand-drawn storyboards, frame by frame and evolving those into the movie, with a fairly consistent vision.
I wondered about directing movies like this before and it was really a very valuable learning experience for me to watch Zack do it and see how he did it so that if that day did come, I definitely pick up a lot of valuable information and tricks.
For me, as a director, it’s about material and the characters, so if I found the right material, I would definitely throw my hat in the ring to direct something on that scale. I’m definitely bolder now, certainly having learned and watched Zach and Chris (Terrio) put this movie together.
Q: What would Clark Kent, the journalist, ask Henry Cavill?
Cavill: I’m assuming we exist in the fictitious reality we’ve set-up in “Batman vs. Superman” when you ask me what Clack Kent would ask me or Ben and I believe Clark would ask something along the lines of, “What do you think the value of Batman is and what do you think the value of Superman is?” That’s a very good question. I didn’t even think I had to answer my own excellent question. In the fictitious reality, it’s explained very clearly in the movie, and I agree with it. (He laughs).
Q: Did you think pitting Batman vs. Superman in a film was a crazy idea?
Affleck: I didn’t think it was crazy because I read, when I was a kid, “The Dark Knight Returns,” Frank Miller’s comic where Superman fought Batman and it was really original and interesting and it turned the genre on its head. It was a morally gray sort of story. It changed the way I saw comic books. I had been familiar with that idea for a long time, so when I heard that this was the idea of this movie I thought, “That’s brilliant,” because it’s one of the greatest ideas in comics that hasn’t been mined yet for films.
Q: How about you, Henry? Did you think it was a crazy idea?
Cavill: I agree with Ben on that one. I knew the comic book, especially the Frank Miller one. Also, the relationship in the comic books between Batman and Superman, the idea was nothing but exciting because we’re opening up the cinematic universe for all of DC Comics.
Q: Pick a day you will always remember when you think back on the making of the film.
Affleck: It was a very unnerving day, it’s true, wearing the suit and being on camera (for the first time). You think, “Well, here it is. I’m really doing this.” It was very nice to have Diane’s (Lane) friendly face there. She’s a great actress. She kind of looked at me, and said, “Yeah, it’s going to be OK.” I appreciated that day.
Q: Henry, what part of the filming won’t you forget?
Cavill: It’s tough to say while shooting because I was in a green (screen) room at the time, but certainly I feel like I felt it after having watched the movie, but the third act, for me in particular, resonated. It was probably, while watching the movie, where I felt the most excited and got to step outside the actor and was part of the audience.
Q: Do you think your characters are more willful than powerful? What helps you lose yourself into your character faster—you’re little boy-hero complex or you’re adult-hero complex?
Affleck: I have too many complexes to sort through. Any of them will do, really (laughs). I think you’re onto something when you talk about will versus strength. For Batman, I think one of the reasons this character has resonated since the FDR Administration with audiences, regardless of the way the country has changed and pop-culture has changed, is because you have a guy who on the one hand is powerful and exciting and can do things we all wish we could do, but is still a human being and struggling with his own vulnerabilities, fragilities and struggling with his own will and accomplishes things by force of will. That was fun and exciting to play.
To equal measures of my adult geekiness and kid excitement for this movie, everyday there was something to geek-out about and be excited by and be like, “I can’t believe I get to be in this movie.” It was exciting every day.
Q: When you growing up in Boston, did you think about Batman very much?
Affleck: There’s a store in Mount Auburn (Mass.) called Million Year Picnic—which is still open I think—which is where I bought the Frank Miller book when I was old enough to be wandering around the city by myself. (He laughs.) That’s where I bought my first comics and that was the first comic that really took my appreciation of this genre to another level. It was right when (the comic book publishers) were kind of doing those innovating things in that way, newer, more adult, sophisticated, complicated ways of looking at this world and started to become a genre. It took the movie business 20 years to catch up and be willing to mine these stories for complicated and interesting (movie plots), but it has now.
Q: What did you like most about you character?
Affleck: Bruce Wayne. Zack often said that he thought Bruce Wayne was like a masked character; that he put on as much as Batman was. He liked the idea that there was this ritual, just putting on the suit and getting ready. The way he looked was a way of putting a mask to the world and presenting this alter ego—Bruce Wayne—to the world. I thought that was interesting and I like the idea that both Bruce Wayne and Batman were ****** up, unhealthy people who were engaging in unhealthy behavior at night as a result of psychological scars they bore from childhood. I thought that duality was something very interesting to explore.
Q: Henry, what did you like about Superman in this movie?
Cavill: To me, this was something much like the development of Superman, of the character that we know and love in the comic books. We’re still not there yet. We are looking at the guy growing up. He’s become this Superman after discovering he was Kal-El in the first movie and now he faces off this second guy and it’s a tough outing for him because it’s against a psychological enemy as opposed to a physical enemy like Zod was. We see him make mistakes and we see him grow through his mistakes and learn from them.