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Jersey’s man of steel
Just like the 'Man of Steel' in this Summer's Hollywood blockbuster movie, actor Henry Cavill who plays the new superman emerged from humble, unassuming beginnings.
While the fictional Clark Kent was raised in modest surroundings in the make-believe town of Smallville, Cavill was born and brought up on the peaceful island of Jersey. And just like his superhero character, the 30-year-old actor is set to make a worldwide impact following the film's release on June 14 on both sides of the Atlantic.
The 2013 Man of Steel is essentially a 'reboot' of the original Superman motion picture, charting the young Clark Kent's coming to terms with his amazing powers after he is transported to Earth from the faraway planet of Krypton and then his emergence as the most iconic superhero of them all.
The film's director Zack Snyder was instrumental in getting Cavill to play the part in the Warner Bros. production, describing him as 'the perfect choice to don the cape and S shield' and lining him up with seasoned Hollywood superstars Kevin Costner who plays Clark Kent's adoptive Earth father and Russell Crowe as his biological father Jor-El.
In some small part, Cavill owes his acting career to Crowe, who is best known for his leading role in the 2000 film Gladiator. The pair first met 13 years ago when Cavill was a 17-year-old student at Stowe boarding school in Buckinghamshire and Crowe had come along to shoot there for the film Proof of Life.
The youthful Cavill managed to land a very tiny role as a walk-on extra and when the filming was done he cheekily walked up to Crowe, reportedly introducing himself with the words:
Hi, my name is Henry and I was wondering what it's like being an actor?
A brief conversation followed, during which Crowe explained that there would be ups and downs, but a few days later Cavill received a package including a picture of Crowe on the set of Gladiator. On the reverse side the star had written the words:
Dear Henry. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.
Cavill's own long route to A-List stardom began with an unremarkable upbringing in Jersey, the fourth of five sons to his English stockbroker father Colin and his island-born mum Marianne. He first took to the stage with his classmates at preparatory school then at the still tender age of 13 he moved to Stowe, where a casting agent spotted his potential in a school play.
That led to Cavill's first proper film role in the 2002 production of The Count of Monte Cristo and a series of minor film and television parts followed. The physically striking British actor was actually earmarked to play Superman as long ago as 2004 but was overlooked in favour of the American Brandon Routh for the hit 2006 movie Superman Returns.
In 2005 Cavill lost out again, this time to Daniel Craig for the role of James Bond in Casino Royale, but he quickly picked himself up from that disappointment, citing his boarding school experience as the perfect preparation for the knockbacks associated with the world of screen acting.
Hollywood's top directors began looking at him in earnest following his acclaimed lead performance as the dashing, womanising Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, in the awardwinning television drama The Tudors, which ran from 2007 to 2010 and which Cavill admitted had "done the most for me to date".
The breakthrough came in 2011 when he was given the lead as Theseus in the all-action, big budget fantasy epic, Immortals, based on ancient Greek myth. Though not critically acclaimed, most reviewers regarded it as an entertaining enough romp, with Empire Magazine giving it three stars out of five and describing Cavill's performance as "impressively heroic."
Man of Steel is on another level altogether and is almost certain to propel Henry Cavill to international superstardom faster than a speeding bullet. It is quite an achievement for an actor born on a tiny British isle without any super powers but with a handsome physique and an inherent acting ability.
And it is doubly impressive when you consider he did it without attending a prestigious drama school like many of his peers or through knowing people in the right places. As his fellow Superman movie star Russell Crowe advised him to do at the outset of his career, he simply took that first step and ended up completing that thousand mile journey.
Jersey is rolling out the red carpet for its biggest ever actor when Henry Cavill returns for the island première of Man of Steel on Friday 14 June, two days after the UK première. The local superhero has been confirmed as guest of honour for the showing at Cineworld on the St Helier Waterfront, together with other members of the star-studded cast.
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