Henry Cavill has been back in the news over the last few weeks, making the press rounds and flashing that movie star smile all over town. Officially, it’s to promote Enola Holmes 2. But we all know what he’s been up to, for it’s clear as day. In this case, the actor’s recent press tour has been almost entirely devoted to his return to the DCU as Superman.
If you’ll recall upon our launch last month, we gave constructive suggestions to Warner Bros. Discovery about what to do with the Last Son of Krypton. Chief among them was casting a new actor in the red-and-blue suit, and following a path closer to The Batman. David Zaslav, however, opted to stay the course.
Now Cavill is talking to anyone who will listen (translation: press outlets that are desperate for traffic and make it a point to ask) about a hypothetical Superman movie that lacks a director, openly taking solicitations from writers — in effect admitting there is no angle/story in mind — with no firm release date. After his cameos in Black Adam and next year’s The Flash, there is no telling when he will get another solo movie, just endless quotes of wanting to return to a more “hopeful” take on the Man of Steel.
Well, that sounds well and good, and I’m all for it… the only thing is that Cavill already played that exact take in the theatrical release version of Justice League. A Superman who liked saving people and was nice enough to answer some kids asking questions on their cellphone. Heck, he even smiled. I’m not sure if Cavill forgets this or if he’s just blowing smoke and exploiting the shockingly short attention spans of most fans.
But that “hopeful” stuff is just PR talking. I get it.
What is truly baffling is Cavill’s recent decision to drop The Witcher. Amid all the news of his return to truth, justice, and the American way, the expectation was a schedule that would work hand-in-hand with Netflix and the producers of its popular fantasy series.
So allow me to ask the question everyone else is afraid to:
What the hell is Henry Cavill thinking?
To walk away from your signature role, the one that actually clicked with the general public, is foolish beyond comprehension. There’s been speculation about the reasoning, with some pointing to Cavill’s dissatisfaction with the series’ direction. But to quote the great William Goldman, nobody knows anything. Nor is anyone talking. But there’s simply no reason in the world that Cavill and his representatives couldn’t have worked out a plan that would’ve allowed him to be both Geralt of Rivia and Superman at once.
Cavill could stand to take a cue from Jennifer Lawrence. She became an overnight star — a household name, even — with The Hunger Games. But she was already contractually bound to sequels to X-Men: First Class and 20th Century Fox had every intention of rightfully exploiting her growing stardom to their advantage.
So, they worked it out, and Lawrence did both franchises, all while fitting in a trilogy of David O. Russell movies — Silver Linings Playbook (for which she won an Oscar), American Hustle, and Joy. And she got paid — something that Cavill hasn’t exactly shied away from himself. He’s already said that he’s in the game for the payday, and I applaud him for his honesty, which is all too rare in Hollywood.
But Cavill appears to be taking a cue from David Caruso, whose popularity took off with NYPD Blue. Instead of being smart and continuing on with the police procedural while slowly and carefully stepping into the film world, the hype inflated his ego, and he wound up leaving the show after its breakout first season, burning bridges in the process. And after his first few films were duds, all of those big movie offers dried up, and he was several steps further back than when he started.
So when the producers of CSI: Miami threw a life-jacket his way, he clung to that series for dear life during its successful run. Caruso remains one of the industry’s great cautionary tales.
Intentional or not, it appears Cavill has let the current hype surrounding his 10-second cameo during the end credits of Black Adam go to his head. I’m not sure if this is entirely him, or the doings of his management, but I’d like to remind everyone that Cavill isn’t nearly as popular in the role of Superman as the echo chamber that is Film Twitter might have you believe.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. People lie, but numbers never lie, and all three of Cavill’s films as Superman were financial underperformers that either divided fans or were met with shoulder-shrugging indifference by both critics and the general audiences who ultimately decide a movie’s fate.
I recall that during the buildup to Batman v. Superman, with the hype at its peak, Cavill walked around Times Square dressed in a Superman t-shirt with a giant banner for the blockbuster hovering over him. He wasn’t swarmed by onlookers. In fact, nobody batted an eye. They. Didn’t. Care. Christopher Reeve, on the other hand, was chased down the streets after the release of Superman when he and his best friend Robin Williams went cruising past theaters — a story they often told back in the day.
But reading articles and listening to podcasts from so-called pundits would leave you to believe that Cavill’s popularity among superhero fans rivals that of Robert Downey Jr.(Iron Man), Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), or Christian Bale (Batman).
You might be appalled at what you’re reading and think this is some kind of a hit piece. Quite the contrary. I like Henry Cavill. If it was up to me, Man of Steel wouldn’t have had that massive second-weekend drop (close to 68 percent, and ultimately responsible for this mess) and we would have gotten the planned sequel that Warner Bros. had announced for a 2015 release — with Dwayne Johnson as Lex Luthor, if I was in charge of casting — instead of the disastrous and astoundingly wrong-headed Batman v. Superman.
But I’m not blinded by fandom. I only see the facts for what they are.
Cavill was on the right-track post-Superman thanks to The Witcher and Enola Holmes, both of which have become successful franchises for Netflix. He had embraced his status as a streaming star. For whatever reason, Cavill got it in his head that he’s a movie star now and should be treated, and paid, as such. Again, with absolutely no real numbers or raw data to back up that assertion.
Cavill has had three chances already and by the grace of a Hollywood God (Dwayne Johnson, for those wondering), he is getting a fourth shot. If you think David Zaslav (whose responsibility is to cut costs, bring down the debt and, most importantly, make the shareholders money) will continue letting Cavill headline as Superman in more commercial underachievers if this next film strikes out, you are sorely mistaken.
Look no further than HBO’s decision to cancel Westworld, as first reported by Above the Line. Even though there won’t be a fifth season, Warner Bros. Discovery will pay the cast for those episodes, opting to eat those expensive contracts rather than lose even more money on a series that lost the general public’s interest.
One’s career choices are a game of chess. An actor has to be strategic with each decision. One false move and it could all be over. We just hope that Cavill takes the time to consider such moves, and not mistake internet hype for the real deal. Unfortunately, that is exactly what he is doing, so far, and I fear that he’s only walking into a trap that will ruin the progress he has made over the past few years without a cape in sight.
Sometimes, being a superhero ain’t all it’s cracked up to be — a lesson that Cavill should know all too well by now. But hey, like Henry, we’re hopeful.