man of steel

Superhero films have a special knack for creating super stars

Superhero movies have a way of creating movie stars.

With a boffo $125 million domestic start, and nearly $72 million so far overseas, Warner Bros.’ “Man of Steel” is the prime star-making vehicle for hulking Brit thesp Henry Cavill, whose previous biggest box office opening was 2011’s “The Immortals,” with $32 million.

SEE ALSO: ‘Man of Steel’ Breaks June Record With $125 Million Debut

Up until “Immortals,” Cavill had only small roles in some mid-sized pics, including 2002’s “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “Stardust” in 2007. Cavill was probably best known for his role on TV’s “The Tudors,” in which he played Charles Brandon, a statesman to King Henry.

But there’s nothing like a worldwide box office hit to propel an actor into the stratosphere.

“Man of Steel” is to Cavill what several other superhero movies have been to rising actors recently. Consider Andrew Garfield in “The Amazing Spider-Man” franchise. Christian Bale also became a global star after donning the mask and black cape of Batman in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. (Interestingly, all three actors were raised in the U.K.) And just look to how Robert Downey Jr.’s star profile has risen since becoming Tony Stark in the “Iron Man” movies.

For Cavill, however, “Man of Steel” represents a wholly different star-making opportunity, since Superman really is the heart and soul (and hair and pecs) of the movie.

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The opening success of “Man of Steel,” which should lead to a sizable worldwide cumulative gross, means Cavill likely will have a greater shot at becoming a globally recognized leading man than the previous Superman, Brandon Routh, who toplined 2006’s “Superman Returns.” Routh’s failure to move into the bigger leagues is sometimes considered part of the “Superman curse,” the superstition that bad luck befalls “Superman” thesps such as Christopher Reeve, George Reeves, Margot Kidder and Richard Pryor.

While by no means a flop with nearly $400 million worldwide, “Superman Returns” still failed to kick-start what Warners hoped would be a major franchise — something perhaps “Man of Steel” will achieve judging solely by the pic’s success this weekend.

Also, international audiences it seems have warmed more to the steely superhero since the last “Superman.”

In the U.K., for instance, “Man of Steel” grossed nearly $10 million more, at $17.1 million, than “Superman Returns” made in Blighty opening weekend. The other major day-and-date markets — Mexico and South Korea — also saw vast improvements.

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