Henry Cavill admits he thought about easing up on his workout regime in quarantine. Whether he’s playing Superman, battling Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible” or hunting monsters in “The Witcher,” the 37-year-old actor almost always has to fit.
“After the initial, ‘I’m going to start drinking from noon thing and eating whatever I can lay my hands on,’ I started getting myself back into shape,” Cavill says on Thursday’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.” “And I’m going to try and make sure that I’m in a certain place before we restart shooting. So the pressure’s off to change my body, and it’s more about maintenance…It’s more like a sculpting thing rather than anything else, and that will alleviate some pressure, and that will definitely help.”
Variety caught up with Cavill from his home in London just a few days before Netflix announced that season 2 of “The Witcher,” the adaptation of the popular video games and Polish fantasy novels of the same name, would resume production in the next few weeks after being halted due to the pandemic.
What was it about “The Witcher” world that resonated with you?
I’m a big fan of fantasy. I love the genre. My dad was reading it to me before I could read. This is just slightly different from your average fantasy genre. There’s something a bit more grim about it, and I’ve been told that’s the Polish way. So there’s a heavy Polish influence. There’s just a harder edge, which I found kind of fascinating. In the same way that in “Game of Thrones,” you didn’t know who was going to die, in “The Witcher,” you can’t anticipate what’s going to happen, because it is quite a grim world.
Do you like being in a grim world like that? I mean, you don’t smile much in the series.
Geralt doesn’t smile much, not in the show. When he does, even in the books, it’s called a “hideous smile.” There is a real grimness to it, but there are moments of light and moments of care and loving and strong familial bonds for people who aren’t actually family. Those moments seem all the brighter for the darkness in the world.
Let’s go back to this “hideous smile.” Did you think they were going hand you these really bad dentures or something?
This has been up for much discussion online, especially after I got cast. There’s a lot of people saying, “It says he’s hideous, or it says it’s an ugly smile.” I don’t know what the direct translation is from Polish, but it’s one of those things where I always saw it, not necessarily as the person being hideous, but as the intent with the smile. Or there was something that the smile was trying to achieve that struck horror or made someone feel a certain way. I would’ve hoped they wouldn’t have just given me a big set of dentures. That may have been a bit more distracting than a wig and contact lenses.
Well, that’s my next question — the wig. I imagine it’s not so comfortable.
It honestly wasn’t that bad. My hairdresser Jackie Rathore is absolutely fantastic. She didn’t have the opportunity to actually build the wig herself, so when she received it, she started doing work on it. She worked, and worked, and worked it; it was quite a difficult process. There’s three of them, so she would take them home every night and be changing individual hairs. She sent them back to get a finer lace, so it’s less visible, and she just worked and worked and worked that thing. She was having nightmares about the wigs.
What was it like seeing yourself as Geralt for the first time in full regalia?
Let me tell you this — the whole thing shifted a lot because we had screen tests and the look of the character evolved throughout the first season. We went through a couple of iterations of trousers because they initially had me in leather trousers. I mean, I’m designed in a certain way that things are forced into a stretched position. So, once that happens, the leather just didn’t go back to its natural shape. It ended up being a little bit saggy in places, which was not a great hero, attractive look.
Eventually, the costume evolved, the wig evolved, the makeup evolved. Once we had it nailed, the experience in the morning — the two hours of hair and makeup and getting into costume — was transformative. It was something which by the time I was out of hair and makeup, my body language changed. I was moving differently. I was talking differently, obviously, but not just the voice, which Geralt has, but the intonation changed. My interaction with my dog even changed. He still saw me 100% as me. He didn’t freak out at all, or anything, but just the way I started interacting with the world changed a lot.
Are you surprised the Snyder Cut of “Justice League” is finally being released?
I don’t know if I’m surprised. With everything that has happened this year, with the lockdown and cinemas having to close and streaming services now being how we are getting our entertainment, it’s not really a surprise. I think it’s one of those things where it’s an opportunity, and I think it’s great that Zack [Snyder] has an opportunity to finally release his vision of [‘Justice League’] and I think that’s really important for a storyteller and a filmmaker. When that doesn’t happen, it’s always a sad occasion. And now Zack has the opportunity, and I’m excited to watch it.
Will you go back to playing Superman again? I googled right before we talked, because I needed the latest rumor. It is just rumor, after rumor, after rumor. What’s the wildest one you’ve heard about you and Superman?
They get wilder and wilder by the day. The amount of speculation, the stuff I read on the Internet, is extraordinary and sometimes frustrating. It’s when you see people stating stuff as fact. Like, “No, that’s not the case. That hasn’t happened, and that conversation isn’t happening.” But the important thing is that people are excited about it, and I think it’s important to be excited about a character like Superman. Superman is a fantastic character. If people are chatting about it, and even if they’re making stuff up, it’s okay, because that means they want to see the character again. And in an ideal world, I would absolutely love to play the character again.
Do you ever leave a comment on a rumor online using an alias?
I’m not going to lie; I’ve been very tempted, but there’s something about that, that feels deeply immoral. When it’s about Superman, and if I’m representing Superman, it just feels like the wrong thing to do. I’m just going to let this all play out. Me saying something isn’t going to make a difference. What does it really matter? One day, people will know the truth, and if they don’t know it now, it’s okay.
“The Witcher” is available on Netflix.