So, how badly did you want to play Superman in Superman Returns?
“I wanted it really badly. I didn’t get it — which is fine, but when the role came around again, it felt like the right time. Did I have to fight for it? You fight for every job you audition for. The fight normally happens in places you don’t even realize. Like, you go in, audition, do your screen test, and then people will begin fighting on your behalf. I just did my best to try and get the role, and something right happened.”
What did you do for that role? What happened to the project?
“I screen tested for that role, yeah. McG was attached and there was a different script. I was high in the running. Whether I had got the role or not, I don’t know. For whatever reason McG stopped the project. A new director came on with a new script, new ideas, and a whole new vision for the movie that I didn’t fit into. So, this was my second chance to play a great character and tell a great story.”
What did you do when you found out you landed this role?
“It’s kind of surreal when you get a part like that — you don’t really believe it. The scope of what it means to get a role of this magnitude with such a great team attached, and again, the opportunity to tell such a wonderful story is difficult to grasp. Not to say I didn’t get very excited. I ran up and down the stairs of my house roaring and shouting for a good 15 minutes while I was trying to call my family because no one was picking up their phone.”
What about the Superman curse?
“Tom Welling, Brandon Routh and Dean Cain all seem fine. I’m not worried about anything.”
How did you prepare for the role?
“A lot of hard physical work went into it; hours were spent in the gym every day of the week. Two hours a day of really crushing yourself. The calories went up or down depending on what we were doing training wise. I was eating 5,000 calories a day at one point, which sounds like a lot, but actually it's really fantastic and pretty damn easy. I mean, it’s not junk food, but after training I think we managed to get the post-training shake up to 1,500 calories. That’s two thirds of some people’s diet in one shake. Oh, and I loved the eating side of it.”
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
How do you react to people pulling the "You’re another British actor playing a classical American superhero" card?
“I personally don’t think it matters. Superman is an invulnerable alien from Krypton. The point being is that we’re all actors and we’re playing characters. Yes, I completely understand why people get upset over a non-American playing an American icon, but hopefully all those feelings will be put to rest after people see the movie.”
Tell us about the costume!
“I loved wearing it every day. Sure, there were some times where it got tricky or uncomfortable; too hot or too cold, whatever the case may be. I loved it, though. I mean I got to be Superman every day, a really cool, modern version of Superman."
What'd you wear underneath?
“I’ll leave it up to your imagination.”
How has playing Superman affected you?
“People really, really care. I’ve had fully grown men come up to me shaking while they take a photo with tears in their eyes. A very good friend of mine's little boy did this thing while waiting at the bus stop with his fist down on the ground — the taking off stuff. Ever since he saw the trailer, he sort of started looking at me sideways, and not quite making eye contact with me. He'd walk very slowly into the room just looking at me. You realize that these kids genuinely believe I'm Superman. It’s an honor to play a role like that and to mean something like that for kids.”
Have you always been athletic?
“I’ve always enjoyed physical activity, but I haven’t necessarily been athletic. I was definitely chubbier in school, and haven’t always been in great shape. I think Immortals helped me get in good shape for the first time."
Did you ever feel like an outcast in school? Were you ever bullied?
“I was because I was a little chubby, but I honestly don't think it matters what I was. I could have been anything. It’s just kids learning about the way they interact with other kids. If I was chubby, it just happened to be the case. If I stopped being chubby then there would be something else. It’s just the way kids are.”
What advice would you give to kids who are going through that?
“Just stay strong and be proud of who you are. People can be as mean as they want. But as long as you believe in yourself, that’s all that really matters.”