By Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British actor Henry Cavill will be making his grand Hollywood entrance as the latest big screen incarnation of the all-American superhero Superman, in director Zack Snyder's dark and gritty "Man of Steel," which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.
Cavill, 30, so far best known for 16th century TV drama "The Tudors" and the 2011 fantasy film "Immortals," told Reuters that he leaned on a sturdy method to portray the legendary DC Comics superhero who celebrates his 75th anniversary this month.
"I chose not to act as Superman," the actor said.
"It withdraws from the whole reality of the story. You take the experiences of the guy, his fears of the future, his dreams of the future and you just apply that to everything you do."
"Man of Steel" tells the origins story of Superman and his alter-ego Clark Kent, who was first animated into life in June 1938 by comic book artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel.
Snyder's story chooses to begin with Superman's birth on the planet Krypton, and as the last hope for his people's survival, his parents send him to Earth to escape an insurrection by General Zod, played by "Boardwalk Empire" actor Michael Shannon.
The film, which also stars Amy Adams as "Daily Planet" reporter and love interest Lois Lane, follows Superman growing up as Kent from Smallville, Kansas, and struggling to come to terms with his own super powers.
"There's something special about the character, the way he was raised, that makes him Superman," Cavill said about the character's strong values instilled in him by his farming foster parents Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane).
"Man of Steel," which was produced by Christopher Nolan who directed the recent Batman "The Dark Knight" franchise, leans heavily on action and science-fiction as a box-office draw for studio Warner Bros, a unit of Time Warner Inc.
The studio hopes it can re-launch a new series of Superman films after its 2006 offering, "Superman Returns" and its leading man Brandon Routh, failed to live up to box office expectations.
IGNORING THE PAST
Comic book franchises have been top draws in recent years with Nolan's three "Batman" films grossing more than $2 billion worldwide between 2005-2012, according to figures compiled by box-office tracker Boxofficemojo.com.
Walt Disney Co's Marvel studio has also scored box office hits with "The Avengers" and "Iron Man" franchises making more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
Straight-jawed with broad shoulders, the little-known Cavill strikes a resemblance to late Superman actor Christopher Reeve, who had success as Superman on the big screen, his four "Superman" films grossing more than $400 million at global box offices between 1978 and 1987.
Actors Dean Cain in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," and Tom Welling in the CW network's "Smallville" also built a career playing the hero.
Cavill said he intentionally ignored the influence of past Superman performances tugging at his cape. Instead, he focused on the original comic books as his source material, creating a database of notes on the superhero.
"(The notes) just kind of became a secondary character lurking there and I just drew from that," Cavill said.
"There's not really a word for it or any way to describe playing Superman," he added. "But it's just a feeling and you've got to just channel that into the character in just minute details unconsciously and instinctively."
Another pressure point among Superman's avid and loyal fan base that Cavill had to navigate was whether a Briton could handle playing the Krypton-born and Kansas-bred American hero.
"As long as I can do it convincingly, as long as I can play an American well enough, then I'm OK with that," Cavill said, drawing a comparison to the UK's beloved film franchise on super-spy James Bond.
"I wouldn't mind if an American played Bond, as long as he's good and played the role right," Cavill added.
This story is corrected with paragraph 2 date for "Immortals" to 2011 instead of 2001
(Reporting by Eric Kelsey, Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy)