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Henry Cavill should be thankful he’s been fired as Superman – DC didn’t deserve him

The ‘Man of Steel’ actor has been ditched by DC months after announcing his return. But this is no bad thing for the star – he was wasted in the role, argues Jacob Stolworthy

Friday 16 December 2022 17:27 GMT
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Henry Cavill is out as Superman – but he shouldn’t be too downbeat about it
Henry Cavill is out as Superman – but he shouldn’t be too downbeat about it (Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock)

So, Henry Cavill is out of a job. Again.

Less than two months after the actor announced his departure from The Witcher, DC bosses revealed that they had officially cut ties with the Superman actor. “I will, after all, not be returning as Superman,” Cavill wrote on Instagram earlier this week. It was genuinely surprising news. After all, Cavill had only told fans he would be returning as the Man of Steel in October, and the reprisal seemed to be set in stone following a cameo in Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. Cavill, rightfully, has made no secret of his shock. “After being told by the studio to announce my return, prior to their hire, this news isn’t the easiest, but that’s life,” he said in a statement. But the actor should rejoice; he’s free at last.

Plenty of actors will tell you that their career is reliant on timing, and the early stages of Cavill’s career saw him bruised by a series of near misses. The idea of casting him as the spandex-wearing hero first arose in 2004, but Brandon Routh was hired instead. The result was Superman Returns (2006). A few years before that, Harry Potter fans had launched a petition to have him play Cedric Diggory in the wizarding franchise’s fourth instalment (2005), while author Stephanie Meyers described him as her “perfect Edward Cullen” in a possible adaptation of Twilight, which came to fruition in 2008. Both roles went to Robert Pattinson, with Cavill deemed “too old” to play the latter.

This was especially frustrating considering that, also in 2005, he was one of the main contenders to play James Bond, until producers decided he was “too young” and opted for Daniel Craig instead. It seemed like Cavill was unable to catch a break – and then, in 2011, after a memorable turn in historical drama series The Tudors (2007-10), he was cast as Clark Kent in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

Cavill was savvy casting for the heroic and gallant, if admittedly one-note, character. He always brought a respectable gravitas to the role despite the questionable quality of the films. If he had been messed about by Hollywood in the early stages of his career, he spent his thirties wasting his talents on a series of projects it would be fair to label “average”.

There have been exceptions: a role in the blistering Mission: Impossible film, Fallout (2018), saw the actor flex his villainous muscles, while Guy Ritchie’s The Man from UNCLE (2015) and Netflix’s Enola Holmes (2020) were enhanced by his spirited charisma. But as Superman, he was always let down by the material he was handed.

For years now, DC has been scrambling to carve out its own extensive film universe, akin to Marvel’s, with diminished returns. Not that Cavill has ever hinted that he thinks this; during interviews, even when his Superman future seemed uncertain, the actor remained enthusiastic about his involvement – even when others, like former 007 star Craig, wore their weariness on their sleeve. He was clearly relishing the opportunity to play the role in DC’s new era, which is being mapped out by James Gunn and Peter Safran – while unconfirmed, he seemed to quit The Witcher because of his Superman return – but instead of having his loyalty rewarded, the company he stuck with has turned its back on him. That it’s done so in favour of a new Superman film centred on a younger version of the character might fill him with a disappointing sense of déjà vu.

Cavill may think he’s been hung out to dry, but he’d be wrong. It would have been fun to see what Gunn and Safran did with his Superman and, sure, it must have been nice knowing work (and money) was on the horizon. But Cavill has essentially been handed a key, freeing him from the shackles of a decade filled with credits he could probably do without.

Henry Cavill will flourish now his time as Superman is done
Henry Cavill will flourish now his time as Superman is done (Getty Images)

Now’s the time for him to say yes to the projects these future blockbusters would have kept him from – films and TV shows that will make the most of, rather than squander, his acting chops. An independent, potentially Oscar-bothering drama, perhaps, or a supporting role in a Christopher Nolan movie (the director would surely tap the debonair Brit up for that). It would also be terrific to see Cavill take on a modern-day character – maybe he could be one of the next round of hotel guests in season three of The White Lotus?

The world is Cavill’s oyster – if he plays his cards right, 10 years from now he’ll be grateful for that meeting with Gunn and, instead of being seen as just Superman, he’ll have cemented his legacy as the Superman that DC didn’t deserve.

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