Henry Cavill was screwed. It was another cold winter’s day on the Vancouver set of Man of Steel—the kind that makes It hard to get out of bed, harder still to get motivated to train, and for Cavill, nearly impossible to move that damn barbell. he was on his final rep of his final set of front squats when his leg muscles froze under the stress of the 305 pounds sitting across his shoulders. He had dutifully pounded out three sets of four with the weight already, but at the bottom of the fourth rep of his fourth set, Cavill's muscles flat-out quit on him. His ass was pinned to the ground and his knees started to buckle inward. His trainer, Gym Jones founder Mark Twight, who closely monitored Cavill throughout his Man of Steel training, waited for his client to lean forward and dump the bar to the ground.
Instead, Cavill did something that Twight—a man not easily impressed—would remember forever. He drove his heels into the ground and pushed, his face twisting into an expression that can only come from an outlay of supreme effort, his body working harder than at any time during his entire year of training for the role. And slowly he began to rise out of the hole, grinding his way back up, until he completed the rep. He racked the bar, lifted his head, and opened his eyes... and everything seemed different. Suddenly there was confidence, and elation. But beyond that, there was puzzlement—the eyes of man trying to process a whole new world of possibility.
“Somehow he got his sh-t together,” Twight says later, still astonished. “To see him do that, then walk around like he’s on air, to believe in himself enough to try that hard, that was one of the more impressive things that happened during the whole course of this process.”
The 30-year-old British actor says the importance of that day in the gym cannot be understated. If he could pin the process of “becoming Superman” to a single moment, this was probably it.
“It was a fantastic moment, and certainly made me feel pretty darn good,” Cavill says. “It wasn’t because of the number that I felt good. It’s because I pushed past what I thought was possible...I felt like I earned the right to try and represent Superman.”