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09 January

Who is Henry Cavill, hero of “The Witcher”?

 

Netflix’s latest medieval drama series, The Witcher, is set to be the big revelation of the year. But this isn’t the first turn of the actor who sports a platinum ponytail better than anyone else and looks seriously good in gothic armour. A portrait.

By Violaine Schütz

Fans of Game Of Thrones and Lord of the Rings have been waiting for it like the messiah. Broadcast since December on Netflix, The Witcher has just dethroned The Mandalorian as the most wanted TV series in the world, according to a report in Business Insider at the end of 2019. The show is an adaptation of the cult novels by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski and gave rise to the ultra-successful video game of the same name. To slip into the all-black look of the Geralt of Rivia of The Witcher, a professional monster hunter, a Viking physicality and charisma were needed to meet the standards of this Dantesque project. With his chiselled dark Ken-like features and a gravely voice - which he really worked for this show - Henry Cavil has all the necessary depth and complexity for this hero who underwent magical mutations to make him superhuman. Endowed with a symbolic dimension, the Witcher is a mutant but he is, perhaps, less frightening than humans, as the tumult of the fictitious political context echoes the modern world.

 

“The Witcher” – Trailer

1. A lone wolf

 

A die-hard fan of video games and in particular The Witcher saga, Cavill fought to get his dream role. When he found out the series was in the pipeline, he urged his agents to organise a meeting with the showrunner. He wouldn’t let it go and insisted he was the man for the job, even though the script had yet to be written. Indeed the actor got so lost in gaming that he almost missed the role of Superman in Man of Steel: he didn’t hear the producer’s phone call because he was so absorbed in World of Warcraft. In 2013, however Cavill did embody Clark Kent in Man of Steel produced by Christopher Nolan. He also put the super suit back on for Batman vs Superman, three years later and then again for the 2017 movie Justice League. In an interview he explained his vision of a super-hero: a man who spends his whole life alone. 

“Man of Steel” – Trailer

2. Iron will and steel muscles  

 

At 36, Henry Cavill didn’t always have this Apollo stature, nor this self-confidence. Born on Jersey in the Channel Islands, he took his first acting steps while boarding at Stowe School in Buckingham, in front of his peers who teased him for his excess weight. The nickname “Fat Cavill” weighed on him for a long time, pushing him to transform his body for the roles he really wanted. Away from the family home at boarding school, he would call his mother four times a day. The loneliness crippled him, but he hung on. As a teenager he met Russel Crowe who encouraged him: “Dear Henry, a 1000 km journey starts with one step…”. While waiting for glory, Cavill fine-tuned his craft in stage plays and musicals, thriving in the romantic genre in works such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Grease. 

 

His movie career started with the complex drama, Laguna in 2001. The story of a young man who witnesses the death of his parents in a terrorist attack. Starring opposite Emmanuel Seigner and Joe Mantegna, he delivered an intense performance. Cavill cultivated a taste for strong storylines (such as Tristan and Iseult), and appeared in The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). To obtain the role of the Count’s son, he had to loose ten kilos at the age of 17, while he was still studying at Stowe School. With a will of iron, the young man considered becoming a soldier (like his father) in the British armed forces, but then the movies beckoned… 

“Mission: Impossible - Fallout” - Trailer

3. “The unluckiest man in Hollywood”

 

In the 2000s, Henry Cavill was noticed in a Woody Allen film (Whatever Works in 2009) but was struggling to get the roles he so wanted in blockbusters. He went from audition to audition but to no avail. Too young, too old, too English, not enough experience… He missed out on the role of Edward in Twilight, of Batman in Batman Begins, of Superman in Superman Returns and James Bond in Casino Royale. Martin Campbell, the director of Casino Royale, actually prefered Cavill (over Daniel Craig), but his lack of experience and broad build tipped the scales in Craig’s favour. The British movie magazine Empire made fun of his failings and called him “the unluckiest man in Hollywood”. Then television came to his rescue. 

 

From 2007, he appeared in The Tudors, a period drama by Showtime in which he played the Duke of Suffolk against a backdrop of violence and lots of sex. A rather racy role for which he no doubt drew from his own complicated private life: the actor was engaged to a British showjumper he barely ever saw, before (briefly) dating the American actresses Gina Carano and Kaley Cuoco. One of his most recent dalliances? A short-lived love story with a stuntwoman he met on the set of Mission impossible : Fallout (2018). Wild and lonely, the actor is a regular on Instagram sharing his selfies with an imposing black and white dog. And yet the animal never quite manages to steal the show…

 

The Witcher, available on Netflix.

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