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Henry Cavill finds the complexity in playing Superman

Henry Cavill is the ideal Clark Kent. Mild-mannered, self-effacing, and the perfect gentleman, the British heartthrob embraces all the best qualities of Superman’s alter ego.

Beginning with Man of Steel (2013), Cavill gave his Kent a less clumsy and more reserved sensibility, compared to the late, great Christopher Reeves’ interpretation. Having created a distinct new Superman, he now takes things a step farther in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in which we find him at odds with Ben Affleck’s Batman. The film invites audiences to witness the founding of the Justice League, and will lay the groundwork for a series of new Superman films in the years to come.

“This film expands on the world that you were introduced to in Man of Steel,” Cavill says. “Superman is now more confident and understands his role as a superhero better. He has a very strong sense of his mission on Earth and he disagrees with Batman’s way of doing things even though they both want to save lives and fight evil.”

In Batman v Superman, while the two DC Comics superheroes engage in their own private war, mankind faces a terrible new threat that makes it imperative that they put their differences aside and unite to save the planet. Directed by Zack Snyder, the film co-stars Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Laurence Fishburne (Perry White) and Diane Lane (Martha Kent) also reprise their characters from Man of Steel.

For the 32-year-old Cavill, the upcoming release of the highly-anticipated film will help him rebuild his career momentum after last year’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. disappointed audiences and critics alike.

Born in Jersey, England, to Colin and Marianne Cavill, Henry is the second youngest of five brothers. He was poised to carry on a family tradition of joining the military — his father served in the Navy before becoming a stockbroker, and two of his brothers are in the army and Royal Marines, respectively — until the lure of acting proved too strong.

Cavill’s acting career began in earnest with a small role in the 2002 remake of The Count of Monte Christo starring Guy Pearce. He later achieved recognition as Charles Brandon in the highly acclaimed TV series The Tudors, opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

What do you think is behind the appeal of the Superman character?

He represents a champion for good versus evil.  Superman is an ideal — he represents the good in all of us and he is determined to fight for justice as part of his mission in life. We may not have superpowers like he does, but he is someone whom we all admire and aspire to be like. He is a source of inspiration and hope, and when I play the character I try to reflect that with as much integrity and authenticity as possible.

Beginning with Man of Steel, would you say you’ve tried to make your mark on the character, and set your Clark Kent/Superman apart from Christopher Reeves’ interpretation?

It made no sense to try to emulate or compete with Christopher Reeves’ portrayal.  That will always stand on its own and be cherished by audiences.

I tried to be as faithful to the character as possible and at the same time bring something of my own sense of both Clark Kent and Superman.  I wanted my Clark Kent to be more retiring — someone who doesn’t want to draw any attention to himself. That’s why I didn’t want to play him as very clumsy or doing anything that makes people notice you. For Superman, I wanted to convey his integrity and sense of justice and capture his heroic and idealist spirit.

Given Superman’s extraordinary powers, is it essential to not turn him into this overly heroic or flawless being?

He’s not infallible, and he has his doubts at times. Those elements are very important in giving you a sense of his emotional vulnerability. I wanted to bring that to the character and I think it makes it so much more interesting for audiences to see that his man, even though he’s an extraordinary individual, also struggles at times to make sense of everything.

Do you share his very altruistic outlook?

I think we all want to do the right thing.  I have always been guided by that kind of principle. I’ve made mistakes like everyone else, of course, and Superman is going to make mistakes even though he’s a very good man with noble ideals.

He still has this outsider’s sensibility, and as someone who has been the subject of bullying I understand the anger that he has experienced as a teenager.  But in his case, it’s a big problem if someone with those kind of powers gets angry!

Men's Fitness ran this shot of Cavill, which the magazine said was presumably shot by his trainer Timothy Michael Blevins. Cavill the photo of his then-current physique was just the "minimum goal," he set for his second movie as Superman.
Men’s Fitness ran this shot of Cavill, which the magazine said was presumably shot by his trainer Timothy Michael Blevins. Cavill the photo of his then-current physique was just the “minimum goal,” he set for his second movie as Superman.

Do you get a boost out of wearing the Superman outfit?

Every time I put on the suit in the morning I would feel fantastic. It’s the ultimate feeling and that S is an iconic symbol. It’s not the easiest costume to get into and it takes several people to help get you into the suit because it’s a very tight fit. You become very close over the course of several months of getting you in and out of the suit!

Is this film taking off from where Man of Steel left us?

This film introduces us to Batman and the Justice League but it’s not a Superman sequel.  We will see those films down the road and this one helps develop new storylines and expand the kind of universe that will set the stage for more Superman stories in the future I hope.

Were you a big Superman comic book fan when you were growing up?

No, not really, but I was aware of superheroes like Superman, of course. I went to boarding school where even if I would have been allowed to leave the school grounds there were no comic stores in the area anyway. But when I first auditioned for the role (for DC’s original reboot Superman Returns, which eventually went to Brandon Routh) I began reading everything I could.

Then for Man of Steel, I did even more research in order to develop my own appreciation and understanding of the character beyond what was simply in the script. When I went back to the original comic books I discovered a wealth of insights into the character that made him much more interesting to me and what as an actor I could bring to the role. I tried to search for the complexity in the character and I hope to keep exploring new layers to Superman as we go along.

Superman grows up feeling like something of an outsider. You yourself were subjected to a lot of teasing when you were a kid because you were overweight. Does that give you an added sense of his mindset?

I understood what it means to not feel that you fit in and you need to look within yourself more. I grew up with the kind of complex that comes from being overweight and constantly teased and getting called things like “Fatty Cavill.” When you’re fat, kids use that to pick on you and make fun of you and you can react very negatively and let that make you miserable and self-pitying or you can react against that and use it as a motivating factor to make you more self-reliant and determined to stand up for yourself. (Read how Cavill got shredded for the role.)

My parents were very instrumental in encouraging me to not let those experiences inhibit me or make me more cautious about life. I was taught to have a positive outlook and instead of letting myself feel sad or sorry for myself I developed a stronger sense of who I am and what I wanted to accomplish in my life. All (that abuse) made me much tougher and more anxious to prove myself.

Is there a kind of ego boost to playing Superman?

There’s a certain pride you can take in playing this kind of iconic figure and it creates some excitement with people. I don’t walk the streets thinking I’m Superman, though, although it’s not a bad image to have. And girls don’t seem to mind, either.

How does your family react to your Superman status?

My brothers tease me to death. They’re always saying things like, “Let’s see who gets to defeat Superman today!”

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opens in wide release March 25.

Fantastic fandoms get the museum treatment at RAM

Most art exhibitions show works from a movement or artist of the past, or perhaps a contemporary portrait of what’s going on in the world of art today. In comparison, the Racine Art Museum’s new exhibit is literally out of this world.

“A Whole Other World: Subculture Craft” is a show that orbits around fantastic fandoms in the realm of speculative fiction, like science fiction, superheroes and steampunk. The works included in “A Whole Other World,” by 26 artists (nine from Wisconsin and one international artist), re-envision pop-culture sci-fi icons or explore their own fantasy world. 

Lena Vigna, the curator of the exhibition — herself a fan of Batman, Wonder Woman and “Doctor Who” — says, “I’m holding up a lens to the human condition, trying to provide a framework of art that doesn’t feel esoteric — rather more appealing to the general public.”

SCI-FI

Science fiction is an important artistic genre, because its ripple effect can predict future innovations in science and engineering. At its best, science fiction forces us to ask, “How do we create a positive future by retro-engineering a social or technological future that hasn’t happened yet?”  

Science fiction is always painted against a background of change, but the actions its protagonists take to change their world for the better can differ. 

“Doctor Who” and “Star Wars” could fall on opposite ends of that. An action movie series at heart, Star Wars celebrates combat and strife as the way to vanquish evil. “Doctor Who” scripts believe in embracing the differences that make you unique, and emphasize intelligence over brute force to win the day.

A reimagining of familiar characters and artifacts from both franchises can be found at the museum. Jamie Kratz-Gullickson of Beaver Dam creates felted Star Wars characters from local sheep’s wool.  Thomas Richner presents a new 5-foot long cardboard replica of the Millennium Falcon alongside an almost-to-scale papier-mâché R2-D2. Whovians will probably delight in Kristy Daum’s 6’ x 8’ stitched quilt, “The Tenth.” (If you have to ask, you’re obviously not a fan.)

SUPERHEROES

Many have a love affair with superheroes — endowed with extraordinary powers, we may love them more than we love ourselves, for they are who we want to be. 

They inhabit an emotional world and a destiny that only few can truly understand. Subtlety rarely enters the storyline. All that’s needed are lots of primary colors, bold type, love, fear, hate and a few explosions. 

Artist Mark Newport flies against clichéd superhero concepts. He constructs full-body superhero costumes, both for traditional heroes and his own creations: the Sweatermen and friends like Argyleman. 

Vigna says the suits pose the question of “Where do we look for heroes?” and ventures her own guess at an answer. “We look at superheroes as strong, but these (costumes) are saggy. He calls them real heroes and compares them to real people in his life. His Uberdad costume is an example that asks, ‘What does it mean to be a man? If I put this costume on would I feel like a hero?’”

STEAMPUNK 

Originating as a role-playing fantasy, “steampunk” is defined as a stylistic genre inspired simultaneously by Victorian England, the Wild West and futuristic technology. Steampunk outfits overflow with overly mechanized devices and feature intricate design aesthetics. Tesla coils, multiple gears and pressure relief valves that may or may not have some important function are common artistic choices. 

Steampunk embraces a broad lifestyle and creative vision, occasionally mixing the digital with the handmade. It is a fashion and lifestyle movement — sustainable, gritty, analog and salvaged, a fantasy often imagined by artists to exist in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian world.

But steampunk is different for each individual creator. Steampunk-influenced fashion designer Silversärk (aka Stephanie Schultz) says that, “To me, (steampunk) is about taking inspiration from every resource imaginable, and making a tangible, wearable piece of art to reflect the time period or event, or encapsulate the designer’s thoughts and emotions, much like a painting.”

Milwaukee fiber artist and Project Runway alum Timothy Westbrook also will have work featured in the exhibition, although he is exploring “reverse steampunk” — re-contextualizing antiquated technology in a modern context. “I believe that regressing technologically will allow us to progress socially,” Westbrook says.

Westbrook’s contributions to the exhibit include four gowns created from re-purposed materials, three of which were recently on display at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. “What I’m suggesting is in 2220 we could be using items from the past to create a more sustainable present,” Westbrook says. “My work examines the expiration date of stuff. For example, I’m into using cassette tape, eight-track and reel-to-reel audio-tape as a woven fabric. I’m rescuing these abandoned memories to reincarnate them into elegant wearables.”

ON DISPLAY

“A Whole Other World: Subculture Craft” at the Racine Art Museum runs May 24 through Sept. 6. RAM admission is $5, $3 for students and seniors and free for children under 12 and members. Guests who visit in cosplay (dressed in character) will receive free admission throughout the exhibit’s duration. Visit ramart.org for more information.

Pop summer: coasters, pop culture rides and Orlando Eye

A dark, submarine-inspired thrill ride in California and swank new offerings at Downtown Disney all top the summer’s must-do list for theme park and amusement fans.

For those who want even more extreme summer adventures, a hybrid wood-steel coaster in Massachusetts and a spinning wing coaster based on Batman in Texas are also new for 2015.

“Pop culture really stands out this summer,” said Colleen Mangone, spokeswoman for the Virginia-based International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. “It’s allowing fans to experience pop culture in a whole new way.”

“Star Wars,” Justice League, “Fast and Furious” — all are represented in different ways and in different parks this summer.

There’s some tamer fare as well, like the Amish Experience located in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, where a “Magic Lantern Show” promises a 19th-century entertainment experience.

I-Drive 360 in Orlando is slightly different from the area’s other attractions, with its new, giant Orlando Eye Ferris wheel. Also in Orlando, Florida’s only Starbucks that serves alcohol recently opened in Downtown Disney, just in time for thirsty summer crowds.

Here are the highlights of new theme park summer offerings:

FLORIDA

The most visible and talked about attraction in Orlando this summer isn’t at one of the mega theme parks. It’s I-Drive 360, an entertainment complex good for all ages that combines Madame Tussauds wax museum, the Sea Life Aquarium and the Orlando Eye. The 400-foot-tall (122 meters) wheel is slow enough for those with jumpy stomachs (but not good for those with fear of heights). The aquarium has touch pools, a wall of trippy floating jellyfish and plenty of sharks to spy. The wax museum includes a figure of Juan Ponce de Leon, who led the first European expedition to Florida.

Over at Disney, imagineers are busy transforming Downtown Disney into Disney Springs. Some of the new restaurant and shopping offerings are open, including The Boathouse, a waterfront eatery that overlooks Lake Buena Vista. Guests can now take tours in “Mad Men”-era “amphicars” around the lake; the boat-cars are original, not replicas. Nearby, Starbucks serves beer and wine after 4 p.m.

Because the “Frozen” movie frenzy keeps growing, the “Frozen Sing-Along Celebration” at Disney Hollywood Studios moves to the larger Hyperion Theater June 17, with new technology like a high-definition LED screen and new snow-making. Note to parents: The theater is deliciously air-conditioned and dark, enabling weary park-goers to kick back and rest while little ones happily belt out “Let It Go” at the top of their lungs.

Two other openings in Central Florida are worth checking out: The Crayola Experience and Legoland Florida’s new hotel.

CALIFORNIA

Universal Studios Hollywood will unveil its Fast & Furious: Supercharged attraction on June 25, a 50,000-square-foot (4,600-square-meter) motion simulator ride based on the movie franchise. It promises to take riders on a 120 mph (193 kilometers per hour) journey through the “underworld of fast cars and international crime cartels” with the help of 3-D-HD imagery and 360-degree screens.

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park is scheduled to open its 3-D, interactive dark ride called Voyage to the Iron Reef. It’s a submarine-inspired attraction and guests can use ray guns to “freeze” puffer fish, octopi and other creatures during the ride, which takes place on 600 feet (183 meters) of track.

Legoland California in Carlsbad opens Lego Star Wars Miniland Death Star, with models of classic movie scenes. The park also opens Heartlake City, an area based on the Lego Friends toy line, which is centered around the lives of five girls.

OHIO

Cedar Point in Sandusky has already opened its signature summer ride: Rougarou, a werewolf-themed roller coaster that’s also floorless. Translation: Your feet are dangling as you plunge 137 feet (42 meters) through four inversions.

MASSACHUSETTS

Wicked fast: Six Flags New England in Agawam is updating an old wooden coaster with a metal structure for a smooth hybrid ride, now called the Wicked Cyclone, with a 109-foot (33-meter) hill, two zero-G rolls and top speeds of 55 mph (88 kilometers per hour).

NEW JERSEY

Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson adds a 13th coaster to its mix, El Diablo, a pendulum-style coaster.

PENNSYLVANIA

Camelback Mountain Resort in Tannersville unveils a 533,000-square-foot (50,000-square-meter) Aquatopia Indoor Water Park with six pools, a surfing simulator, 13 water slides and an indoor water coaster.

At Hersheypark in Hershey, the Laff Trakk indoor coaster is a spinning glow coaster that “pays homage” to the funhouses of yesteryear, including a hall of mirrors.

TENNESSEE

At Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, the DreamMore Resort is new for this summer. It’s a 307-room resort with a lazy river, a splash park and views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Leslie Gore, who topped the 1960s charts with ‘It’s My Party,’ dies at 68

Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore, who topped the charts in 1963 at age 16 with her epic song of teenage angst, “It’s My Party,” and followed it up with the hits “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me,” died today in New York of lung cancer. She was 68.

“She was a wonderful human being — caring, giving, a great feminist, great woman, great human being, great humanitarian,” Lois Sasson, her partner of 33 years, told The Associated Press.

Brooklyn-born and New Jersey-raised, Gore was discovered by Quincy Jones as a teenager and signed to Mercury Records. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a degree in English/American literature.

Gore’s other hits include “She’s A Fool,” “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” “That’s the Way Boys Are” and “Maybe I Know.” She and her brother Michael co-wrote the Academy Award-nominated song “Out Here On My Own” from the film “Fame.”

She also played Catwoman’s sidekick in the cult TV comedy Batman.

In the 1990s, Gore co-wrote “My Secret Love” for Allison Anders’ film Grace of My Heart, released in 1996. A couple of years later, she appeared in Smokey Joe’s Cafe on Broadway. Gore had been working on a stage version of her life with playwright Mark Hampton when she died.

In 2005, she released Ever Since, her first album in 30 years, which included some of her early hits.

Gore came out to the public when she hosted several episodes of the PBS series In The Life, which dealt with gay and lesbian issues.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Gore turned “You Don’t Own Me” into an online video public service announcement demanding a woman’s right to choose whether to have a baby. The video starred Lena Dunham and Tavi Gevinson, among others.

In addition to Sasson, Gore is survived by her brother and mother.

Can Superman, Spider-Man rescue the porn business?

We all know he can leap tall buildings in a single bound and bend steel in his bare hands. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that during a time of crisis even the porn industry turns to Superman.

The same week in June that Warner Bros. released the Superman blockbuster “Man of Steel,” Vivid Entertainment Group put out its own superhero flick, “Man of Steel XXX: A Porn Parody.”

Although it’s safe to assume that “Steel XXX” didn’t quite match the $116.6 million opening weekend of the Warner Bros. hit, if it performs anything like 2010’s “Batman XXX: A Porn Parody,” it will become the most-rented and highest-selling porn video of the year. At a cost of more than $100,000, it will also be one of the most expensive porn movies made.

Parodies, once a cheaply filmed niche segment of the adult movie market, are big business these days – filled with expensive special effects, real story lines, actors who can (sometimes) actually act and costumes that even comic-book geeks find authentic.

The movies may also help save an industry looking to rebound from years of Internet piracy, illegal downloads and amateur videos that have caused a serious financial hit, said Mark Kernes, senior editor at Adult Video News. The business has gone from annual revenues of as much as $12 billion a few years ago to about $7 billion today.

“We certainly do have a problem with piracy … and sadly no one seems to be able to do anything about it,” said Kernes.

But now Superman is coming to the rescue, along with Batman, Iron Man and Spider-Man.

All four have taken star turns in full-length, slickly produced films that include hard-core crime fighting and, well, other hard-core scenes – although milder versions were made of some of the same films.

Neither the makers of the mainstream movies nor comic book writer and Iron Man creator Stan Lee wanted to comment. A person who answered the phone at Lee’s office said he doubted Lee had heard of the parodies, and then hung up. Lee, himself, didn’t respond to an email.

Marvel Comics also did not respond to requests for comment. Warner Bros.’ DC Entertainment Division, which makes the Superman and Batman films, had no comment, said spokeswoman Courtney Simmons.

Since the trend toward superhero parodies began three years ago, no porn company making them has been sued. For years the courts have ruled that parodies, like other forms of speech, are protected by the First Amendment.

“Mainstream porn, from a copyright protection, from a First Amendment protection, is essentially the same as any other form of written expression,” said entertainment lawyer David Ginsburg, who is executive director of the UCLA School of Law’s entertainment, media and intellectual property law program.

“The rules of parody apply as equally to porn as they do to any other form of parody, like ‘Saturday Night Live’ or Mad Magazine,” he said.

The porn parody superhero revolution seems to have begun in earnest around 2010, when veteran adult film director Axel Braun, who boasts of having a collection of DC and Marvel comics dating to his childhood, brought his “Batman XXX” film to Vivid Entertainment Group.

The company’s chief executive, Steven Hirsch, initially wasn’t that impressed. But when the film became the biggest-selling and renting video of the year, Hirsch said, he quickly realized there was a core demographic his business was overlooking: comic-book geeks.

Soon Vivid was cranking out four to six of the films a year, timing their release to whenever the mainstream films hit theaters.

Other companies soon followed with their own releases, including: “The Justice League Of Porn Star Heroes” and a parody of the vampire television series “True Blood.”

Production costs can be more than 10 times as high as making a traditional pornographic movie, but the parodies sell for three times as much, Braun said.

They are, said Hirsch, the best-selling movies on Vivid TV, “after our celebrity sex tapes.”

DC’s Batwoman proposing marriage to girlfriend

In the latest installment of DC Comics’ Batwoman series, the crimefighter proposes marriage to her secret girlfriend.

The 32-page comic, written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, with illustrations by Williams, went on sale Feb. 20.

The comic contains what DC describes as “the massive conclusion to the current storyline as Batwoman and Wonder Woman struggle to defeat Medusa and a horde of villains!”

The comic also, according to DC, contains “the start of a surprising new status quo for Batwoman!”

Could it be marriage for Batwoman aka Kathy Kane? Bleedingcool.com reports that “DC’s leading lesbian lady asks Maggie Sawyer, Captain Sawyer,  her secret girlfriend to be her wife.”

Batwoman has appeared in a couple of comics – The Dark Knight and Batgirl. Batwoman the comic debuted in 2011.

DC’s website for the superhero of Gotham City says she has no superpowers but is a trained soldier and hand-to-hand combatant.

Her history: On her 12th birthday, Katherine “Kate” Rebecca Kane was taken hostage and held for ransom along with her twin sister and their mother. The rescue operation led by Kane’s father, Col. Jacob Kane, resulted in the death of her mother and sister. After her stint in the U.S. Army ended in scandal, a brief encounter with Batman inspired Kane to embark on a crime-fighting mission to clean up the streets using gear stolen from the military.

When confronted about her actions by her father, Kane agreed to let him train her, and she donned the Batman-inspired suit he created. She becomes known as Batwoman and brings her own brand of justice to Gotham City. Batwoman turned down an offer to join Batman, Incorporated, preferring to stay in control of her own mission to fight evil as she sees fit. Instead, she’s joined forces with the DEO in an effort to take down a growing contingent of supernatural criminals slithering their way into Gotham.