So, Henry Cavill as Superman – is he in or out? That’s been the big DC-related question doing the rounds this week. The answers – yes, no or maybe (or variations thereof) – depend on which sources you believe. Some are saying the British actor has hung up the red cape, others (including his manager, Dany Garcia) are saying no, he’s still very much in the role.
At the time of writing, nothing has been confirmed either way. Warner Brothers released a statement, saying “While no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films, we’ve always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill, and that remains unchanged.” Make of that what you will.
It all comes amidst stories of a protracted contract negotiation between, on the one side, Cavill and Garcia, and on the other, Warner Brothers. Cavill is said to have been demanding significant money to extend his Superman contract, a sum that would put him in the A list price range.
WB is also said to have been less than pleased that Cavill was unavailable to film an expected cameo in the forthcoming Shazam! film. This, supposedly, was the final straw for the studio.
This could all just be gossip and rumour, but, if it’s to be believed, then it appears Cavill and Garcia played hardball with WB, and lost. They made their demands, the studio wouldn’t budge, and now, potentially at least, Cavill is no longer the DCEU’s Superman.
Losing a role (arguably his biggest to date) like Superman would be a blow, not just for Henry Cavill and his career, but also for Dany Garcia and her reputation as an manager. Does she really want to be known as an manager who helped to negotiate her client out of his biggest role?
I’m not laying all of the blame on Dany Garcia, however. If both Cavill and Garcia tried to get a bigger and better deal, but it backfired, then they’re both potentially guilty of overplaying their hand.
That’s not to say I’d be glad to see Henry Cavill leave the DCEU. I enjoyed Man Of Steel, and I think Cavill has given us an interesting, modern take on Superman. I want to see where this interpretation of the character will go, especially as Justice League allowed Cavill to bring a lighter side to his take on Kal-El. Replacing him now could damage that development. I also think Cavill, as well as Amy Adams as Lois Lane, deserve, at the very least, one more sequel to Man Of Steel.
Whilst it’s possible to have enjoyed Henry Cavill as Superman and want him to continue, it’s also equally possible to be pragmatic about the whole thing. If Cavill and Garcia want to press for a better deal, but the studio won’t give them that deal, then it looks highly likely that, without a compromise, we’re going to be seeing a Cavill-free DCEU in the future.
Now with the utmost respect to Cavill, it would be stretching things to say that he’s an A-list actor at present. That’s not saying he’s a bad actor, as there are plenty of talented actors who wouldn’t be classed as A list names. It’s just a realistic assessment of where Henry Cavill ranks alongside his fellow actors right now.
There’s also a strong case to be made that Cavill’s DC universe co-star, Gal Gadot, might be in a better negotiating position, should she ever want to agree a contract extension with WB. The warm response to her portrayal of Wonder Woman, especially in the character’s solo film that was released in 2017, should guarantee her a lot of goodwill from WB executives. Unfortunately for him, Cavill’s not in as stronger a position.
Even then, Gadot, much like Cavill, doesn’t have a great track record at the box office outside of the DC films. Yes, there’s more to a good film than mere cold, hard cash, but box office appeal can be quite important in deciding how much an actor or actress gets paid for a role.
But wait, didn’t Cavill just co-star in Mission Impossible: Fallout, the most successful entry in the series so far? Indeed he did. Except, Cavill joined an already commercially and critically lauded franchise, so for anyone to claim that MI: Fallout’s box office is down to Cavill alone is stretching it.
Put simply, at this stage in his career, Cavill probably needs Superman more than WB needs him to continue playing Superman. No matter who’s playing the part, no actor is bigger than the role of Superman, one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. The truth is, if Cavill can’t or won’t pull on the cape anymore, there won’t be a shortage of actors who can.
I wonder of this was part of the thinking behind the announcement of a Supergirl film, to be set in the DCEU. It could be an attempt by the studio to show Cavill (as well as Garcia) that the DCEU will always need a Kryptonian in a blue and red costume, it just doesn’t have to be Superman. In other words, the Last Daughter of Krypton, rather than its Last Son.
So what should Henry Cavill and his manager do? What, for that matter, should WB do? Well, despite the deadlock so far, I believe there’s still room to reach an agreement. Cavill and Garcia need to remember the great opportunity he’s been given in the form of playing Superman. It has boosted Cavill’s profile, and provided him with guaranteed work.
Cavill should make time to do the Superman cameo in Shazam! It could further whet the appetites of the many fans who’re desperate for another Superman film. This could easily convince the studio to move ahead with a Man Of Steel 2, if not further sequels.
They also need to be realistic regarding Cavill’s wage demands. If he wants to strengthen his hand in the negotiations, there are better ways to go about it. Build up your CV. The Netflix The Witcher series is a start, but try experimenting with different genres. Do some indie projects. Show your range. Work with an auteur. Do something like this, and WB may be convinced that they’ve got a talent on their hands who’s worthy of big money.
For their part, WB should be willing to accommodate Cavill’s schedule when it comes to filming his Shazam! cameo. Find a time that works for both parties. Maybe even consider having Superman appear for an extended cameo in the Supergirl film.
And above all, drop the ridiculous idea that you can have a DCEU without Superman. You can’t have a shared DC universe without one of its biggest and most loved characters. You also can’t replace Superman with Supergirl. That’s an insult to both characters, as it implies that they’re interchangeable.
This whole situation, as frustrating as it is, is actually quite useful. It serves as a lesson for everyone involved in the film industry, from A list stars to those just starting out on their filmmaking careers: Never think you’re bigger, better or more famous than you are. And, should you ever find yourself reaching those lofty heights, then make sure you keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. Even if the day job occasionally involves putting on a cape and pretending you can fly.