IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Man of Steel'

Monday, 10 June 2013 10:44 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Man of Steel'

This Friday, June 14th, Superman soars onscreen once again in Man of Steel.

Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the pulpy pages of early comics a full seventy-five years ago, Superman marked the introduction of the superhero as we know it.  The Last Son of Krypton has proven malleable, changing appropriately along with the culture of which he's been a huge part for almost a century now.  But this neon god has also retained his core qualities, the essential elements that continue to strike a mythological chord.

With Man of Steel, the filmmakers are tasked with not only delivering an epic summer movie featuring all the necessary spectacle, but also with reinvigorating Superman cinematically.  In this modern age of abundant superheroics, many people mistakenly believe Clark Kent and his alter ego irretrievably passe and old fashioned.  In order to correct that notion, director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer – along with producers such as Deborah Snyder, Charles Roven, Christopher Nolan, and Emma Thomas – tell Superman's origin story without extensive reinvention. 

Instead, Snyder and company infuse Kal-El and the supporting characters with often-unexplored emotional perspectives.  Also, the 300 and Watchmen director brings his facility with eye-catching action to the biggest possible canvas, a story that runs the gamut from war on an alien world to truly superpowered battles that alter the landscape here on Earth.

Executing the filmmakers' vision of a revitalized Man of Tomorrow is a supremely talented cast of actors, many of whom were on hand at the Los Angeles press day for Man of SteelHenry Cavill (Immortals) is the actor carrying Man of Steel as Superman, joined by Amy Adams (The Master) as Lois Lane.  They were joined at the press conference by Michael Shannon (Take Shelter), Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Diane Lane (Secretariat), and Antje Traue (Pandorum).  The group was uniformly enthusiastic in discussing their individual characters and Man of Steel as a whole.

British actor Cavill is the latest actor to portray the American pop culture titan, a character who is so familiar and beloved to audiences the world over that he's freighted with so many specific expectations.  The iconic nature of Superman proved to be an inspiration for Cavill, but did not figure in to his interpretation of Supes.

"I don't think it's about finding my way into an icon," he said. "Playing an icon, you don't try to be an icon because that defeats the purpose. The responsibility attached is enormous and the realization that it actually really, really, matters meant that I wanted to put the most amount of work into representing the character properly. That specially applied when I was working out in the gym, when you feel you can't push any harder and you can't lift any more weight. You think, 'Hold on a second. You've got to look like Superman.' There's a whole lot of people out there who are relying on me to be that superhero. So it really helped to push those extra few reps and just become that character."

Where there's Superman, there's also Lois Lane.  Since his very first appearance in print, Clark Kent has been sweet on the Daily Planet's most determined and indomitable reporter.  Adams explained, "I grew up watching Superman and loving the characters and I let it be known that I auditioned several times, this was my third time. So thank you Zack for letting me play Lois. When I talked to Zack about this incarnation of Lois, what I loved was that she was still this intrepid reporter, that she was somebody that was going to be a part of the solution not just part of the problem. She was going to have more of an inner track on Clark and sort of be on the inside as opposed to being on the outside, and I really liked that and I thought that was a very unique idea. I really loved that Zack wanted it to be this really big, amazing film but was also very important to him to focus on the characters and the truth, grounding the characters in reality as much as possible in this amazing world that he created."

Characters in this story don't come more grounded than Jonathan and Martha Kent, the Kansas couple who adopt Kal-El and raise him as their own.  Diane Lane, who plays against Kevin Costner (Hatfields & McCoys).  In connecting with Martha's situation, Lane channeled her feelings as a parent. "This is such a unique scenario," she said. "Having an alien come into your barn and raise it and happens to be a very beautiful human specimen. Actually it has a lot of other things going on. You know the challenge and the back story that Zack and Kevin and I really enjoyed discussing which was not part of the script is imagining what it would be like to temper a young persons attitude adjustment that's required in the rearing of children when they have the powers that Clark has. It was fun having those conversations and you can fill in the blanks and maybe there will be some funny ones written for future story plots. Once you fall in love with a being that needs you, you imprint and you want it to represent your belief system and how does that manifest and what is sacred to you and that winds up being conveyed eventually when you're not even there to see it. That's the hope of parenthood."

Superman finds human allies in folks like the Kents and Lois Lane, but every superhero needs a proper supervillain, too.  Here, that's General Zod, previously played by Terence Stamp in Superman II.  That sequel's kneeling-obsessed baddie is here played as an unstoppable force by Shannon, an actor known for playing unnervingly intense roles.  Asked where he finds inspiration to play ruthless, evil men, Shannon jokingly replied, "Satan, yeah that's where I go for my evil. I get my bucket and I go down to the well and I say Satan are you down there? I've got to be evil today and I lower the bucket down into the well and the lava comes back up and I drink it and it hurts but then I take some Alka Selzter and some Pepto Bismal. No, I don't know, I really don't know. It couldn't be anything further then who I'm actually am. I'm kind of just a tall lanky goofy person and then I do these other things and...I don't even necessarily think of it as evil."

Zod's background on Krypton informed Shannon's approach to the character, even once he's on Earth leveling cities in his tussles with our hero. "I think the important thing to remember was that on Krypton, Zod does not have any super powers," he said. "He's just a general. He's been training for a long time, whooping butt for a long time there on Krypton. Then he comes to Earth and goes through a similar thing that Kal-El goes through when he comes to Earth. It's basically a climatizing to the environment. But yeah Zod has probably been doing those moves since he was a little boy probably."

When the villain arrives on our planet seeking Kal-El, he's joined by another antagonist, the violent whirlwind that is Faora, played by Traue.  The German actress was struck by the size and complication of Man of Steel, particularly since she's involved in so many action sequences, as she said, "This was probably the biggest movie I've done when it comes to action sequences. It's almost sort of like a dance, it's been choreographed pretty much to every detail and you rehearse that for hours, weeks, and months and then you stand in front of the camera and it's quite amazing when everything comes together, the costume, makeup. It's been an amazing moment."

None of the castmembers are more familiar with the process of creating Man of Steel's action than the Man of Steel himself, Cavill.  Like so many actors who have played the character, he was required to spend a lot of time filming material for sequences in which Superman takes to the skies. "Flight, for one there was a lot of rehearsal involved. When it came to actual super speed flight it was mostly belly pan work. Belly pan is the mold of the front of a persons body and you lie in it and a special gimbal. So there's a guy in a green suit and a green screen moving it depending on Zack's direction and I just have to imagine what it's like to fly," Cavill explained. "We had lots of help from Zack's sort of imagery attached to it and his direction. There was also a lot of wire work that we did during the whole stunt process, that was incredibly complex and the guys tested it amazingly. A guy called Jim Churchman just did a fantastic job on the wires. That was probably the funnest part for me in regards to flying because I got to be forty feet up in the air and sort of just completely out of control – well, someone else's control, thank goodness. That was the stuff that made you feel like flight and Superman."

As Superman, Cavill joins a group of actors who have brought Superman to life onscreen, but he resisted the urge to take his cues from his predecessors like Christopher Reeve, George Reeves, or Tom Welling, saying, "I did not take anything from the other characters that played it before. As an actor the way I do it and the way I viewed it is that all the actors that have come before, it's their interpretation of the source material, source material being the comic books and I wanted to have my interpretation not out of a sense of ego but in a sense that it might be a disjointed performance if I have someone else's personality and their influence affect the interpretation of the character. So I went straight to the comic books and saw the older movies but I did not apply those performances to mine."

Playing Jor-El, a character most famously portrayed by Marlon Brando in Superman, Russell Crowe found himself similarly opting not to draw from other interpretations.  "I have a confession. I've never seen any other Superman movie," Crowe admitted. "Haven't seen one with that fellow in it or the new young fellow, I didn't see that either. I didn't have any references in terms of cinematic experiences. The only Superman reference I have is the black and white Superman TV show that was on TV after school when I was a kid. So I really had nothing to draw on. The simple thing for me is I read the script and thought it was a complex and really cool story in and of itself. And I thought the problems that Jor-El faced in terms as his decision as a father was a very interesting thing to do and get involved."

While Cavill read many a DC comic in preparation for the role, he found the proper emotional tenor to Clark Kent by drawing from his own experience. "As far as the conflict that he went through or the journey, it wasn't about classic Superman material," he explained. "So when you see Clark traveling through the world and trying to work out what and who and why he is, I didn't go to source material for that, I just applied my own life to that, as actors it's quite a lonely existence unless you have someone traveling with you the entire time. You spent a lot of time by yourself and you meet new people and you make temporary family and you love them and then you never see them again potentially apart from the press conference. You just apply that to the character and that's exactly what he experiences. New groups of people constantly and then disappear again and having to introduce himself to these other people and prove to them he's a nice guy and tries to do all the right stuff and all of a sudden disappears again. So it's just that lonely aspect that I apply to it oppose to any classic Superman material."

Though Superman is too often dismissed as too morally upright and uncomplicated, this take focuses on the contradictions that propel him.  Being an extraterrestrial who strongly identifies with the species around him, for example.  This Superman is definitely an outsider in many crucial respects, but Cavill emphasized that Superman's resonance isn't exclusive to those who feel marginalized, saying, "I don't necessarily think that he speaks to the outsider alone, he speaks to everyone or that ideal speaks to everyone. We all need hope no matter what century we are in, whatever state of life we are in, whether we are going through tragedy or not. It's just hope that everything will be okay and if it is tragedy and disaster happens I hope we can overcome it. I don't believe it's solely for those who are outsiders and those who think they're alone. It's for every one."

Man of Steel arrives in theaters nationwide on Friday, June 14th.

On Monday, June 10th, though, fans the world over can feel like they're on the red carpet at the film's New York premiere.  Check out the livestreaming webcast of the premiere at 6 pm EST.

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