Together on the big screen for the first time ever, we sat down with Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and the man who made it all happen – Director Zack Snyder, to talk that fight scene, how they evolved their characters, and Superman’s clumsy side…
Q: Zack, how did you bring Batman and Superman – and these two actors – together on the same screen?
ZACK SNYDER: It’s been an amazing journey, and, for me, it’s a blessing to have these two great actors portray these roles because I’ve always been a massive fan of the comic books and of these two characters, Batman and Superman. It’s always been a dream of mine just to have that opportunity to make a movie with Batman and Superman in it, so I’ve slowly manipulated the ‘powers that be’ to get that to happen. It’s been a labor of love for me, but I couldn’t be happier with the results.
Q: So now the big question is: who really would win if Batman went up against Superman for real?
BEN AFFLECK: The truth is that if you just started out with Batman and Superman, obviously Superman would win because he’s an alien – he’s invulnerable – and Batman is just a human being. But in the story you’ll see there are various reasons why their powers are evened out a bit, and made more equal. Then it’s a question of – I don’t want to say character, but determination.
Q: Henry, how do you approach playing a character that is not human and can do anything? With physical training, obviously…
HENRY CAVILL: Mostly with a lot of imagination. The idea behind Superman, for me in preparation, doesn’t really change from movie to movie. But with this one in particular, it was working doubly hard in the gym because I knew I was going up against Ben and Batman, and I had to make sure that I was a fair match.
Q: Was he a fair match, Ben?
BEN AFFLECK: I cannot beat up the real Henry, so I have to settle for Superman [laughs].
Q: Ben, how does it feel to play Batman? And what was it like the first time actually put on the iconic cape and cowl?
BEN AFFLECK: Well, some people might see this as just a comic book or Super Hero movie – not that serious. To me, it was quite serious, and something of an honour. It hasn’t been done many times. And the times that it has been done before, it’s been done by artists that I respect a great deal – most recently by Christian Bale, who I think is a miraculously good actor, and Christopher Nolan is a director I admire enormously.
So I took it very seriously. I wanted to do what Zack wanted, whose vision I thought was pretty extraordinary.
Q: Once you got to the big brawl, what was it like to actually put that sequence together?
ZACK SNYDER: When you see the film, the big fight looks like it just flows, like it’s a single moment. But in reality, of course, we shot it over weeks and weeks, and it’s inside a building with rain machines and all these things. All these elements have to come together, so it can be an uncomfortable experience in a lot of ways for these guys, because of the meticulous nature of photography. But they were amazing troupers. They did all the preparation, worked all the hours and never complained. And I couldn’t be happier, from my point of view, with the result. It’s just fun to think about it when you see it in the movie that, ‘Oh, yeah. This is definitely a meticulous piece of work but hopefully, when you see it, it flows right by you.
Q: What was that experience like for the actors?
HENRY CAVILL: It was quite strenuous, but, I have to say, some of the funniest moments are when you see a Super Hero trip over a piece of the set.
Q: [Laughs] Not on purpose, I hope?
HENRY CAVILL: Not on purpose, no. My character is actually very cool in the movie, but in real life I’m not that cool [laughs].
BEN AFFLECK: Yeah, the truth is that what looks like one fluid sequence is actually comprised of a lot of different pieces, whether they’re visual effects, practical effects, stunts, us, inserts, and so on and so on. It’s really very fragmented. So, in fact, what looks like a fight is actually much more of a sort of cooperation and collaboration, and actually requires that you get along quite well with the other actor so that you can figure out how to make it work, and I had a great partner – Henry – and thank God that we got along and figured out how to work well together to try to make it look good.
Q: Was it challenging to stay true to your interpretation all the way through from beginning to end?
HENRY CAVILL: When it comes to playing the character, you try and stay as true to source material as possible, but when you’re making movies, it won’t necessarily stay straight down that line. So, ultimately, it’s following the director’s vision. Zack had a great vision for this, and we just followed that.
BEN AFFLECK: Yeah. It’s a director’s medium. You want to make the director happy and do the movie the director wants to do; otherwise, you’re off on your own somewhere. Zack and screenwriter Chris Terrio came up with a great idea so it was easy to want to follow that.
Q: Ben, how did you feel when you first laid eyes on the Batmobile? And did you drive it?
BEN AFFLECK: Yeah, I did. They only let me drive it a little bit. It’s very fast. And it’s very loud in the Batmobile.
Q: Oh really?
BEN AFFLECK: Yeah. You have to wear earplugs because you’ll go deaf driving it. Batman has very limited hearing because of the Batmobile experience. But, it’s very cool. I mean, there’s nothing like being in the Batmobile and seeing the real Batmobile to make you feel like you’re doing Batman things.
My son came visit the set and I put him in the Batmobile and I could see he was like, ‘Oh my! It’s the real thing!’ So, it was a thrill, and watching the Batmobile in the movie are some of my favorite sequences just because there’s just very little cooler in the world than the Batmobile.
Q: Henry, you’re now the cinematic Superman. Playing this character for the second time around, what do consider the difference between this Superman and other iterations of the character that came before you?
HENRY CAVILL: That’s a very good question. The baseline of the character is the same because he is the symbol of hope. He is an ideal to strive towards. However, with the passing of decades, popular culture and opinion changes, as well, so this character is very much drawn from the baseline of Superman in the comic books – as every Superman rendition has – but this is Superman in our modern age.
ZACK SNYDER: I think it’s interesting to think about how people sort of judge Superman by the Superman they see in the movies. Why? There’s a volatile view of Superman and a vast canon of work that backs up Superman.
Q: Ben, what was your biggest challenge in taking on Batman?
BEN AFFLECK: It’s just such an iconic character that the biggest challenge going into it was this sort of daunting aspect of playing a character who’s got such a fixed place in people’s minds already. So, people’s expectations were, I think, the biggest challenge. I didn’t get to create the character. I had to recreate something and hope that it fits into our idea of who Batman is and hope people would accept my nuances on the character.
Q: Other than obviously working out, how much preparation did you do for these roles?
HENRY CAVILL: It’s a balance of stuff, really. It’s going through material like the comic books. It’s costume fittings. It’s having Zack walk us through, piece-by-piece, what his vision is for the movie so we know whatever contributions we make are going to be in line with his vision.
BEN AFFLECK: Yeah, I wanted to have my own Batcave, but that got nixed [laughs].
Q: Zack, how does it feel for you as such a fan yourself to have gone through this process and brought these iconic Super Heroes – not just Batman and Superman but also Wonder Woman – together for the first time on the big screen?
ZACK SNYDER: How does it feel? It’s interesting because, even just when we had the camera test, everyone just basically put on their costumes and we filmed them not in a scene, but against a backdrop to get a sense of how they look, the colors and all that. And it was cool because you get caught up in the sort of the technical part of it and you forget that it’s historical –seeing Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in a single moment standing there. For me, a bit of a dork, that was kind of the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It hit me that, ‘Okay. It doesn’t get much better than that.’ It was pretty amazing.
I actually took a picture with my phone where I put my hand out and took the picture across my hand so it looked like they were action figures and I was holding them [laughs].
Q: So, the screen test was…
BEN AFFLECK: When the director wants to take a selfie with you [laughs].
ZACK SNYDER: Yeah, but it was pretty awesome.