When you meet Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer together, you’re overcome by two thoughts: The first one is, “These are both very handsome human beings.” The second is almost a strange sense of intimidation because Cavill and Hammer are both very tall, imposing people (I’m 6-feet tall, and it’s not often I’m the “short one” when interviewing actors), to the point that if there were some sort of altercation near us, I’m glad they were both here to diffuse this hypothetical, non-existent situation. (In other words: There’s a reason these two men were chosen to play Superman and The Lone Ranger.)
Cavill and Hammer star in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a Cold War spy movie based on a television show that ran from 1964 until 1968 – so long ago now that people born the year U.N.C.L.E. went off the air just turned 47 (though, there was a subsequent 1983 television movie). The film has gone through a few incarnations, starting as a Steven Soderbergh project with George Clooney attached, it’s now fallen to Guy Ritchie to bring the stylized – and it is heavily stylized – film to fruition. Hammer plays Illya Kuryakin, a Russian spy who teams with the part suave, part asshole (played to perfection by Cavill) American spy, Napoleon Solo, in an effort to save 1963 from nuclear annihilation.
I met Cavill and Hammer at a New York City movie screening room where the two had just shot a commercial for Yellow Pages (well, it is a movie set in 1963, after all). It was an odd setup, because there were publicists, members of the commercial’s crew, and really who knows who else who just happened to be sitting in the theater as the three of us spoke. More than once, when one of us couldn’t think of someone’s name, a member of “the audience” would kindly let us know. This was not exactly an intimate setting. (Not to mention, outside the theater, about 15 fans waited with Superman paraphernalia, that I can only assume was brought in the chance of meeting Cavill. Well, unless they were all huge Yellow Pages fan; Superman did like phone booths.)
Ahead, Cavill and Hammer discuss the sleek The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Hammer explains just how he wound up playing himself in this summer’s Entourage movie (this story alone might be worth the price of admission), Hammer looks back on why The Lone Ranger was such a tough sell (and we debate if critics really had ganged up on the film), and Cavill discusses if the plot of next year’s highly anticipated Batman v Superman really is a direct response to the critical reaction to Man of Steel. (Cavill also talks about next year’s Warcraft film because Cavill used to be a huge Warcraft player.)
Also: Don’t use the word “chemistry” in front of Henry Cavill. He will make fun of you.
I really liked The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but before I saw it, I didn’t know what to expect; it’s based on a show that not a lot of the moviegoing public has ever seen. It’s very stylized…
Henry Cavill: It is. It’s just one of those things that ends up being an enormously fun ride. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it has serious undertones, has hot chicks in it, has cool cars, has spies – it’s one of those things in summer that you can’t really go wrong with. And it’s Guy Ritchie, he’s got a special touch on the movie, which is awesome.
It could just be called “Cool Spy Movie.”
Cavill: [Laughs] “Cool Spy Movie,” that was the working title, yeah. That’s where we started off at.
Why were both of you convinced this property could work in 2015?
Armie Hammer: Honestly, the first thing is someone calls and says, “Guy Ritchie is doing it.” And you go, “I want to be in a Guy Ritchie movie. That sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll do this.”
So, Steven Soderbergh was already off the movie.
Hammer: I’ve never talked to Soderbergh about it. The only way I’ve been involved with the movie is with Guy and with Henry.
Cavill: And with Tom Cruise, right? And he went off to do MI5?
Hammer: Oh, yeah, for about a minute.
Henry’s voice in this movie is a very “cool” voice.
Cavill: [Laughs] It took us long enough to find it.
So, that wasn’t always your voice?
Cavill: No. It started off — I’ve gotten it wrong so many times now — Cary Grant, right? Yeah, Cary Grant, because I was saying Clark Gable for a good four days of press in London and I was told, “Dude, I think it was Carey Grant.” Oops!
So, when we see the “Clark Gable inspires Henry Cavill” headline, we shouldn’t believe them.
So, we started off like that. Then Guy said, “Don’t copy the accent, make it your own and play around with it a bit.” Then, Guy eventually said to me, “Look, it kind of just sounds like you’re an English actor who can’t do an American accent.” So then we made it more American and we worked on it to make it sound like it is now. But that was like a third of the way through the movie when we finally settled on it.
So, it’s the Transatlantic accent?
Cavill: Yeah, it’s exactly that. It’s the Transatlantic, affected, anglophile accent.
It sets the tone for the whole movie, if that makes sense.
Cavill: It does make sense. Guy has a good ear for it, that’s why he wasn’t happy; he wasn’t going to let it sit and be like, “Eh, I guess we’ll fix it,” or, “It will do,” he just kept on saying, “It doesn’t work.”
My favorite scene involves a very stylized boat chase. At one point, Napoleon is having a meal in a truck while this crazy action sequence plays out almost as an afterthought in the background.
Cavill: It’s kind of everyone’s favorite, isn’t it? I have to say, it was really uncomfortable for me because, when we’re driving around in the boat, we had to do this bit where I had to hide after the fact, because I’m not supposed to be there. And I’m lying on the bottom of this boat and Armie is like, “Okay, Wave! Wave!” Bang! But, eventually, I got out and got to sit in the car in the middle of winter, soaking wet, which was also uncomfortable.
Hammer: When else would you be able to take some World War II boats and race them around in a harbor in London?
Man of Steel made Henry famous, so you’re very known for that role. Watching you as Napoleon Solo was shocking because it’s so different. I think people are going to be very surprised.
Cavill: My brother said the same thing. My brother, who watched the movie the other night was like, “When did you get funny?” I like, “Huh, okay; thanks, asshole.” [Laughs] Yeah, it’s very different. It’s a huge departure from Man of Steel and fun to do.
I was talking to a critic, I won’t mention his name…
Hammer: Because he hated this movie.
No, but he didn’t care for Man of Steel. After seeing Man From U.N.C.L.E., he’s a Henry Cavill fan now.
Cavill: Nice, I found someone.
To be fair, there’s some humor in Man of Steel.
Cavill: It’s very different. It’s a different kind of thing. Man of Steel is a very stoic in its character. Napoleon Solo, who is also a good guy, is very much out for himself. And that’s not what Supes does.
I like that you call him “Supes.”
Cavill: Yeah, well, we’re close.
Armie’s cameo in Entourage is crazy to me.
Cavill: You are in Entourage?
Hammer: [Laughs] Yeah.
He plays himself.
Hammer: An angry, mean version of myself.
In real life, you’re famously married, but in your cameo, as yourself, you are single and hitting on women.
Cavill: That must be very odd.
Hammer: Basically, I play Emily Ratajkowski’s ex-boyfriend. And Vinnie Chase is dating her and I say to him, “I’m going to choke the life out of you, don’t fucking turn your back.” That kind of thing.
Cavill: This sounds like fun!
When you read it, are you like, “This isn’t me. I’m not dating Emily Ratajkowski?”
Hammer: I can almost say with 100 percent certainty that I wasn’t in the original script.
So, that was written for somebody else?
Hammer: Or “anybody.” I think the way it works with the cameos on Entourage is they basically sent out mass emails, “Can anybody show up? Please? Just show up. Help us!” kind of thing. I actually know Jeremy Piven and he’s like, “Hey, dude, are you going to be around on Tuesday?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m an out of work actor, I’m around all the time. I have nothing else to do.” He’s like, “You want to shoot a day on Entourage?” I’m like, “Sure!” It’s so funny, I showed up and they’re like, “Okay, your trailer is over here,” and I go in and it’s empty. I go, “Is there a costume? Do you have something you want me to wear?” They go, “You should just wear your clothes.” I’m like, “I’m not dressed to be in a movie!”
So, what we see is just what you showed up in that day?
Hammer: It’s literally what I showed up in. I asked, “Do you guys want to do my hair or anything?” And they said, “Nah, we’ll just kind of leave it as is.” I was like, “Ah, oh no!”
Cavill: I would not feel comfortable with that.
Hammer: All’s well that ends well I guess.
How do you know Jeremy Piven?
Hammer: We used to live across the hall from each other. We met eight years ago and have known each other since.
That seems like a fun duo.
Hammer: Yeah, it’s fun. Some good times have been had.
I watched The Lone Ranger again recently. It’s such a weird movie. But you said on the international press tour that critics ganged up on it, but I don’t think that’s what happened. I do think it’s weird and people didn’t know what to think of it…
Hammer: Yeah, it could have been…
I’m not saying that never happens, but I really don’t think it happened with The Lone Ranger.
Hammer: But people weren’t approaching it with this attitude. When I was saying that people were getting mad, there appeared to be a sort of a little bit of a close-mindedness to it. It’s a strange movie.
But it wasn’t being marketed as a strange movie. And I think that might have caught a lot of people off guard…
Hammer: I know. I know. Because it’s really difficult to market that movie because you can’t market it as a kids movie because in the first five minutes a guy gets his heart cut out. But then you can’t market it as a movie where a guy gets his heart cut out because most of it is a little kid talking to Johnny Depp on old age Indian makeup. It’s really hard to sell it and the tone is all over the place.
It’s a Gore Verbinski movie.
Hammer: But that’s the thing: If you like The Weather Man or of you like MouseHunt…
Hammer: Rango! it’s basically a live-action Rango.
Well, with hearts being ripped out. But ever since you said that, I just wanted to say that I don’t think it was a grand conspiracy. It’s just a weird movie that people weren’t expecting.
Hammer: It’s true, they definitely sold it as one thing and it’s a hundred things on its own.
Aren’t you a big Warcraft fan?
Cavill: I used to play a lot. I haven’t played in a long time. I heard it just got good again.
What’s more exciting: a Warcraft movie or your Batman v Superman movie?
Cavill: My Superman movie. [Laughs] Duh!
Hammer: [Laughs] He’s not getting paid for Warcraft!
Cavill: [Laughs] Yeah, Warcraft isn’t making me any money! But, yes, BvS, I’m really looking forward to. But with World of Warcraft, I’m excited to see what it’s like because that’s a hard thing to translate, and there are a lot of people who feel strongly about the lore in that, so we will see.
From the Batman v Superman trailer that came out at Comic-Con, it did seem like the plot was tied into the destruction Superman causes in Man of Steel.
There’s a big plan in place at WB for the whole DC franchise. So, all of this stuff ties in. They’re not thinking from movie to movie, they’re thinking from a big tent pole type thing and each story has its own story, which is attached to the major issue. Yeah, there’s a big plan.
Well, based on that GIF that went around directly comparing the footage from the BvS trailer and Man of Steel, it just feels even more like a response. Did you see that GIF?
Cavill: [Laughs] I’ve seen a lot of GIFs.
But this one is neat. It shows Ben Affleck in the street watching the building get torn apart, side by side with Michael Shannon in Man of Steel causing the damage and they match perfectly.
Cavill: Oh, cool.
Hammer: Oh, that is cool. That is very cool. That’s a little Easter egg.
So, it’s a direct reference to what happened in Man of Steel.
Cavill: You’ll see a lot of that.
Hammer: I was wondering about that in the trailer! I was like, that is a big building that just got chopped in half. And that’s from Man of Steel?
Cavill: That’s when Zod loses his mind and can’t control his heat vision and blasts everything out.
But now, you’re both in a Guy Ritchie movie. Have you guys been fans?
Cavill: I never even knew who he was. I still get his name wrong. Gee? [Laughs] But, yeah, big fan.
Hammer: Which did you see first, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch?
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Hammer: Which one do you like more?
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but that’s not always my answer. Does that make sense?
Hammer: Yeah, totally. Because people who see Snatch first – like, I saw Snatch first and I like Snatch. I mean, I go back and forth, as well, but I like both. But if I’m going to throw one in the player, it’s going to be Snatch. But it’s the funny thing with Guy, his movie create dialogue and discourse.
And the chemistry between you two helps drive this movie.
Cavill: We are scientists.
Hammer: Yeah, we are scientists. Alchemists.
Come on, that’s a word. It’s a clichéd word. Do you not like it?
Hammer: I have no problem with the word.
Cavill: I think it’s thrown around a little too much.
Oh, well, then you guys are just awful together.
Hammer: Okay, see, that’s the alternative. “Did you guys not like each other when you made the movie?”
You guys seem to be friendly now, but, on screen, it just didn’t work.
Hammer: Well, when we filmed the movie, we refused to be in the same room together and we did everything…
Hammer: Then they’d have to overlap them.
Cavill: It was like shooting The Hobbit.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.