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.”