Fresh from the set of the upcoming Justice League, super-star Henry Cavil spent a day in Devon recently to undergo the Commando Challenge, a physical endurance event in aid of the Royal Marines Charity and the Devon Air Ambulance. Before his turn at the starting line, however, Henry caught up with Exeposé section editors Mark Allison and Lara Hopkins, finding us huddled in a cramped press tent as a mass of eager fans slowly gathered outside. With a wily press manager hanging over our shoulders and strict instructions not to ask Henry about his movie career, we began with a few questions on the day ahead for Henry.
The Commando Challenge gives participants the choice of a 4k, 10k, or 17k course. Which of these would the Jersey-born film star be attempting? “For me it’s going to be a 10k event today,” he started. “I believe the way it’s set up is it’s two mile run to the course, two miles of the course itself, and then a two mile run afterwards. That’s what I believe it is, I’m about to find out exactly what it is.”
Considering the formidable reputation of the Royal Marines, had Henry updated his training regime to prepare for the trials ahead? “I haven’t really, nothing particularly extreme. I’ll just see how I go, I mean it’s 10k which isn’t a huge distance, but there is an assault course which I have no idea how to prep for.” In fact, beyond the distance, Henry seemed quite unsure of what awaited him. “It’s going to be a complete surprise for me, so I’m just going play it by ear.”
Henry has been associated with the Royal Marines Charity for a number of years, becoming an ambassador for the organisation in 2014. We asked how this relationship came about, and what attracted him to this charity in particular? “My brother is a Royal Marine, he’s a Lieutenant Colonel. I’ve always liked the Royal Marines, I probably would have joined the Marines if I wasn’t an actor, and it just seemed to make sense. I know there’s a lot of support required for family, and the marines themselves, whether they’re serving or not, and it seemed like the logical thing to do – join the charity and help as much as I can.”
“at least I’m not out there where it’s really hard”
Henry is well known for a physical commitment to his film career, and we asked if his association with the Marines has helped him to train and prepare for the demands of portraying some of the strongest men in cinema. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily helped me prepare for fitness stuff. There’s certainly that aspect of willpower and mental strength, which the marines have. When you’re struggling through some training it definitely helps; you say ‘well at least I’m not out there where it’s really hard’. This is easy in comparison, so it helps you get through certain sessions.”
Finding ourselves in the picturesque, if damp, surroundings of the Bicton Arena, we enquired if Henry was familiar with Devon, and what he found appealing about the area. “I’m a big fan of Devon, especially Dartmoor, and I wish I came here more. I live in London and obviously I’m all over the place all the time. Driving out here took three and a half hours, so when you’ve got busy weeks it’s tricky. But I do love it down here, and maybe one day will buy some property.”
Our conversation moved to Henry’s personal interests, beyond acting and the occasional assault course. He became particularly animated when discussing his experiences in sport. “My favourite sport to watch is rugby, I would love to get involved, but I can’t for obvious reasons, and I haven’t played for such a long time – anyone thinks they can just jump back into rugby if they’re a rugby fan, and as soon as they do they get proper smashed up.” His favourite team? “It’s got to be Jersey.”
As the time on our brief interview grew short, we returned to Henry’s charity work, the prescient subject of the day. We asked what other events had he been involved in for the Royal Marines? “Beyond this sort of thing? Well this is pretty much it. If I’ve got something out and I can get a special screening, then I’ll do that, but otherwise it’s just whatever I can do to bring awareness to the Royal Marines Charity, whether it’s just wearing a hoody around town as I get photographed or whatever, it’s all going to help, hopefully. I did a special screening for Batman V Superman last… this year?” He paused, looking to us for clarification, “this year.”
Finally, was Henry targeting any specific time for the impending assault course? “I’ve no idea what the times are. What’s an average time for a 10k?” he looked to us again, this time to no avail. “No I’m not aiming for any time, this is all about having fun and just enjoying it.”
So our foray into the A-list came to an end, and we left Superman to face a fitness test involving steep climbs, the dreaded marine sheep dip, and a lot of mud, a part of us both wishing we too had signed up to tackle the course with him. Henry might portray an indestructible alien on screen, but our time together had made it clear that he was just as human as everyone running alongside him.