AFTER more than a decade playing Superman, Henry Cavill has become kryptonite to studio bosses who have dropped him from the iconic role.
And while they say they just want a younger model, some think the 39-year-old British actor may have become too controversial and outdated for them.
It was only two months ago the actor announced his triumphant return to the superhero franchise, but he has now revealed he has been asked to step aside — to the outrage of fans.
In a lengthy Instagram statement, Henry said the new bosses of DC Studios, James Gunn and Peter Safran, had decided he was not a part of their “new universe”.
He added: “After being told by the studio to announce my return back in October, prior to their hire, this news isn’t the easiest, but that’s life.”
It is a humiliating turnaround for the actor, who reportedly quit hit Netflix show The Witcher to focus on his return as Superman.
The public reason given for his sacking is that Gunn and Safran — who took over comic book franchise DC Studios on November 1 — want a younger actor as their new movie will focus on the hero’s early life.
But behind the scenes there is talk that Henry — no stranger to controversy, with a backlash over comments he made about women and outrage over him dating an alleged animal killer, a woman caught in a racism storm and a college student — is not just old but outdated.
On social media, however, fans think he has been treated unfairly.
One wrote: “This really could damage the dude’s career, he just dropped Witcher too. Would he have done that if he knew Superman wasn’t coming?”
‘Fires of hell’
Henry, who grew up in Jersey and got into acting after meeting Russell Crowe as a youngster, was once the hottest of British prospects.
He went from co-starring in The Tudors on BBC to headlining as Superman in 2013 film Man Of Steel — and was even tipped to be the next James Bond.
His 23million Instagram followers went into a frenzy after he made a surprise appearance as Superman during the credits of Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam in October.
He then posted a video of the cameo along with the caption: “I wanted to make it official, that I am back as Superman.”
A week later, he told fans he was stepping down from playing Geralt in The Witcher after three years, with rumours he had passed the mantle to Liam Hemsworth to focus on his return as the Man of Steel.
He gave an interview saying how excited he was to play an “enormously joyful” Superman — just six days before Gunn and Safran began as the new heads of DC Films.
In his own announcement on Wednesday, Gunn, an acclaimed filmmaker best known for Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy series, said that they are now working on a film script “focusing on an earlier part of Superman’s life” which would not feature Cavill.
While the actor claimed there were no hard feelings, it comes on the back of a torrid few years where he has found himself under fire for some of his comments.
In 2018 he claimed the #MeToo movement had left him scared to date women for fear of being “called a rapist”.
He said in the interview: “I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned.
“It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like, ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to be called a rapist or something’.
“So you’re like, ‘Forget it. I’m going to call an ex-girlfriend instead, and then just go back to a relationship, which never really worked’.
“But it’s way safer than casting myself into the fires of hell, because I’m someone in the public eye, and if I go and flirt with someone, then who knows what’s going to happen?”
After a social media storm, Henry had to issue a grovelling statement, insisting that he would “continue to hold women in the highest regard”.
But fans love his “#nofilter interviews”, including one he gave about his raunchy role in The Tudors, which he starred in from 2007 to 2010 alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Natalie Dormer.
He said: “A girl had to be on top of me, she had spectacular breasts and I hadn’t rearranged my stuff into a harmless position.
“She’s basically rubbing herself all over me and, um, it got a bit hard.”
Adding that he immediately “apologised profusely”, he continued: “It’s not great when you’re in a professional acting environment and somebody gets a b***r,, is it?”
None of it seems to have put off infamous bachelor Henry looking for love — although his romantic history is the source of more controversy.
He is currently dating a reality TV star turned Hollywood executive who was revealed to have blacked up in old internet pictures.
Natalie Viscuso, 33, was forced to apologise last year after the pictures from a 2008 Namibia trip resurfaced online.
Such was the row, a petition called for Netflix to drop her boyfriend from his part in The Witcher.
Henry had previously raised eyebrows by dating university student Tara King, then 19, who he took to the London premiere of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice in 2016.
When asked about the 13-year age gap, Henry said: “People say age is just a number. It’s actually real and a true sign of someone’s maturity. But in this case, she’s fantastic. When I met my girlfriend, I was super intimidated. I wanted to impress her.”
And there was more furore around his relationship with animal hunter Marisa Gonzalo, then 21, who Henry dated for a year before meeting Tara.
The romance with Marisa, who posted pictures of her kills online, angered fans because Henry has long been an animal rights activist with his own foundation, Cavill Conservation.
Other exes include MMA fighter Gina Carano, 40, and Big Bang star Kaley Cuoco, 37, who he is said to have romanced for just ten days.
When it is not his love life hitting headlines, it is his facial hair.
Henry can claim to have had Hollywood’s most controversial moustache, which he grew for Mission: Impossible — Fallout in 2018.
During filming in 2017 he had to go back and do reshoots for DC blockbuster Justice League, in which he played the clean-shaven Superman.
Unable to shave off his tache while filming for Mission: Impossible, DC movie bosses had to spend a rumoured £20million removing it with CGI — only for the results to be ridiculed by fans.
Henry has admitted to struggling with some of the trolling he receives.
He said: “You are peeking behind the curtain. You wonder, ‘What are people saying about me? Oh, that’s nice. Oh, how lovely’.
“But then you find one that isn’t. One that says you’re only in a relationship to raise your profile or to prove you’re not gay. You think, ‘Why are they being so nasty?’. Then you start shaping your behaviour around the comments, and that’s not OK.”
It brings back memories of his childhood, during which he was bullied for being chubby.
He said: “I was a fat kid so I was an easy target. Fat Cavill was the nickname, which was a totally fair nickname, because I was fat.”
Acting was an escape, inspired by an encounter with Russell Crowe, who was shooting film Proof Of Life close to the 16-year-old Henry’s public school in Stowe, Bucks.
Tips gleaned from the Hollywood superstar led Henry to roles in cosy British dramas The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Goodbye, Mr Chips and Midsomer Murders.
But when he landed the role of Superman in 2013, he thought he was set for life.
“It’s a wonderful role, he said.
“There’s a huge potential there for complex storytelling, and I’m looking forward to exploring those avenues. Come on, it’s Superman! You can’t be ped off at the idea of playing Superman for the rest of your life.”
That dream might be over now, but another iconic role could be on the cards instead.
Henry auditioned for James Bond in 2005 but lost out to Daniel Craig after he was deemed “too chubby”.
Since the news broke of his Superman departure, the Hollywood star is now the bookies’ favourite to replace Craig.
So the fickle rollercoaster that is a Hollywood franchise could make him a hero once again.