Say what you will about Man of Steel‘s controversial ending, but there’s no denying the box office hit is a hell of a lot of fun. Henry Cavill is the best Superman since Christopher Reeve, and Lois Lane gets a much-needed injection of gusto via the charismatic Amy Adams. So while Zack Snyder is busy dealing with Internet rage over his Batman vs. Superman casting news, Rolling Stone sat down with Colonel Nathan Hardy himself, veteran actor Christopher Meloni, to discuss everything from Man of Steel (available today on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD) to True Blood and that long-rumored Wet Hot American Summer sequel.
How did you get involved with Man of Steel?
By the grace of the casting gods. Zack Snyder thought it was a good idea and I got offered the role. And I couldn’t have been happier. It’s not often that you have a C or D storyline that has a nice arc to it, and I thought that for a character that’s not one of the top three guys, my journey was good. It had resonance.
What’s it like being a civilian in a superhero film?
I arrived on set and I saw Henry Cavill in his Superman getup in ninety degree weather and I was like, “I’m glad you’re Superman and I’m not.” [Laughs] I actually felt really great that, as a quote-un-quote civilian – even though I’m a military guy – that, instead of the usual Batman-save-us-from-the-bad-guys stuff, they incorporated humans to have some value too.
Even Lois has some great opportunities.
Lois is no pushover.
You got to deliver the film’s best line – “a good death is its own reward.”
And how did that feel? After take fifty? Well I’ll tell you. Everyone knew that this line had to have a certain distinct thing to it, so we toyed with a million different emotions and inflections and thoughts and feelings.
Some folks are speculating that you’re not dead – that you’re somewhere in the Phantom Zone. Is there a chance you’ll be back?
There is – if people keep that Twitter feed alive. [Laughs] They’ve got to keep blogging and it’ll take form.
So you’d be back if they want you?
So you were a Marvel guy.
Is that Marvel? Huh, I didn’t even know. People used to tell me about the DC versus Marvel thing but I never read who was putting it out. I just looked at the cover and went, “That’s what I want.”
People can’t stop talking about the ending and what Superman did to General Zod. What’s your response to that controversy? Do you think it’s overblown?
Well, look, in the universe that I inhabit? Yes. But I can understand if you’re a rabid fan and you’ve studied it and have a deep investment. From where I stand, though, I didn’t dwell on it too much.
What’s your favorite Man of Steel memory?
I have two. The first was watching the gas station blow up – that was insane. The other was hanging out with the guys that were in my helicopter with me. They were all former Navy SEALs and it was really cool just to kick it with them.
I’ll bet they had some amazing stories.
They’re tight-lipped, but you still get some stuff. I talked to them mostly about “Hell Week.” I was curious how the hell you survive.
Would you go through a version of that to prepare for a role?
Oh, absolutely. But I’d tell them they’d better put me through modified version. [Laughs]
This isn’t the first time you’ve made a superhero movie. You got to be the voice of Green Lantern in an animated movie.
I thought that was fantastic. I was in the studio with Victor Garber and I got to go head to head with him. Usually you do voice work solo – that felt like old-time radio.
Did you enjoy your turn on True Blood?
I had a lot of fun. It was a really fantastical world – one with a slight patina of danger to inhabit.
Next you got to play someone real – Leo Durocher in 42. How does your approach different when you’re portraying a real person?
There’s more research. And that makes decisions easier, because you can’t deny what you’re seeing. [Pause] Let’s just say that decisions came more quickly than when you’re the head vampire.
Oz helped start the cable TV boom. Were you aware, at the time, of the show’s impact?
No, but I will say that while we were doing it, we knew that there was nothing like it on TV – and never had been. That was really cool to be a part of. It was just a crazy time. A bunch of young guys who were out of their minds. I started getting a hint that it was making an impact on certain people because people started stopping me on the street.
Would you be interested in doing an Oz movie if they could work your character in?
Sure, why not? I guess it would have to be in flashbacks – or I’d need an evil twin brother.
Have you heard anything about the Wet Hot American Summer sequel?
I have. I don’t know where they are with that, but I’m on board if it ever goes down.