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Superman's reunion with his real-life hero

From Neil Curry and Leila Hussain, for CNN
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Thu June 20, 2013
  • Russell Crowe and Henry Cavill's paths first crossed when Crowe was filming scenes for Proof of Life at Cavill's boarding school.
  • Cavill, who had been in school productions, sought acting advice and questioned Crowe. Crowe remembered the schoolboy and sent him a parcel, which included signed photograph.
  • Years later their paths crossed again in a gym, and then eventually as co-stars in the latest Superman film.

(CNN) -- It's not easy being a parent at the best of times - let alone when you're the father of a brooding Kryptonian. But Russell Crowe steps up to the challenge in the latest incarnation of Superman, fathering the "Man of Steel" played by Englishman Henry Cavill.

And if some viewers happen to notice a particularly convincing on-screen tenderness between the two actors, it could well be because of chance encounter over a decade ago.

It was in 2000 while filming the hostage thriller Proof of Life at the Stowe School in Buckinghamshire that Crowe, a lifelong rugby fan, spotted a young talent on the school pitch.

"There was a rugby match being played in the background and there was one kid on that field who was quite dominant and fluid and so he caught my eye. And in between shots that kid came over and talked to me but all his questions were about acting."

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The 16 year-old in shorts was none other than Henry Cavill, who until then had only played parts in school productions.

Cavill remembers, "I walked up to him, stuck my hand out and said 'Hi my name's Henry, I am considering becoming an actor, any tips? What's it like?" and he said "well you know the pay is great but sometimes they don't treat you so good - and I'm paraphrasing!"

This brief meeting left a lasting impression with the Gladiator star, even once he had returned home to the other side of the world.

"I figured the greatest thing you could get when you're in boarding school or something is unexpected mail" explains Crowe, who sent a box over to the young fan a couple of days later.

"I received an Aussie rugby jersey," Cavill remembers, "some Aussie sweets, some Vegemite, a band CD and a picture of him in Gladiator saying 'Dear Henry, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Russell."

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Nobody could have predicted that the journey would lead to the $250 million Superman reboot Man of Steel, least of all Russell Crowe, who struggled to recognise his co-star:

"Twelve years later I'm in a gym in Naperville, Illinois and I'm working out with my son in this movie that I'm doing, he's on the other side of the gym and I knew I knew him from somewhere, I just didn't know - I couldn't place him."

Crowe notes that after a workout he asked Cavill "do I know you?" Cavill smiled and after and after several months was still reluctant to reveal all.

Read more: Man of Steel at the box office

"I didn't want walk up to him and put him in that embarrassing situation where he has to lie to me like 'Hi, remember me? The kid from 12 years ago, the one kid you met during the shoot one day' I just assumed he wouldn't."

But, Crowe did remember:

"He said 'do you remember a kid that came and talked to you?' I went yeah, he goes and he talked to you about acting?' I said yes I do remember that, what did I say? And he said 'well they pay you pretty well but they treat you like s*** and I said yes Henry I did say that, good to see you! So it's an amazing little karmic circle."

"We had a good laugh about it" recalls Cavill. "It's one of those moments in life where you think what are the chances?"

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