Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill was born May 5, 1983 on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands, the fourth of five boys. His mother, Marianne, worked in a bank, and his father, Colin Cavill, was a stockbroker. He was educated at St. Michael's Preparatory School in Saint Saviour, Jersey before attending Stowe School, a boarding school in Buckinghamshire, England. He began acting in school plays during prep school, and has said that if he had not become an actor, he would have joined the army or gone to university to study ancient history, specifically Egyptology.
Cavill had his first film role in Kevin Reynolds' 2002 adaptation The Count of Monte Cristo. He went on to star in Laguna (2001), and afterwards appeared in BBC’s The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (2002), the TV film Goodbye Mr. Chips (2002), and the TV series Midsomer Murders (2003). In 2003 he had a supporting role in I Capture the Castle, followed by Red Riding Hood (2004), Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005), and Tristan & Isolde (2006). He had a minor role alongside Sienna Miller and Ben Barnes in Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of Stardust (2007).
From 2007 to 2010, Cavill had a leading role in Showtime's television series The Tudors as Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. The series was well-received: it was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2007 and won an Emmy in 2008. Cavill credits the show with bolstering his career: "It’s done the most for me to date. [ . . . ] Now that there's an audience somewhere in America that’s aware of who I am, I have more sell-ability, because of The Tudors." Entertainment Weekly named him the "Most Dashing Duke" and praised his work on The Tudors for displaying "charm, depth and a killer bod".
Cavill had been set to star as Superman in director McG’s 2004 film Superman: Flyby. However, McG pulled out of the project and direction was taken over by director Bryan Singer, who recast Brandon Routh as the lead. Cavill was also the cause of a write-in effort from fans to see him cast as Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005). The role eventually went to Robert Pattinson. Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, was outspokenly in favor of Cavill playing the character of Edward Cullen in the Twilight film, calling him her "perfect Edward". By the time production of the film began, however, Cavill was too old to play the character, and again the role went to Robert Pattinson. In 2005, Cavill was a final contender for the role of James Bond in Casino Royale. The producers and director Martin Campbell were torn between him and Daniel Craig; reportedly Campbell supported Cavill but the producers preferred an older Bond. Ultimately Craig landed the role. In their December 2005 issue, Empire magazine dubbed Cavill the "Unluckiest Man in Hollywood" for this series of near-misses. Despite reports that he was a contender for Batman in Batman Begins, Cavill confirmed that he never auditioned for nor was offered the role.
In early 2008, Cavill became a model/spokesperson for Dunhill fragrances. The television ad featured a suited-up Cavill walking through the Union Jack flag, before mounting a helicopter. A second television ad featured Cavill driving a car through a deserted London at night, and meeting with a young woman. He starred in director Joel Schumacher's horror film Blood Creek (2008) and in 2009 he had a minor role in Woody Allen’s comedy film Whatever Works.
Cavill played the lead role of Theseus in Tarsem Singh's mythological, big-budget special effects film Immortals, released November 11, 2011. In 2012, Cavill will star alongside Bruce Willis in The Cold Light of Day. On January 30, 2011, it was announced that Cavill had been cast in the role of Clark Kent/Superman in director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel. Snyder called Cavill "the perfect choice to don the cape and S shield." Entertainment media applauded Henry Cavill on his road to success.
On 3 May 2011, Cavill got engaged to his girlfriend, showjumper Ellen Whitaker.