Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's hunky British thespian Henry Cavill, who has just been announced as the latest actor to don Superman's iconic red cape and underwear-as-outerwear for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' upcoming 'Superman' reboot.

It's been five years since the Man of Steel last took flight in Bryan Singer's critically lauded box office disappointment, 'Superman Returns,' and this time, it's '300' director Zack Snyder calling the shots, with 'Dark Knight' director Christopher Nolan overseeing as producer. Although Brandon Routh was pretty much a carbon copy of former 'Superman' Christopher Reeve, it wasn't enough to make the movie a hit, so even though Cavill might not exactly look the part at first glance, we're not counting him out on a technicality.

But unless you're a fan of Showtime's raunchy historical drama 'The Tudors,' chances are you won't have a clue who Cavill is. Join us after the jump to learn all you'll need to know about this 'Super' star in the making.

• "Truth, Justice and the American Way?" -- Okay, we know that Superman is the quintessential American hero (sorry, Captain America, Superman's way more famous), so it might give some fans pause to learn that Henry Cavill is decidedly British.

Born in Jersey (the Channel Islands off the coast of Britain, not across the street from Snooki) Cavill has made a career out of playing posh, period characters, from Henry VIII's best friend, Charles Brandon, in 'The Tudors,' to roles in 'Stardust,' 'Tristan and Isolde' and 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. But casting British actors to play iconic American heroes is kind of in vogue right now, just ask Christian Bale, who has established himself as one of the most beloved versions of Batman thanks to Christopher Nolan's blockbuster reimagining of the character, and 'Social Network' star Andrew Garfield, who was recently cast in Sony's 'Spider-Man' reboot.

At the end of the day, producers cast a very wide net when it comes to casting such beloved characters, and being the right person for the part is dependent on far more than just your accent. Besides, as fans on Twitter have pointed out, it's no different from foreign actors portraying legendary British characters, like Russell Crowe in 'Robin Hood' and Robert Downey Jr. in 'Sherlock Holmes'.

Henry CavillSo Close, and Yet So Far -- According to Deadline, who broke the casting news, Cavill was long overdue for a franchise of his own. Before Bryan Singer jumped aboard 'Superman Returns,' directors McG and Brett Ratner were developing the reboot, and rumor has it that Cavill was one of their top choices for the Last Son of Krypton. He also auditioned for Nolan's 'Batman Begins,' but couldn't beat Bale, and was a reported contender for the role of James Bond that eventually went to Daniel Craig, since it was decided that Cavill was too young. Because of this, Empire Magazine dubbed Cavill "the most unlucky man in Hollywood" in 2005.

On the flip side of that coin, Cavill was allegedly Stephenie Meyer's first choice to play Edward Cullen in 'Twilight' too, but by the time the movie went into production, he was too old to play a 17-year-old convincingly. Talk about near misses. Now 27, Cavill seems to tick all the boxes for Warner Bros. and Legendary, and at 6'1", he at least has the height and physique to nicely fill out that spandex ...


Stage and Screen -- Although he's best known for his role as the womanizing Duke of Suffolk in 'The Tudors' (where his main claim to fame is that he gets naked, a lot), Cavill certainly has the acting chops to pull off a big screen turn. He first discovered his love of acting during his time at Stowe, a boarding school in Buckinghamshire, where he played Oberon in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and Sonny in 'Grease,' among other roles. Though his career seems to have been punctuated by more near misses than big hits up to this point, he scored lead parts in a number of lesser-known movies such as Joel Schumacher's 'Blood Creek' and Dennis Berry's 'Laguna,' which may be better left unseen. Plus, on a shallow note: He's hot. (Check out the fragrance ad he filmed for Dunhill if you need proof.)





Rising Star -- While 'Superman' is definitely the most high-profile name on his resume right now, Cavill may have been poised for a breakout hit even before today's announcement. The actor currently has two potential hits in preproduction: the action epic 'Immortals,' opposite Mickey Rourke and John Hurt, in which Cavill will play the hero Theseus as he battles the Titans of Greek mythology, and 'The Cold Light of Day,' with Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver, starring as a young American who uncovers a conspiracy while attempting to save his family, who were kidnapped during a vacation in Spain.

Earlier today, director Zack Snyder released this statement: "I also join Warner Bros., Legendary and the producers in saying how excited we are about the casting of Henry. He is the perfect choice to don the cape and S shield."

Whether audiences will embrace the dashing actor as arguably the most recognizable superhero in the world remains to be seen, but with Snyder's action credentials and Nolan's respected hands working behind the scenes, we can't help but feel cautiously optimistic about the news.

At the very least, Cavill has obviously been a frontrunner for the role for a very long time, and after so many disappointments and close calls, we think the poor guy's big break is long overdue. We're hoping his career takes off faster than a speeding bullet, how about you?

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA.