Antje Traue

“Growing up in eastern Germany, I knew of Superman, but he didn’t resonate emotionally with me,” admits 32-year-old Antje Traue, who appears in this summer’s blockbuster Man of Steel, director Zack Snyder’s revision of the comic book prototype, starring Henry Cavill in the cape and tights (see story, this issue). “I think of Superman as the ultimate vanilla hero,” she says. “He’s this perfect refugee, this perfect immigrant from another planet who embodies the American dream. But where is his drama? Where is his conflict?” Traue plays the steely villainess Faora—a new interpretation of Ursa, the equally steely villainess from Superman II (1980)—who arrives on Earth from Superman’s home planet, Krypton, as second-in-command to the evil mastermind General Zod, played by Michael Shannon. But Snyder’s version of the ultimate, idealized superhero isn’t as bright and optimistic as previous cinematic incarnations. A moodier, Dark Knight-esque approach imbues the film. “That’s what Zack wanted,” says Traue, who got her start at age 16, dancing, singing, and rapping onstage in a touring Munich hip-hop opera before relocating to Berlin to pursue a film career. “It’s more about Superman as a real character, as a man, and that, of course, includes more darkness than he’s ever had before.” Traue’s job in Man of Steel is to seem eerily unmoved standing by Shannon in all of his signature dramatic intensity. “That was a challenge for me—to take everything out of Faora,” Traue says. “But she is an engineered warrior. She enjoys pain and blood. That’s what she is made for. Violence is her sensuality.” Traue has risen to the challenge of action and adventure before: in the 2009 space thriller Pandorum; the 2011 drama 5 Days of War; and the upcoming spooktacular The Seventh Son (as Julianne Moore’s right-hand witch, Bony Lizzie)—but never to the fantastic extremes of Man of Steel. “The craziest thing is to pretend to fly, to just stand there and do nothing but this,” she says, throwing her arms back and lifting her chin. “That’s all you do, and the computer takes care of the rest. But you have to give the impression that you’re really taking off.”