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The Month Ahead: The Interview

"Man of Steel" co-star Christopher Meloni talks helicopters, action figures and the angst of superheroes

Christopher Meloni as Col. Hardy in "Man of Steel"

Christopher Meloni as Col. Hardy in “Man of Steel”

IN HIS BEST-KNOWN ROLES, Christopher Meloni has played a sociopathic convict, a call-the-shots cop and a vampire chairman. In real life, he’s been a bouncer, construction worker, personal trainer and high school quarterback—and did we mention he’s a licensed pilot? Clearly, the 52-year-old actor possesses the alpha-male qualities required to portray military commander (and superhero skeptic) Colonel Hardy in Man of Steel, a reboot of the Superman tale from Watchmen director Zack Snyder.

As you might expect, Meloni’s favorite parts of filming were the weapons training and flight instruction he received. He got to fly a helicopter at 70 knots over cornfields outside Chicago and sit in the cockpit of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport plane. “I had my very own certified flight instructor,” he says. “But these things are way outside the budget of the film, you know. I was flipping far too many buttons.”

Like many recent superhero movies, Man of Steel is a darker, more complex take on the original tale. Created by the people behind the “Dark Knight” trilogy, it depicts a Superman who spends as much time grappling with inner demons as with actual baddies.

“I just thought it was a brilliant concept, how they humanized him,” Meloni says. “Adolescent boys see Superman and think, ‘It would be so awesome to be him. Then I wouldn’t have any problems. I’d be indestructible. Everyone would like me and everyone would need me.’ I thought it was an amazing journey to see that Superman has his problems too.”

Regardless of the fact that we can now place self-doubt alongside Kryptonite as one of Superman’s weak spots, the hero still manages to save the day—good news for the people of Earth, but also for the makers of the film’s associated action figures. When asked if he’d like to be an action figure one day, Meloni laughs. “Helicopter not included.” JUNE 14

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A brief survey of Christopher Meloni’s bruiser alter egos

Chris Keller, “Oz”: A charismatic felon and murderer, Keller is adept at social manipulation. He gets involved in prison politics, with devastating results for his friends and romantic partners. In general, he’s big on revenge.

Roman Zimojic, “True Blood”: Also known as “The Guardian,” Roman has been alive for thousands of years and is now the chairman of a vampire law organization dubbed The Authority. He’s prone to shouting and speechifying, and he wears a mean suit.

Det. Elliot Stabler, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”: Stabler’s a family man and a generally nice guy, but he can be threatening when he needs to be. “I put on about 15 pounds for that role,” Meloni says. “I would thin out and I would think I just didn’t feel like him, you know? He’s a bigger guy. He’s big.”

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MOVIES Much Ado About Nothing, serving up Shakespeare à la Joss Whedon (The Avengers) // White House Down, featuring more pec flexing from Channing Tatum 
TV The return of Showtime’s lovable-serial-murderer hit, “Dexter”  
BOOKS Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove, penned by Jimmy Fallon’s bandleader and all-around musical brainbox, Questlove // Bad Monkey, the latest tale from zany Florida crime novelist Carl Hiaasen 
ART “Nick Cave: Sojourn” at the Denver Art Museum, showcasing roughly 40 new works by the avant-garde icon

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