Why Warner Bros.' Superman-Batman Movie Cast a Young Lex Luthor
Jesse Eisenberg landed the role of the iconic villain; the studio also approached Joaquin Phoenix and "Girls" actor Adam Driver.
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Warner Bros. toyed with luring a veteran to tackle the role of Lex Luthor in its untitled Superman-Batman film, but the studio ultimately stuck to a next-gen mandate. In fact, newly anointed Lex Jesse Eisenberg (CAA, Felker Toczek) was not the only 30-year-old courted for the role: A source says Girls' Adam Driver was approached to play Superman's nemesis but had a conflict, and Joaquin Phoenix passed.
The new Lex will skew much younger than Superman Returns' Kevin Spacey (46 at the time) and Superman's Gene Hackman (48) but will be more in line with several recent graphic-novel and TV incarnations, in which he is a childhood friend of the young Man of Steel. With 30-year-old Henry Cavill returning as Superman in the May 2016 release, the actors' ages align. By contrast, Bryan Cranston, whose name emerged last summer as Warners' prototype for the bald nemesis, is 27 years older than Cavill.
However, multiple sources say Cranston never was approached for the role, nor was 57-year-old Tom Hanks, whose name had been discussed internally. Sources say that the studio and director Zack Snyder aren't casting a wide net with plenty of auditions to fill roles but are targeting actors from a narrow shortlist of those they want. "Zack doesn't see a lot of people," said one person with knowledge of the process.
In a Jan. 31 statement about the casting of Eisenberg and Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Snyder promised the young actor will take the character "in some new and unexpected directions." The studio is so tight-lipped about what that might mean, it declined to confirm whether The Social Network Oscar nominee will shave his curly mop. After all, in his earliest DC Comics appearances, Lex is shown with a full head of red hair.