It came as quite a shock to a lot of people when Jesse Eisenberg was cast as Lex Luthor in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but as soon as the announcement came down, I could easily see what Snyder saw in Eisenberg that would make him ideal for the role. He’s played a merciless guy before in The Social Network, and the idea of a younger, more tech-savvy Lex Luthor will separate this iteration of the character from any seen on the big screen before.
Eisenberg spoke with Total Film (via CBM) while promoting his new film Night Moves, and naturally the topic of Batman v Superman was brought up. As far as research goes, Eisenberg – who is not a comic book reader, which is fine – reportedly looked through a stack of comics to get a sense of the history of the character. That’s all well and good, but here’s the weird part – it seems as if Eisenberg also says he’d never seen any comic book movies at all before getting this part. That last claim I find a little hard to believe because of their dominance in the pop culture landscape over the past decade, but apparently it’s true. He says he watched “that one with Gene Hackman” in preparation for his role (which could be one of two Christopher Reeve Superman films), which seems like a weird and almost dismissive way to say that, but it appears that he’s genuinely interested in the project itself:
They asked me if I wanted to play the part before they sent me the script. I’m not sure how it worked, but it’s something I read with the understanding that I could do the role, If I…You know, they don’t just hand the scripts out. But I really liked it on its own terms. I would do it if it was for free and it was tiny.
Eisenberg spoke a little about working with Chris Terrio, the Argo screenwriter Ben Affleck brought in who – if early reports are to be believed – essentially saved the script:
There are some indications of how the character should behave based on the script, and then an actor makes it his or her own. I got to know one of the writers, Chris Terrio, and we were able to discuss things at length and figure out who this person is to create a real psychology behind what is, perhaps, in a comic book, a less than totally modern psychology. I can only say I’ve been asked to play an interesting role. A complicated, challenging person.
And when the question was poised if he realized he wouldn’t be able to walk down the street without being noticed after this film comes out, he responded:
I’ve been in things that have been popular before. To say, ‘I can’t do that which will appear in thousands of theaters on opening day, but I can do this which will appear in this amount of theaters…’ It’s arbitrary. I realize how popular comic-book movies are, and now, working on one, I realize why they’re popular – the story is really good, the dialogue is really good, the artistry behind every department is high, the acting is really good. So if they’re all put together with that level of quality…
Well, it seems like he’s found his entrance point into the character, and I’m hoping his Luthor will end up being a fresh, interesting take on the iconic villain. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters on March 25th, 2016.
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