One of the most unusual casting choices in comic book movies was Zack Synder’s decision to give the role of the cold, calculating and masterful Lex Luthor to Jesse Eisenberg, an actor who is mostly known for playing nervous, twitchy average Joes with confidence issues. But for the actor, the script of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was so compelling that he signed on for the movie without having read the full script, as he explained in a recent interview.
“Because it was so dense. There were references to things I’d never heard of, I was shocked. Because I’d never seen a superhero movie, because I live in a bubble or whatever, and so I thought it was just going to be people flying around for a hundred pages.”
Calling the script ‘Intellectually probing’, Jesse Eisenberg described the security around the script as being so tight that he was only allowed to read it for a short period before the document was deleted. But what little he was able to read convinced the actor that this movie was worth his time.
The result was Eisenberg coming on board as Lex Luthor for the newly formed DCEU. The interpretation of Luthor in those films was as a long-haired tech billionaire with a twitchy temperament and a grudge against Superman. This Luthor was strongly hinted to have been abused at the hands of his father, leading to his losing faith in a benevolent higher power.
Upon learning of the existence of Superman, Luthor was deeply suspicious of his true nature. He saw Superman’s defeat at the hands of a man, either Batman or himself, as definitive proof of man’s power over godlike beings. To this end, Luthor orchestrated a showdown between Batman and Superman by feeding each of the hero’s suspicions of the other.
Fans’ reaction to Eisenberg as Luthor was mixed. Many protested that the character came across as more a cross between Riddler and Joker than Luthor. This was based on the various cryptic remarks Luthor makes throughout the film to other characters, referencing Greek mythology, Christianity and American history in a deliberately obtuse manner.
Luthor reprised his role in Justice League, and it was strongly hinted that he was setting up the Legion of Doom, a team of supervillains from the comics. But with the dissolution of the DCEU, that movie never came to be. Now, there are rumors that Warner Bros. is looking to reboot the Superman franchise, making it likely that Eisenberg will no longer be playing the role of Luthor in DC movies.
For his part, Eisenberg has indicated that he feels no regret over the part he had to play in the DCEU, but also that he has moved on to other projects quite successfully. He reprised his role in Zombieland 2: Double Tap as Columbus earlier this year, and is currently promoting his latest features, the world war II drama Resistance, and sci-fi thriller Vivarium.