Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

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Jesse Eisenberg Aziz Ansari Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

It’s important to point out that while many now view Jesse Eisenberg as  an indie-movie artisan, it wasn’t long ago that he was referred to in the same breath as Michael Cera, pigeon-holed into playing lovable, charmingly awkward dorks. But when David Fincher – the mind behind the likes of Fight Club, Se7en, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – selected the quirky, insecure comedic actor to play the cold, alienated star of his Social Network, the result was a performance that few had trouble accepting.

He may have moved out of the spotlight with his recent work, but starring in a broad comedy like 30 Minutes or Less or Zombieland is a feat often taken for granted by causal movie audiences. The ability to draw laughs with his mile-a-minute dialogue and nervous neuroses is clearly one of his strengths, but acting alongside the likes of Aziz Ansari, Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone without ever standing out is no coincidence.

Nor is it a knack for being ‘just good enough’ that made him seem to fit right alongside Harrelson (again), Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in Now You See Me. Granted, the film had its shortcomings, but Eisenberg’s cocky street magician is rarely cited as one.

Jesse Eisenberg in Zombieland Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

As Marvel’s own ‘godfather’ of comic book movies, Joss Whedon, has explained that he’s always inclined to hire comedic actors for serious parts since “comedy is the harder one.” It’s clear Marvel has agreed, casting the likes of Chris Evans, Chris Pratt and Paul Rudd to play some of their biggest heroes. Screen presence is screen presence, so it’s up to the writers and director to determine whether the actor is being funny or not.

Fans are quick to imagine an actor’s most familiar role when passing judgement on their suitability for their next, but that is as flawed an approach to casting as one can imagine. At this point, Eisenberg has worked with some of the industry’s most respected and discriminating talents both in front of and behind the lens.

We’d wager that those who claim Eisenberg is a one-trick pony, playing the same role over and over are likely to also claim that Ben Affleck’s skill in acting, writing or directing is similarly suspect – something that critics, mass audiences and award committees have all disagreed with.


It’s Something New

bryan singer kevin spacey brandon routh superman returns set Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

Before rumors of Lex Luthor casting began, and fans everywhere named their picks based (consciously or not) on an actor’s baldness, the question arose: why does he have to be bald? The character has sported hair in the comics, in movies, and on television, proving that a bald head wasn’t a prerequisite for a faithful version, and surely in Snyder’s universe – occupied by an African-American Perry White, Jenny Olsen, and a red-haired Lois Lane – appearances matter much less than the, you know, acting.

If nothing else, one thing should make fans happy: Zack Snyder is looking to give audiences something they’ve never seen. Which would be more underwhelming? To hear that Snyder was casting a young, unconventional actor to play what is clearly a different approach to the role, or that he had picked yet another middle-aged, bald-headed actor used to playing villains?

Tradition is valuable, of course – but fans of the conventional portrayal of Lex Luthor in live-action already have Hackman and Spacey’s versions to elate them. Should fans of the actual groundbreaking comics that sought to make a modern Lex be completely overlooked for the sake of doing something that’s already been done?

Lex Luthor Character Batman Superman Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

Michael Rosenbaum’s time in the role on the WB’s Smallville started to move Luthor towards the somewhat sympathetic, misunderstood figure the comics have begun to adopt. But to see a Superman film that takes its heroes and villains seriously, giving each time to develop so they can represent a moral conflict, not just a physical threat, would surely benefit from a fresh take on the character of Lex Luthor.

There’s a chance Snyder and Goyer may decide to break with the trend seen in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and offer a traditional, unsurprising treatment of Superman’s most famous foe. But if nothing else, it’s just easy to ask an audience to hate an arrogant, wealthy businessman. We’re all for interesting, provided those leading the film have a clear picture of what they’re after. And they certainly seem to.


Denzel Washington as Lex Luthor Justice League United Nations 570x294 Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor: Why It Could Work

It’s still too early to tell whether Esienberg’s casting will be a stroke of genius, and a new approach to an antagonist who’s never really made an audience question Superman’s moral compass, or if his previous roles are his most successful for a reason. But as our argument shows, anyone who believes that this Oscar-nominated actor’s casting is somehow a sign of trouble may want to re-examine the facts on which they’re basing their fears.

Be sure to leave your thoughts on our case in the comments. We’ll keep you up to date when the studio begins releasing more information.


Man of Steel 2/Batman vs. Superman hits theaters May 6, 2016.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

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  1. You know something, I’m betting most of you never read the comics, that’s why you could care less. I’ll bet if some white guy played Shaft, people would go apes#*t!

  2. While at first I was really taken aback and thought “what the heck were they thinking?”, after reading this article I’m OK with the decision, if they can pull it off well. Also accepting Affleck as Batman, but I still can’t fathom Gadot being good as WW. Haha, I guess 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

    • This movie will be pure s%*t

      • well, yeah. what did you expect from pg-13 movies that are created to cash in on every age level?

  3. “He’ll be a more believable character” right cause their tons of billionare twenty year olds

    • …as opposed to there being a lot of extremely evil business who fight aliens?

      Not to mention that Jesse is in his 30′s, same age as Kal in this…

    • Never heard of Mark Zuckerberg I take it?

  4. It’s funny, when I hear the name Jessie Eisenberg being in a Superman movie I think of Jimmy Olson. Zack Snyder thinks of Lex Luthor. His casting was great in Watchmen and 300. Was he drunk when he made these decisions?

    This clearly is what will happen will you rush a project. Mistake after mistake waiting to happen. And yes, I admit that maybe with an outstanding script, the movie could be a hit, but the fact that they made Luthor twenty five with hair, and gave us a Wonder Woman that can’t act, and considered having WW come from Krypton???

    I can’t believe there are still people out there insisting this movie might be okay.

    • How can you say that this project was rushed? If anything it has been dragging its feet since day one. The people who insist that this movie could be okay are trying to be optimistic in the face of the constant negativity that is thrown out at every turn Warner/DC takes. Could there have been better casting? Possibly, but if we don’t know the story that the movie is telling then we can’t say this actor would have been a better Lex or this guy should have been Batman with 100% certainty.

    • Dude, #1 Eisenberg is 30, the same age as Cavill. #2The WW from Krypton stuff is not something that was ever considered. It originated with the editor of Batman on Film who offered it up as a mere thought of his own, not based on anything he knew. As for WW herself, Gadot hasn’t been in enough films to know whether or not she can act. So the jury is out there. #3 We have no idea whether or not this version of Luthor will have hair or not.

      Pass a real judgement when you actually see something on screen.

      • For the record? Eisenberg WILL keep his hair.

        And if the product isn’t rushed? Why are so many superheroes suddenly appearing in part 2? Why not make a solo WW movie before squeezing her into a Man of Steel sequel?

        I know many have been waiting for this movie impatiently. I’m one of them. However, I’m also realistic. I’m not getting my hopes up only to have them shot down by the time the end credits begin to roll.

        • I’m assuming Wonder Woman will be in the movie because the story calls for it not just because they could. Also the news about Wonder Woman being in the film was released in 2013. That’s 2 years before the original release date. I don’t see how that qualifies as suddenly appearing. The reason for not doing a Wonder Woman solo movie is that it is too big of a risk. DC/WB is trying to begin a whole new universe and are not able to take that risk right now. They need to make money off their bankable stars (Batman & Superman) before they can take that risk.

          • Point taken. However, DC has themselves to blame. They depend on Superman and Batman way too much. I still say they should have a solo WW movie first.

            I think I speak for many, when I say we are fed up with those two characters and would like to see someone new. We’ve already seen six Superman films and eight Batman films. Isn’t that enough?

            Green Lantern was a refreshing change of pace. True the movie didn’t do well, but that’s what happens when you cast wrong. And I still have many doubts about the casting for this movie as well.

            Aside from the casting, DC has so many fascinating characters but never use them. I would love to see a Flash, Aquaman, or even a movie about Vigilante from the 80′s. Hell, a Spectre movie could be insane! Especially with the effects we can do now!

            • I understand that you want a Wonder Woman solo movie first, but with all the failure to get the character a movie in the past it just seems like too big of a risk without first introducing the character in Man of Steel 2.

              I know that we’ve seen a lot of Superman and Batman movies but in this cinematic universe there is only one Superman movie that exist. While I would like to see new heroes (Nightwing, Aquaman, or another Green Lantern) I know that we can’t until they use their money making heroes.

              Green Lantern’s problems went past just the casting. There was a lot wrong with that movie.

              I too want to see some different DC characters on the big screen, but that won’t happen if they can’t get their cinematic universe off the ground and that starts with Batman & Superman.

              • True, GL had several things wrong with it. And maybe having a cameo in MOS 2 may be the only solution, but there’s no denying there’s a huge demand to see her on the big screen. Which you think DC would find encouraging. There’s even a fan made trailer that I think is awesome.

                I think if DC is going to go down that road, they should do what Marvel did. Just give us a little glimpse and then the solo film.

                Thor wasn’t too popular among Super Heroes and after the Captain America flop in 1990 and the Hulk from 2003, I’m sure Marvel was afraid to take a risk as well.

                Hopefully, DC will gradually introduce new characters instead of jamming them together in one or two movies.

                In fact, maybe a well known character isn’t the answer. Perhaps DC should make a movie with a hero we’re unfamiliar with. (And yes, I remember Jonah Hex)lol

                Either way, it’s hard to predict the outcome. But with a good script and good casting, I believe a movie could be a hit regardless which hero it’s about.

                Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

            • A Spectre movie would be killer!

  5. They’re squeezing her in cause they got no faith in the character

  6. Whichever true or rumor, this movie will be a waste of time and money. Ours and theirs!

  7. If appearances do not matter, then why does the height of the male actor matter ?

  8. Cause they’re not meant to be eye candy for the public.

  9. I
    h a v e n o p e n i s

  10. This shall indeed be interesting to watch,
    whether its a flop or a complete success.

  11. Am I the only who thinks Jesse Eiseberng’actions and actitudes as Mark Zuckenberg in the “Social Network were like thing than Lex Luthor could do?…. LOL.

    • That’s what I first thought of when I learned of Eisenberg’s casting. :)

  12. Okay i really dont mind them trying something new… but i have to be Honest i love the Batfleck idea and i know hell be great i love Cavils Sup and i think even though gal gadot isnt fitting as the role of wonderwomand ill give it a try because i really loved her in the FFF so thats that but i just cant take Eisenberg seriously i dont like his acting and never liked any of his movies, so i know hell never make a great Luthor and even if in the big run hell make it ill still not like it sry but thats my opinion i dont like eisenberg and think hell be a bad luthor….

  13. I personally think he will be perfect! I think he can pretty much devour any role given to him and shine. I particularly love this article explaining the reasons that I think are spot on! And loving these characters through the years when only comics were read and no movies were made. I embrace the ability to take a character, change it but give it the depth that is needed to reflect the essence of what it should portray. Perfect example…Heath Ledger on the Joker! An amazing dark and psychotic portrayal of a villain that outshine the “Good’guy”/Hero. This is the type of acting ability and creativity I am hoping to see in his portrayal and I can’t wait!!

  14. Having Jesse portray Lex is probably the worst idea I have ever heard. Lex is pure evil and totally BALD!!!! I don’t care what they say ….shave his damn head!! This really bothers me!! I’ve always been a fan of the villians and for Zach Snider to totally mess up a movie that has such great potential such as this one, it really bothers me. Do it right Zach!!!

  15. Eeh… I’m not too concerned about Jesse’s acting when it come to a villain like Lex, but his physical stature just doesn’t seem to fit him. That’s not to say I haven’t been paying attention, whenever I see an actor portraying him in live action they have Lexes’ character favoring the spindally chip-on-shoulder type super villain. With this casting choice I can only surmise the plan is to push this to an extreme, while giving Lex a more believable character. I have nothing against the kind of character development detailed in this article, but just once I’d like to see an actor play Lex who looks as though he’s also bettered himself physically, not just mentally. It’s something I’ve liked about this villain when portrayed in the animations and many of the comics.

    • I should add that, so far, I thought Michael Rosenbaum’s portrayal was probably the closest live action example to the Lex that I’d want to see on the big screen, in terms of physique and psychological motivation.

  16. This casting feels like an SNL skit instead of a serious movie.

    • All in the name of promoting this era’s obsession with the model effeminate male while under the guise of “challenging the status quo”. If this movie’s production wasn’t so far along, it would not surprise me if a casting reshuffle landed Andrew Garfield in line to portray Batman… then Zack can have himself a facebook party… while letting them ‘shtick’ it to everything DC stood for.

      • @joshington You sound completely idiotic

        • Opinionated, maybe; but my reasoning is sound. :D

    • this movie is going to kick so much ass you’ll probably go blind

      • I certainly hope so… except for the blind part. xD I’m not too worried about the film in general, just the actors we’ll likely be stuck with for 3 or 4 consecutive films. Another thing that peeves me is Zach Snyder likely knows that everyone’s been dying to see Superman and Batman in the same film for ages, so he could cast Shia Labeouf as Supe’s and everyone would still flock to it.

  17. Luthor was a real man. This wimpy weenie stutterer doesn’t even conform to any of Luthor’s qualities. Doesn’t even have the physique!

  18. great another untalented FUGLY jewish person getting a choice role and will SUCK at it

    • Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julian Morris, Adam Brody, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Margarita Levieva, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Skylar Astin, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Eric Balfour, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy.

      Andrew Garfield is Jewish, too (though I don’t know if both of his parents are).

      Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Sofia Black D’Elia, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable, Ryan Potter.

      Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman.

      Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised.

      Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

  19. I mean but some of you sound exactly how people sounded when they found out Heath Ledger would play the Joker and look how that turned out, RIP