Warner Bros. continued their trend of mind-roastingly unexpected casting choices for their Man of Steel sequel Batman vs. Superman with the recent announcement that Jesse Eisenberg and Jeremy Irons had joined the cast as Superman's traditional nemesis Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne/Batman's loyal valet Alfred, respectively.
Following the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman and Fast & Furious 6 star Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (who will be getting her own solo movie as well), bucking all the reports which suggested someone like Bryan Cranston or Denzel Washington would be cast as Luthor sent the Internet back into meltdown position for a bit. We think casting Eisenberg can work, due to several factors which include the Oscar-nominated actor's talent and the fresh direction the filmmakers are apparently attempting to take the character.
According to a new report by THR, a new approach to the classic villain was director Zack Snyder and the studio's plan from day one. After discussing the idea of going with an older actor - in the tradition of Gene Hackman as Luthor from the original Superman movies with Christopher Reeve and then Kevin Spacey as Lex in Superman Returns - Warner Bros. "ultimately stuck to a next-gen mandate" and cast Eisenberg.
Somewhat surprisingly, it appears that Eisenberg was not the only actor of his rough age group considered for the role. Girls star Adam Driver - thought to have been offered the role of Dick Grayson/Nightwing - was approached for the part but "had conflicts" with (presumably) the shooting schedule of the HBO series, but he also has several movies in his pipeline. This report also apparently confirms that Her star Joaquin Phoenix was offered the role of Luthor, but passed.
For months, the popular choice to play Lex was Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston (remember that fake Batman vs. Superman trailer?) - seemingly because he had become famous for playing an evil bald man. In fact, it turns out that when Cranston denied any involvement whatsoever, he was telling the truth. Evidently:
...multiple sources say Cranston never was approached for the role, nor was 57-year-old Tom Hanks, whose name had been discussed internally.
Tom Hanks? Well, he played wonderfully against type as a hit man for the Irish mob in Road to Perdition, and that casting news would have melted some servers... but it also is in line with an older Luthor, rather than place him as a contemporary to 30-year-old Henry Cavill. We may never know exactly who was considered, but it seems that Zack Snyder does not exactly hold open auditions. According to a source close to the production: "Zack doesn't see a lot of people."
The current speculation is that Eisenberg's Lex Luthor could be similar to his role as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: a rather chilly, distant genius possessed of a ruthless intellect and relentless drive, but whose ego requires a certain level of personal recognition (LexCorp is everywhere). The main point to all this - and the reason we're intrigued about this decision - is that we'll definitely be getting something new.
Speaking of something new - Ben Affleck's Batman will certainly be an entirely rethought and redesigned take on the character. Fans are itching to see - and either bemoan or approve - the choices Zack Snyder and company have made when it comes to how Bats will be utilized within this newly established DC Cinematic Universe. First and foremost for many: what about the Batsuit?
Despite a slew of rumors and questions (Two costumes in Batman vs. Superman? Has the redesigned suit's inspiration been confirmed? What exactly was Kevin Smith gushing about?), there are only a handful of people who actually know what Batman's new look will be. Besides Affleck, Snyder, the studio and the film's creative team, Affleck's wife Jennifer Garner approves, and now so does Affleck's longtime friend and collaborator Matt Damon.
In the video above, Damon confirms to MTV that he's now part of the inner circle who have seen our new Batman. According to Damon:
"I've seen a picture, I have seen a picture. It's excellent. And I've talked to him about the story line, and it's great. Look, I've known him for thirty-something years. I'd be the first guy being like, 'Buddy, what are you doing?' But I think the movie is going to be great."
And when asked if Affleck is making the right call, Damon responds: "Yeah, definitely."
Whether or not this news will convert fans who remain skeptical (or downright hostile) about this incredibly ambitious sequel's chances remain to be seen. The delay of the film's release to 2016 may have been disappointing (and a bit maddening), but from a creative standpoint, it can only benefit the final product. Judging from the positive reaction of everyone who has been let in on the story and design details, it will hopefully be worth the wait.
Batman Vs. Superman will be released on May 6, 2016.