Jesse Eisenberg’s casting as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has long been a divisive issue for some fans. In previous films, the character has generally been portrayed by somewhat more matured actors such as Gene Hackman or Kevin Spacey. Eisenberg’s youthful look put some fans on edge. The role became even more divisive when the trailers revealed Luthor’s public persona to be a bit tongue-in-cheek in his mannerisms. But many have also defended Eisenberg’s casting, and a multitude of fans in both camps are intrigued to see just how the character will come across on the screen.
Director Zack Snyder and actor Jesse Eisenberg both sat down with Empire recently to discuss the character’s psychology, and the intensity he brings to the role. Eisenberg specifically noted that the character should come across as rather intense, with his own deeply unique psychology.
“It was written in a way I would say dovetails with my skills, it was written with a real psychological underpinning, it was written with a kind of humor that I knew I could do. And with a dramatic intensity that I enjoy.”
Of course, the fact that the role fits in with Eisenberg’s skills is actually a concern to some fans. After all, Eisenberg brought a pretty unique intensity to his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Some have worried that his more serious scenes as Lex Luthor might portray the villain in a similar light. This is something both Snyder and Eisenberg addressed with Empire. According to Snyder:
“Just from a pop-cultural viewpoint you can’t pretend the movie doesn’t exist. Because he has played Mark Zuckerberg, Jesse represents a very contemporary sort of business model. In the sort of post-dotcom world where fortunes can be made from your basement, it is not hard to image Jesse-as-Lex being as powerful as he is.”
Jesse Eisenberg also noted the Social Network concern, stating:
“If there are some surface similarities to another role, an audience will tend to see that. An actor won’t.”
He continued, however, to state that he does not personally consider Luthor and Zuckerberg to be overtly similar characters by any means.
“Lex feels like a totally new and unusual person.”
The biggest similarity to Zuckerberg will be Luthor’s superior intellect. But according to Jesse Eisenberg, this will be demonstrated in a slightly different and more foreboding fashion. According to him, Luthor is “full of rage” and a force to be reckoned with.
“He uses wordplay and very clever allusions to other stories and myths, but it never compromises what is scary about him… He is the guy who won’t sleep to get something done.”
In classic Luthor fashion, the thing keeping him awake and driven in Batman v Superman will be his obsession with the Son of Krypton. Jesse Eisenberg believes that this is one factor which gives Luthor great psychological depth, as his primary motivator is essentially fear.
“What I think, makes the story relevant is this questioning of the value of this kind of power in the real world. So my character, who has what we would think of as modern financial success, is threatened by this guy who has power in a supernatural way. Superman is an existential threat to my character.”
It definitely sounds as if Jesse Eisenberg gets to play Luthor as more than a two-dimensional comic book villain. And unless there’s a deleted Doomsday scene in The Social Network, any surface similarities to Zuckerberg should be nullified by Lex Luthor’s overall role in the film.
We’ll know for certain when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters on March 25. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.