Jesse Eisenberg Says Lex Luthor is Not a ‘Silly, Villainous Character’

Unlike a lot of other actors playing a role in a comic book movie, who will get a condensed info packet from production with a few comic book pages in it so they can pretend to be an expert to appease fans, Jesse Eisenberg is honest: He doesn’t know from comic books. The actor doesn’t (and shouldn’t) see that as a handicap, and he has gone on record to MTV about the nature of fan expectations around his portrayal of Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

“The expectations that I have are never the same expectations that an audience has,” Eisenberg said. “I don’t have expectations for myself to adhere to a comic book character, but a lot of people are interested in how I would coincide with the comic book character. But it couldn’t be farther from my mind, because I’m just playing a role… It’s a really great character that’s written by this guy, Chris Terrio, he’s a phenomenal writer… He loves my character in the same way I love my character. He put a lot of work into it. It’s a great character, there’s an emotional core to the character. It’s not this silly, villainous character. This is a real depiction of a person who thinks these things. So the challenge is to make it seem real.”

As Eisenberg’s Luthor says in the trailer, “We know better now, don’t we? Devils don’t come from hell beneath us, no, they come from the sky.” That indicates the level of acrimony he has for Superman, which is understandable considering the mess the hero made in Man of Steel. We also know that this Luthor will be the post-John Byrne era white collar criminal one (not the sewer-dwelling Gene Hackman version) based on all those LexCorp Easter eggs in that previous film, and that he’ll be bald. Any further word on this new interpretation and the stakes involved will have to wait for the panel at San Diego Comic-Con International.

“No, that’s an entirely different thing,” Eisenberg says of Hackman’s portrayal of Luther from the 1978 Richard Donner film. “Also the tone of that movie is so different, that movie wouldn’t be made that way now. The way we expect movies to be now, which is for the best probably, we expect there to be some kind of psychological accuracy. That the person is coming from a place that’s probably diagnosable in some ways. This is not [a winking, knowing movie], this is a real depiction of a person who thinks these things.”

In January, the actor stated that he relished playing the character and would like to reprise it, saying “I would love to. It’s a great group and director, and the most ideal character to play.” With rumors that he’ll crop up in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad likely to be confirmed sooner than later, it’s a good bet that no matter what Eisenberg’s doing with the iconic arch villain he’s here to stay. 

Starring Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Jena Malone, Holly Hunter and Scoot McNairy, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters on March 25, 2016.