When it comes Superman's most popular enemies, the character at the top of most people's list is Lex Luthor. Even though he has no superpowers to speak of, Luthor can attack the Man of Steel using his deep pockets and cold, calculated intelligence. Luthor will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, even if he is forced to side with the same DC heroes he's normally in opposition with.
Many different actors have played the role of Lex Luthor on the large and small screen, but the latest to lend his voice to the iconic character is Rainn Wilson (The Office) in The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen animated movies. Luthor recognizes Superman's death in the first film leaves a void that needs filling, which leads to his creation of Superboy.
CBR spoke to Wilson regarding his depiction of Lex Luthor, how he fits in the modern day and comparisons to Tony Stark, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
CBR: After you found out you'd be voicing the iconic Superman nemesis Lex Luthor in The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen, what type of research did you do to prep for the part? Did it involve reading any of the comics or rewatching other Luthor adaptations on TV or film?
Rainn Wilson: I really felt like there’s already so much Luthor out there. He’s been voiced in the animated series by like 10 other actors, and he’s been played on screen by another five or six actors. I just went for the script they were writing and did a deep dive on what these stories were, where Lex was in the arc of the DC Universe at this time and the type of Lex we’re dealing with. And really work with the team on these films about what they needed from the character and try to make it my own.
I didn’t want to listen to a bunch of different Lex’s, I didn’t want to watch a bunch of different performances. Of course, I’ll always be influenced by the great Gene Hackman in his performance. It was about having fun bringing him to life and making it my voice.
Something I noticed is that your depiction of Lex Luthor is a fairly classic version of the character -- it skirts the line of a truly nefarious villain and bottom-line businessman, but he also wants to defend the world while protecting his own investments. Which part of Luthor's personality do you find the most appealing to bring to life?
You brought up all these different aspects of Lex that are important. There are episodes where he’s a straight-up supervillain and he’s created some monstrosity in his plan to destroy Metropolis and Superman. There are instances where he works with the Justice League, works with Lois Lane and Superman. There are ones where it focuses on his business interests.
So that’s the interesting thing with Lex. You don’t know which Lex you’re going to get when you watch a movie. You don’t know if you’re going to get evil Lex or begrudging, collaborator Lex. I really like when he’s interacting with a lot of people like Lois, and you get to see these other sides of him. He’s perhaps the most brilliant mind on the planet.
I would love to see a DC/Marvel crossover with Tony Stark vs. Lex Luthor. Lex is Tony Stark without the need for the TV cameras and without the Iron Man suit. He wouldn’t want to make an Iron Man suit because he wouldn’t want to sweat inside it.