“Those red eyes, I’m sure they look right through me, like I am nothing more than a nuisance. But when I see you? I see something no man can ever be. I see the end. The end of our potential. The end of our achievements. The end of our dreams. You are my nightmare.” — Lex Luthor to Superman
It has been nearly a year since I last fan-cast a DC character, so I’m gonna get one in before this year is out. I decided on Luthor when I read about the casting of Jon Cryer (5’9″,b.1965) in the role for the “Supergirl” series. Jon Cryer? Really?
I mean, I know he usually appears bald these days, and there’s the irony (or, circularity?) of his having played Luthor’s nephew, Lenny, in Superman IV (1987). But, he just doesn’t seem to fit the part to me, either physically or in acting strengths (his being comedy). Plus, it was already established in the series that Lex is only, say, 5-10 years older than his adoptive sister, Lena, played by Katie McGrath (b.1983). So, that doesn’t really work without some time-travel or accelerated aging or something like that thrown into the mix. Well,… whatever. If the powers-that-be want a 50-something Lex Luthor, I figure I can find some better candidates….
For those who need a brief refresher on the comics character, Alexander ‘Lex’ Luthor grew up quite poor. A nasty but brilliant young man, he arranged for the deaths of his parents and used the large life insurance payout to fund his company, LexCorp. His genius in business and the sciences, along with a lack of scruples, soon resulted in a wide-ranging business empire. (A later retcon has the Luthor family intertwined with the history of Metropolis, before they lost their wealth, which Lex eventually rebuilt. In his youth, a period spent in Smallville resulted in his meeting Clark Kent and friends.) Luthor is both respected and feared at the highest levels of business and government, where his reputation, money, and accomplishments have made him a powerful force to be reckoned with. At the same time, he has managed to maintain a (mostly) positive public image, due in large part to various philanthropic endeavors. He was even elected President of the United States a few years ago.
Make no mistake, though: Lex Luthor is one of the most dangerous supervillains in the DC universe. He has been diagnosed insane at least once. Whether technically crazy or not, he is a ruthless and amoral man with extensive resources, influence, and drive. He is not above committing murder, either personally or (more often) by proxy, though any evidence tracing back to him always seems to be erased or is too insubstantial to act on. Other charges against him seem to go away via legal technicalities or disappearing evidence (or witness). He is a master manipulator and will use whatever means necessary, legal or otherwise, to accomplish his goals. This includes fraud, theft, bribery, blackmail, torture, unethical (and often involuntary) human experimentation, framing people for crimes they didn’t commit (e.g., Bruce Wayne for the murder of Vesper Fairchild), etc.
Luthor seems equally comfortable working from an office or a secret lab or lair, and he occasionally trades in his 3-piece suit for a suit of armor and high-tech weaponry. There have also been times when he gained superpowers of his own. He either works alone (plus a few interchangeable lackeys) OR via superpowered and/or specially-equipped contractors OR even in league with other supervillains (e.g., Injustice Gang). Over the years, he has clashed with many different superheroes and costumed adventurers, as well as the media (unless he owns them), governmental agencies, and other corporations (e.g., Wayne Enterprises). But, his primary foe is, of course, Superman. He has vowed to destroy Superman multiple times over the years and nearly succeeded more than once. Indeed, ever since Superman arrived on the scene and was revealed to be from another planet, Luthor has loathed the idea that a superpowered extraterrestrial would be idolized and considered a hero of the people.
Luthor is not the type to form longstanding friendships or relationships. (Witness his multiple failed marriages.) Oddly enough, though, he has for years maintained a deep affection for Lois Lane, despite her often publicly questioning his motives, even exposing his machinations, in her news articles. She has spurned his romantic overtures and has worked with Superman (and other heroes) to foil Luthor’s plots on many occasions. The only other people Luthor seems to have truly cared for are his sister, Lena, and his bodyguard/enforcer, Mercy Graves. Beyond that, while Luthor generally maintains a calm and calculating demeanor, he has been known to lose his temper, especially when frustrated by Superman or in his plans to discredit and destroy Superman. He can be malicious, vindictive, and cruel. Yet, in his mind, he is the real hero, as he tries to free mankind from the threat of Superman and his ilk — no matter the cost.
Lex originally had red hair, until an accident caused him to permanently lose his hair altogether. (There are different iterations of the story, but he usually somehow blames Superboy/Superman for it.) He does, however, have either red or black eyebrows. Some versions of Luthor have him with a bit of a paunch, even rotund. Most often, however, he is physically fit, ranging from lean to quite muscular. (And that’s not counting when he has been artificially enhanced.) DC’s wiki lists him as 6’2″ and over 200 lbs. For my purposes, I’m going to look in the 6′ to 6’4″ height range and, as indicated earlier, an age somewhere in the 50s.
Shall we begin?
I considered Michael Bailey Smith (6’4″,b.1957) for a burly and slightly taller version of Luthor. But, he’s too old now, and I’m not sure he’d be believable as a brilliant scientist and/or businessman. While watching Season 3 of “Daredevil”, it occurred to me that Vincent D’Onofrio (6’3.5″,b.1959) would be good as the older and heavier version of Luthor from several years ago. James Spader (5’10”,b.1960) might be an interesting choice, but he’s too short, almost too old, and ultimately I decided was not quite right for the part. Bryan Cranston (5’10.5″,b.1956) could be great, too, but again: too short, too old. The first guy I ever thought of for the Luthor role was Mark Strong (6’2″,b.1963), born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia. He’s the right age and build, often bald, and can play brilliant and menacing characters. But, he has already played two big DC villains — ‘Sinestro’ in Green Lantern and ‘Dr. Sivana’ in the upcoming Shazam!. So, while I’m sure he’d be great, I decided to choose some lesser-knowns for my final three.
Well, OK, Arnold Vosloo (6’2″, b.1962) isn’t exactly a “lesser-known” actor. I first remember him from Van Damme’s Hard Target and the two Darkman sequels (replacing Liam Neeson in the lead). Of course, Vosloo has been in many genre films and TV series in the more than two decades since: e.g., The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, “Veritas: The Quest”, “24”, “Chuck”, two G.I. Joe movies, “NCIS”, “Bones”, “Grimm”, “Bosch”, et al. He has also voiced ‘Black Adam’ and other DC characters in animated productions. He’s the right age and height, and he can definitely play brilliant, driven, and menacing characters. I think he could be quite good as Lex Luthor.
Try as I might, I could not uncover a height or birthdate for Richard Zeman (?,b.?). He looks to me to be in the desired age-range, though, and a picture of him standing next to Paul Walker (6’2″) makes me think Zeman is roughly 6′ tall. He has had roles in genre productions since the 1980s, including Scanners II: The New Order, Warriors, “TekWar”, The Bone Collector, The Score, Rollerball, “Psych”, two “Stargate” shows, Brick Mansions, “The Flash”, et al. It may have been that last one that recently brought him to my attention, in fact. I think he’s got a great look, a strong build, and could present a formidable archenemy for the Man of Steel.
For a somewhat different look, consider stuntman/actor Simon Northwood (6’2.5″,b.1968). Northwood has a long resume of genre work — some speaking parts, some not; some human characters, some not. A few acting credits include “The Dresden Files”, Outlander, “Nikita”, “Alphas”, “XIII: The Series”, “Lost Girl”, “Reign”, “Star Trek: Discovery”, and the upcoming Code 8 and Shazam! films. He has a fairly muscular build, and the fact he can do his own stunts would be another plus. As long as his voice isn’t high or weird-sounding, this guy might be a fantastic choice for the well-dressed, super-rich, xenophobic megalomaniac we all know as Lex Luthor.
Interesting choices, eh? Some day, I’ll have to do another post fan-casting for a 30-something Luthor. I know I can find someone better than that Eisenberg fella from the current movies. (What a disappointment!) L8r…
P.S. Before going to press, I saw a few pics of Billy Zane (6’0.5″,b.1966) and thought maybe he should be in the running, too. Yes? No?
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.