Given his work in Breaking Bad, fans are clamoring for Bryan Cranston to be cast as Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor in the sequel to Man Of Steel. He’s certainly a talented actor, and by all accounts the casting announcement is just a formality at this point – a publicity move where Warner Bros can release the news when Bryan Cranston talk will already be at an all-time high as the Breaking Bad series finale occurs. But is Cranston the best option? Sure, he’s bald and has shown that he can portray a villain. His credibility would certainly be a cornerstone of this cast and the other movies he’ll be involved with, given that the deal would be to play the role (whether as a principle or minor role] in several Justice League universe films.
I might argue that Cranston would make a better Commissioner Gordon than a Lex Luthor. The actor to take the Jim Gordon role would need to be on the level of Ben Affleck, have the ability to stand face to face with Batman and work alongside him, standing up to corruption while maintaining credibility of character despite showing flaws in both his personal relationships and his ability to fight crime without a masked vigilante. If there is one thing that Breaking Bad has shown us about Bryan Cranston above all else, it’s that he can portray a man who is well respected and even feared in one aspect of his life, and yet struggles to maintain personal relationships away from his day job. That, to me, describes Commissioner Gordon. Lex Luthor’s only vulnerability that he shows is his unending quest for more power and his obsession with the downfall of Superman.
But what of the other actors who could take the Billionaire villain’s role?
I’m not as heavily influenced as some might be in this decision by an actor having already given a performance with a clean-shaven head. Given that other people need to visualize the actors in this list as Lex Luthor, I’ve chosen men who have previously performed on-screen bald.
Enough of the build-up, here are my lists and reasoning:
Ix-Nay on the Former Lex Luthors
Kevin Spacey, Michael Rosenbaum and Gene Hackman, sorry, but there’s no need to confuse things by casting someone who has already had the role in another incarnation of the character. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t cast Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, nor Joseph Gordon-Levitt as any of the incarnations of Robin.
Too Old For The Sequels
Given that the actor in this role will need to stand across from various members of the Justice League over the course of the next decade or so, potentially behind a lectern making speeches as the President Of the United States, they can’t be too old. That wipes out some of the guys who could do great work in a one-shot opportunity. I wouldn’t go with Ben Kingsley (70), Jack Nicholson (76), Patrick Stewart (73) or Sean Connery (83).
Not “High-Profile” Enough
Whoever portrays Lex Luthor has to be capable of giving a great performance, but also needs to have a fair bit of credibility coming into the film. J.K. Simmons borders on being too old, but he’s less of a “leading man” type and more of a supporting cast member, which isn’t a good combination here. Ving Rhames, Billy Zane, Romany Malco and Jason Alexander aren’t high profile enough. I even like what I’ve seen from Mitch Pileggi (X-Files), and while he’s no stranger to DC Comics entities, I wouldn’t go that direction for such a huge role.
In truth, I’d really like to cast Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) in the role, but he also falls under the category of not having enough gravitas with his prior work – none of which I can name outside of his time as Hank Schrader. His co-star for a couple seasons on Breaking Bad, Jonathan Banks, falls into a similar category, though I’d say Banks is also too old.
I liked Michael Chiklis in The Shield and The Commish, but to put him in such an iconic role here would be a mistake. My disinterest in having him as a potential candidate has nothing to do with his work in The Fantastic Four.
He’s not quite as physically imposing as I’d like to see them go with for the role, and you might say he lacks a bit of the gravitas that I’ve mentioned, but he’s a quality actor who could more than handle the role. He’s not one of my top options though.
Another guy who would bring a high quality performance but seems a bit too frail, I can’t imagine Ed Norton standing anywhere near Henry Cavill without having him seem completely over-matched. I’m not saying the person who takes the role of Lex Luthor needs to be muscular, but he can’t be as small as Norton.
Until I put this article together, I had him listed as a highly probable “Top Option”, but I just can’t make the case. He’s quite possibly the most talented actor I’ve listed in this article, but he’s about five years outside of my comfort zone in terms of age.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Just like you can’t have someone who’s too small, you also can’t have a Lex Luthor who is as muscle-bound as the former WWE World Champion. In a limited role, with the right direction, he might be able to give a passable performance, but his arms and shoulders are just too big. I wouldn’t be surprised if he would make Cavill’s Superman seem under-sized.
If he hadn’t been chosen to be Bane, I’d seriously consider him a top candidate. Given the time he spent behind a mask, and the voice he used for Bane, it’s still plausible that he could work in the role. Given the link, I’d be surprised if he gets to audition.
Samuel L Jackson
If he wasn’t currently serving a very similar role in the AVENGERS universe over at Marvel, I’d say he’d be a strong candidate. You just can’t confuse people by having Nick Fury also serve as Lex Luthor. That’s not even mentioning his age. He’s older than he looks, and by the time things wrap on the role’s commitment, it could easily catch up with him.
Given the way Lex Luthor has been portrayed in some of the recent Animated DC Universe films, he’s a character who is all about power and self-improvement, both from a mental and physical standpoint. Vin Diesel would fit the “look”, and has given decent performances in the past, would certainly be an improvement over The Rock, but he’s probably not quite there.
They cast his real-life best-friend in the role of the Dark Knight, so it’s hard to tell whether that creates a larger or smaller possibility that he’d be cast as Luthor. The two wouldn’t necessarily have to spend much time on-screen together, so it wouldn’t have to seem awkward when they did. Damon’s certainly a capable actor, but I just don’t see him being one of the top options.
The Top Options
He has been great in everything I’ve seen him in, whether it’s in the lead role (Justified) or a supporting one (Go, I Am Number Four). He got great reviews for his work in the Die Hard franchise. I don’t imagine he’s a top option for Warner Bros, but they’d be smart to do so. It would certainly make Olyphant’s career.
I’d say he’s in the right age range, has the right look, but perhaps he lacks a little bit of the talent to take on what should be a fairly deep role.
Great actor, right age range, great intensity, great option for the part. He portrayed a great villain in the Harry Potter series, and although not everyone would be able to instantly put a face with that name, they’ll certainly recognize his face.
It doesn’t bother me that Mark Strong already portrayed Sinestro in the DC Universe. He looks significantly different enough in the Sinestro role that I think a lot of fans wouldn’t even notice the roles are portrayed by the same actor.
I actually like his acting skills more than a lot of other people might. He seems to be about the right build, the right amount of intensity. I can’t recall much about his American accent, which could be an issue if they go the route of Luthor eventually becoming the President Of The United States.
Though he’s not quite in the age group I’d go with, I’m not going to say that the 59 year-old actor is too old for the part. He’d certainly have enough gravitas to play the role, and the performance would probably be listed in the echelon of what Gene Hackman did with the character, and what Nicholson and Ledger did as The Joker.