James Gunn Denies Dissing Jesse Eisenberg’s Performance As Lex Luthor, Says His Comments Were Directed At Gene Hackman

The bloody hand of Lex (Jesse Eisenberg) in Batman v Superman (2016), Warner Bros.

James Gunn performed more damage control after his appearance on Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast. As one of the heads of DC Studios and the director of the next Superman movie, the topic of the Man of Steel and recent incarnations of certain characters came up. Among those was Lex Luthor who was portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg in the DCEU.

Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) betrays Superman (Tim Daly) in Superman: The Animated Series Season 2 Episode 2 “Brave New Metropolis” (1997), Warner Bros. Animation

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During the interview with Rosenbaum, Gunn promised his host – a former and popular Luthor actor – that Lex will be “grounded and real” in Superman: Legacy, not atypical or crazy like “maybe somebody” has done. The comment was ambiguous and a response to a leading question, to be fair, but people are interpreting Gunn’s words a certain way.

They are being taken as a dig at Jesse Eisenberg and his performance was reminiscent of a few DC villains yet deviated from the comics when it came to embodying Lex in Batman v Superman. While Eisenberg’s choices with his approach were polarizing, Gunn denied that he was trying to diss the actor and provided an addendum on Twitter to his remark.

“I was not referring to Jesse,” Gunn put simply.

James Gunn Twitter

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He then took aim at social media’s tendency toward outrage. “In reading these replies, sometimes it seems like people are looking for things to get outraged about & have little sense of history. Although Donner’s Superman movies are some of my favorites, I’ve spoken out publicly before, & even written about it in EW back in the early 2000’s…”

He continued, “Lex Luthor is not my favorite part of those films. The portrayal can lean campy & I wished he seemed like a greater threat & I wished he’d played it bald throughout. I regret having intimated that I didn’t like ANY Lex on Michael’s show, but there it is.”

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie (1978), Warner Bros. Pictures

He is also clear he has nothing against Gene Hackman.

“For the record, I think Hackman is one of the five greatest actors of the 70’s & 80’s, and he starred in some of my favorite movies, I just didn’t love him as Lex,” Gunn tweeted.

James Gunn Twitter

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He explained further down in the thread, “Yes there’s a lot of good stuff in there as well, for sure. Those are great moments.”

James Gunn Twitter

Most would surely argue Hackman’s best moments were in the first two films, and that he may have managed a few good ones in Superman IV but they were few and far between. Hampered by the script, the editing, producer Cannon’s slashed budget, and again that campiness, the veteran may have been reminded why he didn’t return for part III.

Hackman retired from acting long ago, and not because of bad experiences as Lex Luthor as far as we know. Eisenberg probably won’t reenter the picture as Lex or any character in the new DCU as he’s been disconnected from Warner/DC for quite a while. We don’t know who Gunn will cast to replace them although odds favor Nicholas Hoult and Chukwudi Iwuji.

Lex Luthor reveals his master plan to Superman in Action Comics #23 (1940), DC Comics

Who do you think would make a good Lex Luthor?

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