Wizard Superman Returns Preview Special Issue

February 2006, Issue #172
Kevin Spacey Q&A

The new Lex Luthor reveals how it took him nine years to win the role and why his ‘Bitter Lex’ will be much darker than the original Gene Hackman version

SRphoto1Wizard: Although director Bryan Singer eventually won you over, this wasn’t the first time you’ve been connected to playing Lex Luthor, right?

Spacey:  The funny thing is it’s been in the cards, or on the books, for about nine years, because when Tim Burton was directing the film I met with him.  We had a very nice conversation but that movie never happened, and I never got offered it – the movie never got off the ground. Then Brett Ratner was going to do it and there were discussions then, but that never happened. It was always kind of floating out there as an idea and I always thought, “Maybe this will happen someday”.  To me it’s one of those great, iconic parts.

W: How different is this Lex Luthor from the previous versions in the original films or on Smallville?”

KS: I think Bryan ’s been very attentive and respectful to the genre and what the fan base really wants, but he also brings a new direction to the character and how people deal with each other.  This film is a much darker Lex Luthor than the Gene Hackman character.  This is a bitter Lex.  This is a Lex after a long time in prison.  But there’s also still a lot of humor to it.

W: Lex – in the comics at least – is best when played as a man with a point, a man – not a Superman – who just wants what’s best for normal people.  How do you approach him?
KS: Yeah, I think he does have a point.  His argument is, “Superman is godlike, so he saves people, but he doesn’t give people what they need to save themselves.”  And I think Lex has a slightly more capitalistic view, which is, give people what they want and Lex wants his share of it.  And for him it’s always been about land.  All the movies and the character is about him wanting land.  There’s a lot of that.

W: So, it’s not just wanting to kill Superman?

KS: No, he doesn’t just want to destroy Superman.  That’s too simple.  That’s something he knows he has to take care of and has spent a lot of years in prison coming up with exactly how to do it.  But his bigger plan is to be the world’s greatest real estate mogul . [laughs]

W: I hear it’s more fun to play the bad guy than the hero . . .

KS: Never. [smiles] No, it’s not more fun to play the bad guy.  That’s a myth.  Really, it’s a myth.  I think people tend to say they like watching the villain characters, but it doesn’t mean they’re any more fun to play.  I love playing so many different kinds of things.  And movies are in so many ways these small moments.

W: How do you play Lex? Loud? Threatening? Evil scientist?

KS: It’s funny. We just spent hours doing what will be four seconds of film.  You never really get – as an actor – to play the whole character.  You play bits and pieces here and there.  Then [editor] John Ottman and Bryan [Singer] decide how that character develops based on a wealth of material shot.  Sometimes I play it very big and sometimes I play it very small and character-centered.  It’ll be up to them how the character ultimately develops.  My job is to try to provide as many of those colors as Bryan elicits from me.  Ultimately, I’m the color in someone else’s painting.

W: How did you prepare to play Lex? Did you check out comics, watch the Richard Donner film?

KS: No, since this was so different from previous incarnations – although I looked at the previous movies for the fun of it and was like, “Wow, for a movie in 1978 this holds up.” But when you have a relationship like Bryan and I have, the way we work together and the fact that we’ve been looking for something to do together for the past 10 years, I do what I did last time and just put myself in his hands.  He guides me.

W: Lex isn’t a powerhouse who can confront Superman physically, so how does he break a Man of Steel?

KS: For Lex and Superman, I think it’s always been – from the comics to the films – it’s always been about mind over muscle.  That’s what we have in this film. . . with some twists.

W: Do you identify with Lex at all?  Is there any of him in you?

KS: No, not at all.  [laughs]  He’s evil.

Interviewed by Mike Cotton
WIZARD, February 2006, Issue # 172, Page 26.
Huge thanks to Kelly for typing this up for us.