James Gunn Picks His Best Lex Luthor And It’s A Big Surprise

Michael Rosenbaum's version of Lex Luthor in Smallville is James Gunn's favorite portrayal of Superman's greatest foe.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

Michael Rosenbaum

James Gunn won’t say whether Lex Luthor will be a part of Superman: Legacy or not, but he has let the fans in on who his favorite Lex Luthor actor is, and his response will probably surprise you. The new co-CEO of DC Studios was recently on the Inside of You podcast with Michael Rosenbaum when he informed the Smallville actor that his favorite Lex Luthor was actually the person sitting next to him, Rosenbaum himself.

James Gunn has been co-CEO of DC Studios for more than half a year now, and fans are getting curious about what direction the Guardians of the Galaxy director is going to take it in. One of the first things James Gunn did when he took the job was crush all the plans the studio had for future films, including making the controversial decision to rid Henry Cavill of his Superman duties. 

Now, we know that Superman: Legacy is the first movie that the new and improved DC Studios is going to release. What we don’t know is how James Gunn’s Superman is going to be different from any other Superman movie released before, or who will be in it.

On the podcast with Rosenbaum, Gunn said that he knows that fans are expecting to see Lex Luthor in his movie, but he has never actually come out and said the iconic villain would be a part of the film.

James Gunn went on to say how he hasn’t really loved any of the portrayals of Lex Luthor in television or film, but out of the many versions of Lex out there, Rosenbaum (who played Lex in Smallville) was his favorite. However, then the director went on to say that Rosenbaum’s Lex still wasn’t right for his movie before clarifying again that he is not saying Lex will even be in his film at all. 

tom welling smallville
Tom Welling as Superman in Smallville

Rosenbaum didn’t seem to mind that his portrayal of Superman’s archenemy wasn’t right for James Gunn. Instead, the actor asked that if Gunn were to include Lex in his movies, he promise to pick an actor who can portray Lex as “grounded and real.” 

James Gunn agreed that Lex Luthor must be based in reality and not be overly goofy or crazy, a comment that left fans wondering if Gunn and Rosenbaum were insulting Jesse Eisenberg, who recently played a more off-hinged Lex Luthor in the Cavill movies. However, Gunn squashed these rumors that he was dissing Eisenberg by clarifying on Twitter that he was actually referencing Gene Hackman’s Lex from 1978’s Superman

“The portrayal can lean campy & I wished he seemed like a greater threat,” Gunn said.

While James Gunn has confirmed which actor was his least favorite Lex Luthor, it’s still unclear if Rosenbaum was also referring to Hackman, or if he might have actually been referring to Eisenberg as many fans suspected. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was certainly different that what we’ve seen on screen before, but his dramatic portrayal was also pretty unpopular. 

Nevertheless, while James Gunn is still refusing to admit whether or not Lex Luthor will be a part of Superman: Legacy or not, we now have more clues that show us what Lex might look like in Gunn’s universe since we know now who his favorite and least favorite actors were.