The Many Faces of Lex Luthor
If you google Lex Luthor, Michael Rosenbaum from Smallville dominates and a picture from the actual comic book comes up as number six. This is not strange considering Supeman is so much more than a comic book now. He is an icon of heroism and is probably the most well known superhero out there. The films, books, series, games around superman are endless and it's hard to avoid knowing about him and his life. Everyone knows about his love for Lois Lane, his job at the daily planet and his arch enemy, Lex Luthor. I was always afraid of Lex Luthor when I was a kid, he didn't look scary but he was worst than any monster on TV or other comic books. Luthor has been portrayed by many different actors since the fifties, and everyone did it in his own way, and I'd like to mention the actors that for me, are most associated with the character.
First actor playing ever Lex Luthor was Lyle Talbot in the 1950 Superman serial, Atom Man vs. Superman.
Luthor or Atom Man, as he like to be called in this show was classically evil with a very Blodfeldtish image, and his demands were often very straight forward, money. This 15 episode serial was at the time the highest grossing movie serial of all time in America, and Lyle Talbot's face was actually used as a mould for the Lex Luthor in the comic books for over a decade. In the 1060s the slimmed him down to the Luthor version we're more familiar with now.
It would take 28 years for someone to portray Luthor on film or TV again, and that man was none other than Gene Hackman in the wonderful classic Superman from 1978.
Gene Hackman is an incredible actor, perfect for the devious super villain. Throughout the film he mixes coldheartedness with dark humour which suits the atmosphere of the film and also the character obviously. Lex Luthor is one of the greatest evil geniuses of the DC universes, he's even controlled other villains from other comic books and he doesn't have super powers.. which makes him even more terrifying. His super duper evil plan to sink one part of the city to make the there part more valuable, the part he happens to own is just genius. And Hackman embraces this fully, with hep from his doofus henchman and materialistic girlfriend.
In Superman, Lex is never bald.. instead he wears different wigs, pointing out the obvious. However, in the very last scene of the film we catch a glimpse of the baldness which would come to define Luthor.
I grew up with the lighthearted series New Adventures of Superman, or Lois and Clark as it was more commonly known. In this, very 90s show, Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher portrays the title roles and John Shea, the super evil but charming, Lex Luthor. This series was of course more of a humorous spin on Superman, but to be fair, Superman in every medium has always had a cheerful air around it. I followed this show religiously, and as a 9year old it was AWESOME. Not so much nowadays. So this is probably the least serious or, evil take on Lex Luthor, and also, what's with the existing hair? Nothing anywhere about him having hair pieces or a wig.. no, he should be bald, that's just how it is.
Next up as Lex is probably the man who most people sees when they hear the name Lex Luthor, Michael Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum portrayed Lex in Smallville, and did so for 10 years. In Smallville, as everyone knows, Lex and Clark start out as friends at one point are as close as brothers. That changes during the course of the ten seasons obviously.. Lionel Luthor takes quite a shine to Clark, maybe because he sees something valuable, or maybe he wanted a different kind of son. Lex notices this of course and this sparks his resentment against Clark. Rosenbaum made Lex is so much more human than we're used to see him. Sometimes I even root for Lex because he never catch a break with his father and I feel sorry for him.. The energy between Rosenbaum and Welling is fantastic, especially in the beginning when they're friends. Almost making one wish for a different world where they're could live in harmony..
In 2006 a new Superman film arrived. Not a good one unfortunately, story was boring, Lois was incredibly miscast, the only really good thing in the film was Kevin Spacey's fantastic performance as Lex. Spacey approach the part the same way as Hackman did 28 years earlier, with dark humour, arrogance and a mean case of delusions of grandeur. With this kind of acting skill, Spacey couldn't really fail as playing Lex in a way worthy of the character.
The only sad thing was that the film wasn't very well made or interesting.
All and all, these actors create a different layer of Lex, a young one, one which is more evil than the other, a humorous one, a human one, a classic one and even one with hair. So it's hard to pick a favourite, since all of them define Lex in some way.
In 2013 a new version of Superman will hit the cinemas Man of Steel, courtesy of Zac Snyder. Without Lex Luthor in as a character though. Hope Snyder is worthy of the task.. after all, this is the man responsible for the biggest fail ever, Sucker Punch.