A new version of Lex Luthor is set to debut in Superman: Legacy, and James Gunn has provided some insight into what the villain might look like in the new DC Universe. After James Gunn and Peter Safran were hired as co-CEOs of DC Studios in 2022, they immediately set plans into motion to reboot DC’s live-action franchise, which included replacing some of the DCEU’s biggest stars with new actors. Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck won’t be returning among these figures, and while a new Batman hasn’t been revealed, Clark Kent will be portrayed by David Corenswet in Superman: Legacy. As such, the new Man of Steel needs a new Lex Luthor.
Lex Luthor debuted in DC Comics in 1940’s Action Comics #23, and has since endured as Superman’s archnemesis, his most recognizable, memorable, and challenging villain. Several actors have portrayed Luthor in live-action, including Michael Rosenbaum, Titus Welliver, Gene Hackman, and Jesse Eisenberg, who portrayed the villain opposite Henry Cavill’s Superman in the DCEU. A new version of Lex Luthor is expected to debut inthe DC Universe’s first feature film. However, with several different iterations of Luthor in DC Comics, it’s unclear which version will be introduced to the DC Universe, though Gunn has revealed some details about the villain in 2025’s Superman: Legacy.
Superman Details Give Some Insight Into James Gunn’s Lex Luthor
Details surrounding the DC Universe’s new Superman could provide context to which Lex Luthor debuts in Superman: Legacy. Upon the announcement of the DCU’s future plans and Superman: Legacy’s development, James Gunn revealed that a younger Superman would be introduced, allowing a more wide-eyed Man of Steel to take over from Henry Cavill’s darker and grittier hero. Superman: Legacy won’t be detailing an origin story, but it will explore Clark Kent’s upbringing in Smallville, Kansas, his heritage as a Kryptonian, and his work-life as a reporter alongside Rachel Brosnahan’s Lois Lane at the Daily Planet, which could be very important aspects in introducing Lex Luthor.
In many origin stories in DC Comics, Clark Kent and Lex Luthor were shown to be childhood friends – or at least people who knew each other – growing up in Smallville. This means it makes sense for Superman and Luthor to be similar in age, which suggests that a younger Lex Luthor will be introduced as well as a younger Clark Kent. The fact that Superman’s upbringing in Smallville will be explored means that Lex Luthor’s childhood could also be seen in Superman: Legacy, establishing a clear relationship between hero and villain in the DC Universe – which was something that the DCEU was sorely missing.
Since announcing Superman: Legacy in January 2023, James Gunn has provided further information about his version of Lex Luthor. Not only is Gunn the co-CEO of DC Studios, but he is also writing and directing Superman: Legacy, which means he has a huge amount of control over which actors kick off his new franchise, and Lex Luthor will be an important cog in this machine. Several actors have been rumored to be being considered to portray Luthor, including the likes of Nicholas Hoult, Bradley Cooper, Bill Skarsg?rd, and Daniel Craig, though James Gunn debunked Craig’s casting rumors, and Hoult still appears to be the fan-favorite.
During a recent interview, Gunn suggested that his version of Lex Luthor would be grounded and carry more gravitas than previous iterations, even going so far as to stating on Twitter that Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor from 1978’s Superman was “campy… [not a] threat,” and that he “wished he’d played it bald.” This suggests that Superman: Legacy’s Lex Luthor will be darker and grittier, perhaps leaning more heavily into his sinister nature, while also keeping the villain bald – as is his most iconic look. Gunn is basing his DC Universe projects heavily on storylines and characters from DC Comics, so it seems Lex Luthor may be fairly comic-accurate, too.
Which Versions Of Lex Luthor From DC Comics Make The Most Sense For Superman: Legacy
James Gunn has confirmed that Superman: Legacy will be taking a lot of inspiration from Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant’s All-Star Superman which ran between 2005 and 2008, exploring Clark Kent’s attempts to make peace ahead of his imminent death. The version of Lex Luthor featured in this storyline debuted in 2004’s Superman: Birthright, which established a childhood friendship between Luthor and Kent when both were growing up in Smallville. The fact that Gunn is taking so much inspiration from All-Star Superman suggests that the DC Universe’s Lex Luthor will have a prior connection to Clark Kent, making for a more personal live-action story.
Although WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have brought Hollywood to a halt, it was reported prior to the strikes that James Gunn was looking for an actor to portray Lex Luthor in Superman: Legacy using the codename “Apex” (via Deadline). While this could simply be a cover for Luthor’s casting, this could also hint at Apex Lex Luthor being introduced, a version of the villain who had been gifted powers by the god Perpetua, including the power to travel across realities. This would make the DC Universe’s Lex Luthor incredibly powerful from the get-go, though may be too otherworldly and fantastical for his debut in Superman: Legacy.
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Lex Luthor will appear in DCU’s Superman: Legacy. Read More