Eisenberg won a best actor Oscar nomination for his work in The Social Network, and assumes the role from the likes of Gene Hackman, who played the tech-savvy megalomaniac in the original Superman films, while Kevin Spacey took the role in Superman Returns.
At 30, Eisenberg, shortly to be seen in Richard Ayoade's Dostoyevsky adaptation The Double, is the youngest actor to play the part, and it is not yet known whether he will do so bald. Luthor's first comic book appearances were in fact ginger and tufty, but a production error resulted in his losing his hair entirely less than a year later. Nonetheless, Luthor has long been perceived as being middle-aged.
Explaining his decision, director Zack Snyder said:
"Lex Luthor is often considered the most notorious of Superman's rivals, his unsavoury reputation preceding him since 1940. What's great about Lex is that he exists beyond the confines of the stereotypical nefarious villain. He's a complicated and sophisticated character whose intellect, wealth and prominence position him as one of the few mortals able to challenge the incredible might of Superman. Having Jesse in the role allows us to explore that interesting dynamic, and also take the character in some new and unexpected directions."
The director also explained the thinking behind the casting of Jeremy Irons as Alfred, trusty butler to Bruce Wayne, who will played in the upcoming blockbuster by Ben Affleck. Synder called Alfred - played by Michael Caine opposite Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy - "an absolutely critical element in the intricate infrastructure that allows Bruce Wayne to transform himself into Batman."
He continued: "It is an honour to have such an amazingly seasoned and gifted actor as Jeremy taking on the important role of the man who mentors and guides the guarded and nearly impervious façade that encapsulates Bruce Wayne."
Snyder's casting decisions for this followup to the enormously-successful Man of Steel have not always met with a warm reception from fans. Petitions were launched to try and reverse the decision that Affleck would inherit Bale's cape, while the announcement that Wonder Woman would be played by newcomer Gal Gadot provoked some bafflement.
Man of Steel 2 had been scheduled for a 2015 release but was put back by Warner Bros to May 2016. Henry Cavill will reprise his role as Superman/Clark Kent, likewise Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane also return.
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