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Lex marks the spot

Kevin Spacey sets his sight on Superman Returns
By MIKE COTTON  |  June 14, 2006

EVIL INDUSTRIALIST: Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.
The first time Kevin Spacey worked with director Bryan Singer, on 1995’s The Usual Suspects, Spacey walked away with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Now they’ve re-teamed for Superman Returns, with Spacey taking the role of the evil industrialist Lex Luthor — the one made famous by Gene Hackman. “There’s no doubt that Hackman was fabulous,” says Spacey, “and I’d say that the main difference is that this is a much darker Lex.” On location in Sydney, Spacey took a few minutes to talk about what makes his Lex tick.

MIKE COTTON: Weren’t you at one time up for the role as Lex Luthor when Tim Burton was attached to direct?
 Yeah, I had one afternoon when Burton was scheduled to do the film. Of course, there was no script at that point. But he had an office at Warner Bros, and I came in. He had some storyboards and some ideas. It was obviously a completely different idea than what this film is, but I was never offered that role and it never happened. So that was just one of those, “Hi. If I make this movie, that’d be great.” But it never came off.

MC: And you signed on for this film without even reading the script. That shows a lot of confidence in Bryan as a director.
 The truth is that I accepted the role without having read the script because [the script] wasn’t ready. I trust Bryan implicitly. I knew he had a terrific team. He had some great writers. When you have the kind of confidence that I have in Bryan, you literally just show up and go in whatever direction he points you in.

MC: What is Lex’s view of Superman in this film?
 It’s hard to answer that question in the context of this movie because I’d be revealing too much. But I can say that I think that Lex Luthor has always been interested in property. It’s always been about land for Lex, and he wants his piece of the pie. And Superman, I think to him, represents a challenge, and Lex loves a challenge. I think he loves the fact that he may not have the brawn and the strength physically, but I do think he thinks he’s smarter than Superman. And can outwit him — and can beat him and bring him down to a fair playing ground to match each other on a more even keel. And that’s what Lex goes about trying to do. 

MC: So Lex 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 to be the world’s greatest real estate mogul. [Laughs] Yeah, that’s it — there you go.

MC: So, how does Lex beat an unbeatable man?
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.
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