BURBANK, CALIF. — It was clear Jesse Eisenberg got a big kick out of playing Lex Luthor in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

“Playing the villain is a lot of fun. You get to do all these things that in real life would get you arrested or at likely killed quite quickly. There was no ceiling on what you can do when you’re playing a villain like Lex Luthor. You can’t do anything wrong because everything is grounded in your evilness. You can be funny, charming, amiable and also horrifying — all at the same time,” said the actor in a recent interview.

Interestingly, Eisenberg was never into comic books as a kid. “I never read them. Before doing this movie, I not only never read them — I didn’t see any of these comic book-inspired movies. But in my preparation for the role, I did read a bunch of comic books, and found they were fun to read. Obviously, I concentrated on the ones with Lex Luthor. For some reason he always seemed to be on the top of a building, giving a speech about giving money away to charity — then he’s in an office, trying to kill somebody.”

Eisenberg smiles about the fact his svelte physique was constantly in juxtaposition to his buff co-stars Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck as Superman and Batman, respectively. “I loved the fact that while they had to spend hours — no months! — slaving away in the gym, working out with tough trainers and watching their diets like hawks, I didn’t have to do a thing!” said Eisenberg with a big chortle. “All I had to do was work on my creepy, crazy actor muscles.”

While Eisenberg had seen a number of the earlier performances by actors who played Lex Luther, like Gene Hackman, he stressed that, “probably like anyone else who would have been cast for this, I wanted to give it my own spin, my own take on the character. Of course, I got a lot of help from the script, written by Chris Terrio [and David S. Goyer], and naturally Zack Snyder’s direction. … I really loved working with Zack. As I’m sure others have told you, he is such a collaborative director. But what I found especially amazing — on a huge movie like this, with so many moving parts — he always seemed so calm and controlled during the whole process.”

Asked what he hoped to bring to his own interpretation of the Lex Luthor character, Eisenberg said: “a kind of manic intensity. … Of course, Lex thinks of himself as a pure genius, granted a totally evil genius, but he equates business acumen and success with the ability to rule the world. I think he’s like a lot of mega-billionaire businessmen who think they are so much smarter than the rest of us,” Eisenberg said with a wink — but without mentioning any real-life people who would fit the mold.

“After all this is an election year, and I’m not getting into any of that,” he added with a smile.

“In addition, I think casting me also added a younger look to Lex,” continued Eisenberg, “which I think is appropriate for our time, when so many millennials achieve success and great wealth at a young age.”

Eisenberg’s foray into the original comic books made him realize that “Lex is extremely clever and very good at wordplay. He loves puns and he loves to concoct those elaborate schemes to kill Superman. I focused on his total obsession with Superman and his destruction. In the comic books it’s hilarious — and I worked hard to bring that silly, but very entertaining, aspect to my performance.”

Explaining the darker side of the Luthor character, Eisenberg noted that Lex was deeply scarred in his youth by his all-powerful, but very abusive father — from whom he has inherited LexCorp.

“It’s a reminder for all of us of how that kind of abuse manifests itself in very scary ways in the real world we live in — and not just in fictional, comic book stories. That’s a lesson, too.”

Posted March 23, 2016