According to a report by The Hollywood Reporter, the reason Warner Bros. choose 30 year-old Jesse Eisenberg – a younger big-screen Lex Luthor than moviegoers are maybe accustomed to for the 2016 Superman/Batman Man of Steel sequel is simple – they wanted Lex Luthor to be a contemporary of Superman, reflecting what THR describes as being “more in line with several recent graphic-novel and TV incarnations, in which he is a childhood friend of the young Man of Steel.”
Superman is of course played by 30 year-old actor Henry Cavill.
DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff John’s 2009 Superman: Secret Origin and Mark Waid’s 2003 Superman: Birthright limited series are both relatively recent and well-regarded retellings of Superman’s origin that depicted the adversaries as childhood contemporaries. And Superman and Lex were of course portrayed as both being in their late teens/early twenties together in the long-running Smallville TV series.
According to sources cited by THR, Girls star Adam Driver was approached for the role but had a scheduling conflict, and as previously reported Warner Bros. had an internal interest in Joaquin Phoenix but he passed.
The Hollywood trade cites “multiple” sources that say Bryan Cranston, long-rumored to be in contention (and in some rumors even cast) for the role of Luthor was never approached, nor was Tom Hanks, whose name was reportedly “discussed internally” at Warners.
Director Zack Snyder is said to have a narrow shortlist for the remaining roles to be cast, and THR ended their report by saying Warner Bros. declined to confirm whether Eisenberg will be bald for the role, citing the fact Luthor is depicted as having red hair as a youth, like in Secret Origin.