Nicholas Hoult set to play archvillain Lex Luthor in Superman reboot

The X-Men and Mad Max: Fury Road star will take on the role previously played by actors such as Jesse Eisenberg and Gene Hackman

British actor Nicholas Hoult is set to play one of cinema's most memorable villains, Lex Luthor in Superman: Legacy. AFP
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Superman is getting a reboot and so are the villains that have long plagued the Man of Steel.

According to Deadline, British star Nicholas Hoult has been cast as one of Superman’s oldest nemeses Lex Luthor in Superman: Legacy, set for release in July 2025.

He will join the relatively unknown David Corenswet as Superman, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel star Rachel Brosnahan as Lois Lane and Venezuelan actress Maria Gabriela de Faria as villain The Engineer.

Hoult will be the 11th actor to take on the role of Lex Luthor, who has been played by seven different actors on the small screen, including Jon Cryer in Superman and Lois and Michael Rosenbaum in Smallville; and on the big screen by Kevin Spacey in 2006’s Superman Returns and Jesse Eisenberg in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Most memorably, the character was played by Gene Hackman opposite Christopher Reeves’s Superman in Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).

Who is Lex Luthor?

Alexander Joseph “Lex” Luthor first appeared in Action Comics #23 in April 1940. In his debut, he lived in a flying city suspended by an airship and, pertinent to the time, plotted to bring about war in Europe. He kidnaps Lois Lane and battles with Superman before he is defeated and Lois is saved.

Initially, Luthor was a superintelligent mad scientist, only being portrayed as the power and money-hungry chief executive of tech company LexCorp since the late 1970s with Hackman’s take on the villain.

Luthor battles Superman with the use of technology and Kryptonite. He also has a warsuit with mechanised armour which gives him super strength and the ability to fly.

While frequently coming up against Superman, he has also worked with alongside him on occasion, with the fickle villain aligning himself with whoever he thinks will best fulfil his interests.

Different Lex Luthors for different times

Luthor’s appearance, backstory and career have all changed over the years in numerous reboots and spin-offs. In his 1940 debut, he was portrayed as a middle-aged man with red hair.

A year later, Leo Nowak, the artist who drew the Superman comic strips for newspaper syndication made him bald, ostensibly mistaking the character for another villain called Ultra-Humanite who was also a mad scientist.

In 1960, writer Jerry Siegel created a backstory for Luthor’s hair loss in Adventure Comics #271, revealing that it happened when a fire in his laboratory was put out by Superboy, using his super-breath to blow out the flames. During the rescue, some chemicals were spilt making him go prematurely bald.

Luthor’s backstory was rebooted numerous times in his comic book depiction. In the reboot called the “Post-Crisis” reality following the 1985-1986 Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, he became an MIT-educated billionaire whose drive for success stemmed from a childhood spent in poverty. His thirst for money leads him to take out an insurance policy on his parents before cutting the brakes on their car.

In the TV series Smallville, Luthor and Kent grow up together and the villain’s bad relationship with his father Lionel is explored. In the 2009-2010 comic book series Superman: Secret Origin, he is given a sister called Lena, and he also later becomes president of the United States.

Updated: November 21, 2023, 11:17 AM