Casting for Man of Steel 2 continues, and Warner Bros. may have found its main villain. According to sources speaking to Variety, the studio is eyeing Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix for the role of Superman’s archenemy, Lex Luthor.
This is still in the very early discussion phase. Phoenix has not officially been offered the role, and as the report notes the actor has typically stayed away from big budget blockbuster films in favor of more character driven pieces. Assuming it’s correct though, it does finally confirm (sort of) that Lex Luthor will be the main bad guy. We always assumed Luthor would appear, but if the studio is looking for a major name like Phoenix, he would likely be the primary antagonist.
Since the film was announced fans have bandied about possible villains, suggesting everyone from Luthor to Brainiac to Darkseid (although Darkseid continues to be rumored as the antagonist for the Justice League movie). The recent casting of Jason Momoa in a role most suspect to be a villain (although that is unconfirmed) suggests that there will multiple enemies. With the film featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, it stands to reason that there will be several baddies to fight. That being the case, it seems unlikely that the studio would try to convince Phoenix to appear in his first effects-heavy super hero film, and then not feature him prominently. Even if he refuses, with an actor like Phoenix in contention for the role, it means Lex Luthor is getting some serious screen time.
Again, this is all speculation based on unnamed sources and it is still very early. Even if Phoenix is interested in the role, Warner Bros. may insist on signing him to multiple films. With DC expanding its film universe and connecting its properties, it would be a shame – and a huge waste – not to feature Luthor beyond Man of Steel 2. If DC does want to continue to use the character and keep the same actor, it could further push Phoenix away. Besides not embracing big budget films, Phoenix has never played the same role twice.