The Sam Liu-directed movie, which debuts on Blu-ray Jan. 29, finds Luthor somewhat caught in the middle as four replacement Supermen battle to become Metropolis' new savior after Kal-El's "death." SYFY WIRE hopped on the phone to talk with Rainn Wilson, who returns to voice Lex in Reign, and get a sense of what's going on with Metropolis' master manipulator.
"Sometimes Lex is literally the villain, literally the bad guy trying to kill Superman. And sometimes Lex is playing well with others," Wilson says in regard to Luthor's motivations in the story. "Lex may have his own dastardly exploits that he’s doing, but ... he isn’t the super villain here. He’s almost another superhero in his own way in this story. And he can kind of be relied on, in a weird way."
In Reign of the Supermen, four distinct beings are vying to take the original Superman's place as protector of Metropolis: Steel, Cyborg Superman, the Eradicator, and Luthor's own creation, Superboy. The clone does not follow Luthor's plan and brings him much consternation, which is to say, he acts like every other teenager does.
Wilson notes that Luthor is often his own worst enemy, because of his ego, and this movie is no exception. "I will say that Lex’s narcissism matches up quite well with my narcissism," he says with tongue firmly in cheek. "They kind of dovetail together rather perfectly, I hate to say it. His intelligence is his superpower. But [ego] is his fatal flaw. If he was just a little more humble, maybe 10% more humble, he could have anything he wanted. He could be king of the world. But he’s not. It’s that fatal flaw, that little bit of insecurity, of having to prove that he knows more than anyone else on the planet."
That combination of ego and intelligence reminds Wilson of another fictional genius. "I would love to see a DC vs. Marvel story where it’s Lex versus Tony Stark. Because I think Lex is way smarter than Stark," he says. "But I don’t want to start a big thing between DC and Marvel fans."
Given the enduring popularity of DC's characters and the not-to-be-underestimated joy of animated movie voicework (you can do it in your PJs, makeup-free!), it's no surprise to hear Wilson praise the process of working with the DC Animated production team, which includes director Sam Liu, producers Amy McKenna and Alan Burnett, and writers Jim Krieg and Tim Sheridan.
"They deliver the script to me while I’m sitting at my pool," Wilson jokes. "And my assistant, in between peeling me grapes and making me vodka martinis, reads it out loud and I get some local community theater actors to act it out and … no. It’s a real nice collaboration. When you’re doing animation, it’s different. By the time I’m laying down the voiceover, they’ve been working on it for a year and a half. They have it storyboarded, they know where the v/o needs to go, the tone, how much dialogue can be in a scene. But in terms of letting me improvise and bring my own flair to it, and do my version of Lex Luthor, which might be different than someone else’s … the guys are really collaborative in that sense."
Wilson hasn't been shy in the past about wanting to portray Luthor in a live-action DC film, and when asked if that's still an itch he wants to scratch, he didn't hesitate. "Sign me up!" Wilson says. "I know Jon Cryer is doing it on the small screen and wish him the best. But I hope there is some scenario someday where they would want me to play Lex. But the way movies work these days, they would probably get someone from Riverdale to play him. ‘We want a young, sexy, 22-year-old Lex.' I mean, they already did it with Smallville.”
While he's known for his comedic timing and is always fun to interview, Wilson did get serious for part of our conversation to talk about something very personal: His work with the Lide Haiti Foundation, which uses the arts to empower young girls in Haiti. "It provides education and support for adolescent girls in Haiti," he points out. "I can use my celebrity to raise money in L.A. and funnel it to some of the poorest people on the planet. It's a great cause."
Reign of the Supermen debuts on Blu-ray Jan. 29, and is out now on digital.