What were the challenges of creating Lex Luthor as an animated voice?
You have to understand the medium that you're
in. As opposed to (on-camera) acting with another individual where it
requires listening in order for you to respond, here you're having to
create the question the other person would ask you in your head and then
respond to it. It's a much more difficult process because there's a
line between it being real and it being animated. There's a slightly
different tonal quality to the way you say things, or in the way you
have to make it bigger sometimes than you would naturally do in order to
sell it. But not having the visual in front of you – you're kind of
shooting in the dark a lot.
Did you enjoy this incarnation of Lex Luthor?
Yeah, I did actually. I found it surprising
that Lex Luthor was getting a bit spiritual (laugh). I guess it's kind
of like a sign of the times where he's trying to get in touch with the
inner Lex. (laugh)
Can you talk about the journey Lex goes through in All-Star Superman?
The journey Lex Luthor takes in this film – in
the beginning it’s what you'd expect: he's interested in power and world
domination and Superman is the bane of his existence. And then as it
progresses, there’s a slight injection of humanity, which is surprising
to Lex Luthor that he's even experiencing feelings that are remotely
human. So it kind of gives him an unusual arc. He definitely has more
dimension to him in this film.
What do you bring to Lex Luthor?
As a kid, I loved comic books. It's basically
how I learned to read as a kid because my mother would buy them for me
to keep me quiet, I think. I remember one time particularly – I was 4
or 5 years old, and I was sick and I had to stay in bed for three weeks,
and so she would buy me comic books every second or third day. And I
just created my own world, sitting under the covers reading Superman,
Batman, Silver Surfer, a lot of the great comics.
What is it about Lex Luthor that most appeals to you?
There's a kind of sarcastic streak in Lex
Luthor that comes from that extreme confidence in his ability to do what
he does. I like the attitude of him. I like that nothing really fazes
him, that he feels like he has complete control over everything,
therefore, he can be relaxed enough to be a smartass. A good Lex Luthor
makes or breaks it for me, I think.
As you’ve played so many villains, do you prefer being the bad guy?
I've always liked playing the baddy. Some
people have a problem with getting typecast. I'm quite happy with being
typecast. I don't care, as long as you're working. The truth is you
could play every bad guy in a one dimensional fashion, but it's like
everything else in life – everything's different and everyone's unique,
so you have to find the uniqueness in the character to bring it to life.
You've obviously performed in every medium available,
but voiceover is relatively new for you. Does voiceover work offer you
challenges or joys of acting that you don't get elsewhere?
I like the isolation part of it. I like that
there's a certain amount of freedom, and that you're not waiting for
somebody else to find their motivation. It's more challenging to come up
with a believable character doing animation work than it is (in
live-action). Acting is relatively easy because you have a personal
one-on-one interaction with someone, therefore whatever you're doing is a
lot smoother. This requires a bit more patience and you have to
suspend the fact that you're in a sound stage and really commit to the
You had a moment where you weren’t understanding Andrea
Romano’s direction on a particular emotion, and Bruce Timm was able to
draw Lex Luthor with an expression that depicted that emotion. Have you
ever gotten direction via artwork before?
That made me laugh. We were trying to get that
particular passage done right and I didn't quite know how to get it.
It’s not an uncommon issue where you have three or four people that have
three or four different takes on what it should be – it gets a little
confusing sometimes if you're doing it and you're taking in all the
different stuff. You want to deliver what they want but sometimes
you're not sure how to quite get there. And I thought that was
ingenious, actually, showing me the picture through the glass of the
expression on Lex Luthor's face. It made perfect sense – Bruce is an
animator. That’s what he does – so he was able to show me visually what
he was looking for in my voice. I could actually see Lex’s mental state
of anguish. It actually made me think of doing it a different way and
that ended up working.
You've earned a Tony Award, an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe -- does one of those honors mean more to you than the others?
To be honest, after a certain period of time
they're just kind of like objects in your closet. I think that, of all
of them, the one that kind of means (more) was the Tony Award because
doing theatre is way, way, harder than doing anything you'll ever do on
film or television. It's about real discipline. You have to go in and do
eight shows a week whether you feel like it or not and, in the case
where I won the Tony, it was in one of those shows where you could never
phone it in. It just didn't work if you phoned it in. So, come hell
or high water, I did it for a year – which is a long time to do eight
shows a week. I think I missed about five in a year. Also, I think
(the Tony Award) meant probably the most because it's where I started.
It’s kind of what I admire the most. Theatre is what I find the most
challenging. So I would say that the Tony kind of meant more. But the
others are nice, too, you know (laughs).
How much does a background in the theatre help in the voiceover booth?
The theatrical background helps you in doing
(voiceover) because you've already been through a hundred different
acting classes where you've had to sit on a black box and pretend that
you were a lemon or an imaginary cup of coffee or whatever. There's
always a part of that program that requires you to strip yourself bare
and be an idiot. And if you're not prepared to do that, then you have
no place being there.
You had quite a lengthy list of unglamorous jobs before
becoming an actor. Pro soccer player, teacher, shoe salesman, furniture
restorer, sprinkler installer. And now you’re an award-winning star
voicing a super villain for an animated film. How does it all tie
Well, that's glorification. I used to dig the
trenches for the guy who actually installed the sprinklers. I just did
the digging (laughs). I had no idea that I would be doing what I'm doing
now when I was a kid. When I was a kid you could've said that I was
going to be an astronaut and that would have been more realistic than
doing this. So I think it ties together in that I don't really have any
expectations or feelings of how things should go anymore. They go how
they go and you’ve just got to roll with it. And I think it's your
ability to roll with it that keeps you in the game. It's also your
ability to recognize when it's changing and how you need to change with
it if you want to. And I’ll tell you that from the minute I decided
what I wanted to do, it's all been gravy from there. It's what I want
to do. Whether I'm successful or not at it, it's what I chose to do.
It wasn't what somebody told me to do, so everything that comes out of
it is just a bonus.
OK. But if you could do it all over again, what would you choose – acting or soccer?
That’s a tough one. What level of football?
(laugh) Well, if I could play in Italy for a five-year career, I'd swap
it. Absolutely. People don't realize how huge football players are in
other parts of the world – compared to them, actors and musicians are
nothing. They're doormats. You walk through Rome with Francesco Totti
and I don't care who you are – nobody’s going to notice you because
Francesco Totti is God. It's hard for people to conceive in this country
just how important the game of football is culturally in Europe and
South America, and even Asia. It's religion; it's life; it's