BURBANK, Calif. (AP) — Jesse Eisenberg didn't meet Ben Affleck on "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" until they were filming the party scene where Affleck's Bruce Wayne and Henry Cavill's Clark Kent interact for the first time — a crucial moment before their superhero alter egos face off.
Even then, he didn't spend much time with either Affleck or Cavill, who he also barely knew. For one, he was too busy talking to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan, who makes a cameo in the scene.
"I was so in my own world," he said.
Also, in portraying the eccentric, megalomaniac Lex Luthor who tears the two superheroes apart, he actually preferred meeting them in the spirit of the characters.
"It is funny working with guys like that. (They're) so massive and unusually attractive. It felt like I could push them around literally and annoy them and tease them and it would never really get to them. And they're also playing these powerful superheroes so it gave me more license to bother them," Eisenberg said.
The character of Lex Luthor is as essential to Superman as the red cape and the Man of Steel's ultimate earthbound foe has been played by everyone from Gene Hackman to Kevin Spacey. But this iteration neither looks nor sounds like any version of Lex that we're used to seeing. Instead of bespoke suits and the legendary bald dome, Eisenberg's Lex sports blazers, t-shirts and a wavy bob haircut (his idea). And while this millennial entrepreneur might be disarmingly intelligent and philosophical, he's also a spoiled brat at the core.
"He's like a child who hasn't yet been told how the world works and has a juvenile sense of propriety. If you take their toy away, the initial reaction is not anger, it's probably confusion," Eisenberg said. "He's a person who is struggling with real existential crises about his abusive childhood about his, let's say, perverse Freudian associations with Superman and his need for power in an unstable world."
The character he spends the most time with on screen though is neither Batman nor Superman but Holly Hunter's fictional U.S. Senator June Finch, who Lex sees as a potential ally.
Hunter described Eisenberg's Lex as volatile, complicated and emotional, and her character as the one bringing some "sense and sensibility" to the mayhem.
"It was a really fun ride to take with him," she said.
His spine-chilling facial tics and vocal flourishes can make even the simple offer of a Cherry Jolly Rancher somehow seem menacing, and it only escalates from there, which gave Eisenberg more room to play — especially as he continues to up the stakes.
"This is a character who becomes increasingly Machiavellian and unhinged," he said. "In this kind of part there was no ceiling. I could be as odd and eccentric and as vengeful as I wanted. I felt there were no limitations."