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Feature: Smallville – Michael Rosenbaum

Superb Lex Life

Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor "Lex is a great judge of character, especially with Clark. He sees something special in Clark..." Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum talks about playing the bald and beautiful Lex Luthor in The WB's hit series.

Everyone told Michael Rosenbaum that Smallville would be a hit, but after years in the business the actor knew better than to buy into it. "I guess I'd done so many shows and a few movies where people said, 'This is going to be a hit,' that I took it with a grain of salt," explains Rosenbaum. "After being in a lot of failures I thought to myself, 'Why get my hopes up?' But when I saw the Smallville pilot, when I went in to do some looping for the show, I felt blown away. I called my friend Dave and my family members and I said, 'This is a hit, mark my words.' I just knew it. I thought it was a quality show."

But the actor's been around Hollywood long enough to know that doesn't guarantee success. "Would it catch on and hold on and have continued success? I didn't know about that. I thought if the writers could maintain the quality and the writing, that it would be successful. And we were blessed with that. Yesterday I got a copy of Mad Magazine and Tom (Welling), Kristin (Kreuk) and I are on the cover. I'm Lex Luthor as Alfred E Neuman. Then I thought, 'Now I've made it.' That's what it took for me."

Rosenbaum's portrayal of the young Lex Luthor has had a lot to do with the show's success; as much as fans love the fledgling relationship between Clark Kent and Lana Lang, there's more dramatic heat to be found in the unlikely bond between Lex and Clark. Ever since Clark saved him from the jaws of death Lex has been trying to work out how his friend did it, while we all know the pair are destined to become mortal enemies. An extra layer of tension is added because it's clear that Lex envies Clark's warm bond with his adoptive parents, which shows that he is at least a shrewd judge of character.

"I absolutely agree with that," Rosenbaum says. "In fact, I've said it a lot, that Lex is a great judge of character, especially with Clark. Even though everyone else sees Clark as this awkward teenager with problems, Lex sees past that. He sees something special in Clark. I think that's why their friendship is so strong. They both have their problems and their secrets that they can't really talk about, even with each other. Being in his father's shadow, Lex just knows what's good and bad. I don't think Lex has a lot of respect for his father. He spends a lot of time alone and reading books. The few people in this world that you meet and like, you get them right away. Lex is a good judge of character and he got Clark right away."

So what would Lex make of himself then? "The best quote I ever heard anyone say about Lex is that he's the most ambiguous character on TV. That's the best compliment anyone could ever give me. You never know what he's doing or what his motives are... I call the writers - Al [Gough] and Miles [Millar] - every week. 'Hey, it's Rosenbaum again. Isn't this moment a little too evil or too perceptive?' And they'll say 'Yes, you're right' or 'No, because at the end it shows that he actually meant well.' Just when you think Lex knows Clark's secret, something happens..."

by Ian Spelling

Get the full feature (plus an interview with former Lex Luthor, now Mutant X star John Shea) in
Xposé Special #19

Image © The WB
Feature © Visual Imagination 2002. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Xposé Special #19, see below for ordering options
Xposé Special #19
Spies, Lies & Double Lives 2002
ships from Mar 28 2002
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UK £3.99 / US $7.99

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