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Clancy Brown Talks About Lex Luthor In Public Enemies

Should Lex get top billing for this movie?

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On September 29, 2009, we will get to see (or at least hear) Clancy Brown return to the role of Lex Luthor in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.  I recently had the chance to speak to Clancy at Comic-Con about being Lex Luthor (you can watch the interview HERE).  
Clancy Brown reunites with Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly.  Superman/Batman: Public Enemies will be available on Blu-ray, a special edition 2-disc DVD as well as a single disc DVD.  The movie will also be on OnDemand and Pay-Per-View on the 29th.
Despite Superman and Batman getting top billing, you could almost say this is Lex Luthor's movie.  He is the driving force behind the plot and it's Clancy Brown's voice that makes it work.  The story, as you may know, sees Lex Luthor as President of the United States.  When a Kryptonite asteroid is headed towards Earth, he uses that to frame Superman and declare a $1 billion bounty on Superman and his "partner in crime," Batman.
Clancy Brown is no stranger to playing the villain or working in animation.  He has voiced nearly 500 animated episodes and has provided the voice for such characters as Mr. Krabs (in SpongeBob SquarePants), Mr. Freeze in The Batman, George Stacy & the Rhino in Spectacular Spider-Man, Long Feng in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Mister Sinister in Wolverine And The X-Men.  Here is a Q & A with the man:
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QUESTION:  After nearly two decades voicing Lex Luthor, are there any challenges
to creating this character?

CLANCY BROWN:  I'm pretty comfortable doing the voice of Lex, so the only challenges
come from the script – and the Public Enemies script is tremendous. I
think it suits everybody involved. It suits Kevin (Conroy). It suits
Tim (Daly). It suits me and the voice characterizations that we
created, you know, back right before the Civil War. I think that was
when we started doing this. So there's not really much challenge to it
anymore – it’s just a lot of fun now, and especially when you get to
do it with Kevin and Tim and Andrea (Romano) and Bruce (Timm).

QUESTION: Can you remember your initial audition for the role of Lex Luthor?

CLANCY BROWN:  Warner Bros. had been doing Batman and it was very successful, so they
were gearing up this new iteration of Superman. They decided to sort
of go outside the box as far as talent was concerned, and I had made
it known that I wanted to do more voice work. I wasn't very good at
it, but I wanted to get better.  I enjoy cartoons and animation, and
comic books were part of my life growing up. So they said “Come on in,
We're trying to cast Superman.” So I went in and just blew them all
away with my Superman. And then they said “Here's an idea (he laughs)
nobody has ever thought of: What if Clancy played the bad guy?” (he
laughs harder) So I rolled my eyes and said, “Can I, just one time,
play the good guy?” And Andrea said, “No, you can play Lex.” So I
said, “Fine, I'll play Lex.” Honestly, Lex is fun. I'm very happy to
be Lex. It's a lot more interesting than Superman to me.

QUESTION:  Your counterparts in this film both say you have the glory role with
Lex. How do you respond?

CLANCY BROWN:  That's because they always play good guys! They always play the
heroes. Nobody knows what it’s like to be the bad man … behind blue
eyes (he laughs). But I know. All too well.

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QUESTION:  What exactly is it that makes you the definitive voice of the
character for the fans?

CLANCY BROWN:  What I do with Lex, to me, is no different than how I always viewed
Lex. I thought the early Super Friends animation of Lex was kind of
lacking in many aspects. It's fun to watch – it’s campy and all – but
Lex wasn’t quite what I thought Lex should be. So when this started,
you had this accident of everybody kind of being on the same page
about what the story was and who the characters were. I just went in
and did what I've thought Lex always should sound like. I totally
enjoyed Gene Hackman's portrayal of Lex Luthor, but it wasn’t a Lex
that I was ever afraid of. I enjoyed Kevin Spacey in the newest film,
but again, that wasn’t the Lex that I thought made a good opposition
to Superman. Lex is the bad guy. He's the archetype. He's everything
that's ugly about who we are as people. But he is also what is
seductive about that side, which is the wealth and the power. He's
Darth Vader. Oh man, there’s the one I should've played – Darth Vader.
Darn. Missed opportunity. Okay, so what do I bring to Lex? I don’t
know. I'm just lucky enough to have a low voice and the highfalutin
idea to play Lex where I think he should be. After that, it’s all
about the quality of the scripts.

QUESTION:  Where did you get that idea of what Lex should be?

CLANCY BROWN:  The vision was so clear in the original comic books and throughout the
'40s and '50s and '60s, as you saw him develop and become what is
frightening about all the things that we want, and the sins that we
have to commit in order to achieve that money and power. Of course,
Lex has no problem with any of those sins – he’s quite at ease with
running a corporation that has no conscience. What is seductive about
Lex is that he is unremorseful. He is simply doing what he thinks is
best. Does he think he's a bad guy? No, of course not. But he doesn’t
pretend to be a good guy. To him, it's an immoral world anyway, and
that people try to lay morality and ethics over the human action is
just foolish. You can't accomplish anything that way. The only way you
accomplish something is to jettison all of that spirituality, all of
those morals and ethics, and get on with business.

QUESTION:  Like Bruce Wayne, Lex is wealthy beyond means, has unparalleled
intelligence, and no superpowers. Does that make Lex the anti-Batman?

CLANCY BROWN:  What does Kevin (Conroy) always say about the duality of Batman?
There's a real dark side of the Dark Knight. Maybe Lex is a day bat.
It would be more interesting to have Lex in Batman’s world, wouldn't
it?  I hadn't actually put that together because I don’t care about
the bat world – it’s all Metropolis for me (he laughs). Boy, when you
think about it, super powers are kind of a cop out. They’re not real.
What’s real is what Batman does, although he dresses funny. So what’s
really real is what Lex does, thought he doesn't go to the gym as
much, you know? That’s probably why both of them are attractive –
because you can conceivably become Batman or Lex Luthor, but you can't
really be from Krypton.

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QUESTION:  The title is Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, but that’s not what this
film is all about, is it?

CLANCY BROWN:  It’s the Lex Luthor story. It’s always the Lex Luthor story. Superman
would have nothing to do if Lex wasn't out there stirring it up. And
you never know what Lex is up to – he doesn’t ever really go through a
character arc. You can depend on the fact that he's self-serving, that
he's got his own agenda, and you really can't trust anything he says.
It's always interesting to see how he manipulates everybody around him
and how he's reinvented himself this next time. He’s benevolent, he’s
a humanitarian or, like in this film, he’s an experienced politician
and the right man for the right job. He tends to fool most of the
people most of the time, but he doesn't ever fool Superman … (he
laughs) or me.

QUESTION:  Tell us about this voice cast reunion.

CLANCY BROWN:  Working with Tim and Kevin is so much fun. Tim's got a day job (ABC’s
Private Practice) and so he couldn't be there when we started
recording. I don’t think I've seen Kevin for 10 years because he lives
in New York and Lex and Batman didn’t do much together anyway. But I
always enjoyed it when Kevin was in town because I kind of knew him
from even before Batman. He's a great guy and I love him, so I'm
always glad to see him. Kevin has a terrific energy, and I always
loved what he did with Batman. I always enjoyed the times that we've
actually been able to mix the worlds. Tim is a different story. We had
a few years together doing this material, and there was a rapport
there that kind of instantaneously came back.

What was interesting is that Kevin and I were there early and we
recorded most of the script. And then Tim came in later, and we ran
through the script for some filmed publicity materials. We sort of
pretended to do a rehearsal for the camera. And as I'm sitting there
listening to Tim and Kevin, I'm thinking, “Wow, they're better. (he
laughs) Kevin's actually doing it even better. And I'm listening to
myself and I'm thinking, “Wow, I'm actually better because Tim's in
the room.” The energy of having everybody there from so long ago was
tremendous – we had this wonderful performance rapport with each
other. So we ended up staying and recording the whole thing again. And
I’ll tell you what – anytime Tim Daly or Kevin Conroy wants to join me
for any job, I'll be happy to have them on the set, behind the mic,
whatever. I've got to read some stories to my son's kindergarten class
and I’m thinking I may have to call up Tim or Kevin and see if they
want to come in because I know, just because they're in the room, that
I'll do a better job than if I tried to do it alone.

QUESTION:  What does Tim Daly bring to Superman?

CLANCY BROWN:  I don’t want to imply anything about the other guys that have played
Superman, but for me, Tim was the guy that started it. So he's always
the voice of Superman. I know George (Newbern) well, and I love George
and I think he did a terrific job. But Tim's Superman sort of set the
standard for this generation.

What I get from Tim's performance is that it's very grounded. It's
very real. We can imagine ourselves as Batman or, in an absurd world,
we could be Batman or Lex. But even in an absurd world, nobody can be
Superman. So you need somebody that's actually going to humanize
Superman, and Tim manages to do that. Maybe it’s in the timber of his
voice or the choices he makes in inflecting, or the intelligence that
comes across or just the ease of his delivery. It’s probably a
combination of all of that and a lot of stuff I haven't mentioned. But
he was a real good choice from the get-go, and he still has it. He
still carries it with him. Plus, I think he’s still only about 28
years old – he hasn’t aged a bit. He said he has a 19-year-old son,
but I don’t believe it.

QUESTION: And what makes Kevin Conroy the definitive voice of Batman?

CLANCY BROWN:  It’s hard to imagine any other voice coming out of that cowl. The live
action guys sounded like who they are. They didn't sound like Batman.
What’s interesting is that Kevin is not like this personally at all,
so I don't really know where it comes from. But his voice carries this
dryness and sadness and, I would say, humorlessness. But it's not
humorless. It's like it's been ripped out of him. There's kind of a
fatalistic thing that's communicated just in the sound of his voice.
That's why it’s always is a little weird when this Batman says
anything that has humor or is pithy. Kevin's voice actually manages to
take the pith out of the pithy. Kevin has the same thing in his voice
that William Holden had on screen. It’s this kind of
don't-mess-with-me gravitas, I’ve been there, I've seen it, I've been
happy-go-lucky, I've been drunk in the streets, and I've seen it all.
So when I talk, you listen. Kevin just holds you that way, and he does
it with his voice. I never heard anybody like that. It’s like the
perfect match of voice to character with Kevin in Batman. You can't
get better than that.

QUESTION:  Can you explain the genius of Bruce Timm?

CLANCY BROWN:  I can't explain the genius of Bruce Timm. I can't explain the genius
of Steve Hillenburg (creator of SpongeBob SquarePants). I can't
explain how these guys just seem to create and continue to refine and
then recreate and build and define a cultural icon and these worlds
that capture the imagination. They're just completely in their head.
There's not a lot of ego – or it’s not offensive ego. That's one thing
I know for sure. And it isn’t an ugly obsession. There's an ease with
it. They dig it. And they have the talent and brainpower to pull it
off.  I don’t know how Bruce does it. He always astounds me. He’s one
of the real deals. It's great that he's with Andrea (Romano) because
they enable and support each other. That’s greater than the sum of its
parts every single time.

QUESTION: The fans call you the quintessential voice of Lex Luthor. Do you feel
some sense of ownership for the role?

CLANCY BROWN:  I respect it, but I think it goes like this: when I was growing up,
the greatest basketball player was Julius Erving or Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar. For my daughter, it was Michael Jordan. And now, for my
son, it's going to be Kobe Bryant or Lebron James. Whatever comes next
for this generation, that's going to be the greatest voice. I think
it's the greatest iteration of this cartoon, and I'm immensely
grateful and feel very fortunate that I'm part of it. I think it's
going to be tough to top this version of Superman, even by any other
medium. I don’t think you'll get a live action version that could be
as good as this world.

QUESTION:  How did comics fit into your childhood?

CLANCY BROWN:  I would go down to Main News and flip through the comic book rack. It
was always fun -- a nice little escape. Because I could never bring
them home. I would buy them, and actually sit there and read them
until Mr. Miller would say, “You know, (he laughs) I don't run a
library.” I'd try to figure out if I wanted to spend my nickel on a
candy bar or a comic. And I would be a rich man today if I had all
those comics. I read Superman. I didn’t read Batman. I liked DC Action
Comics. I read Marvel, too, but I was not a Spider-Man guy. I did like
Iron Man a lot.

QUESTION:  Why couldn't you bring comics home?

CLANCY BROWN:  Because serious people didn’t read that stuff. (he laughs) I had
homework to do. I had piano to practice. I had chores around the
house. I couldn't waste my brainpower reading that stuff. It would rot
my brain. Everybody knows that (he laughs hard).

QUESTION:  How do you get into voice acting, and what made you stay?

CLANCY BROWN:  Getting into voice acting was a completely practical decision on my
part. My daughter had just been born. I wanted to stay in town. It was
something that I hadn’t done before and I had a little bit of a
presence in film and television that I could actually use as leverage
to break through some of the barriers to doing voices. So I did that.

What I love about voice acting is really that the people involved are
just so much fun. They're all good guys – there's nobody I don’t like.
Whenever I walk into a room, I'm happy to see whoever is directing,
whoever is producing, whoever's acting. And it's usually a lot of fun.
I remember when I was the new person in the cast, I was just
overwhelmed by the talent that was in the room and all I could think
was “Man, I hope they invite me back because this is just too much
fun.” And so they kept inviting me back. I can’t imagine every getting
tired of it.

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