King Jesse Eisenberg And Warner Bros.' Unconventional Casting Choices

A certain segment of the Internet exploded in outrage today at the news that Jesse Eisenberg has been cast in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. Many feel that Eisenberg, who is probably best known for playing Mark Zuckerberg in the 2010 Facebook movie The Social Network, is too young and slight for the role. He comes off as a nerd, not a super villain. In other words, he’s no Gene Hackman.

The vitriol hasn’t yet risen to the heights it hit back in August when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman in the movie. But give fans time. They’re just warming up.

Does Warner Bros. need to be worried about all of this fan backlash? Probably not. For one thing, people are talking, excitedly, about the movie. When it finally hits theaters in 2016, anticipation for the film will be off the charts.

And the folks who take to the Internet to complain about casting don’t really represent the vast majority of movie goers. Most people don’t worry too much about this stuff until the ads start coming out. Then we’ll see what Affleck and Eisenberg, and Jeremy Iron as Alfred, look like in director Zack Snyder’s new take on the old characters.

And while Eisenberg might be an unconventional choice for Luthor, it’s worth remembering some of the other counter-intuitive casting choices that ended up serving Warner Bros. (and other studios) well at the box office.

Heath Ledger as The Joker
Before Ledger, we’d come to know The Joker as a laughing psychopath, someone who giggled maniacally while killing innocent people. Ledger, who had done time as a teen heartthrob, seemed to be moving more into serious art-house films when he took the role of the Joker in the 2008 Christopher Nolan film The Dark Knight.

Now, of course, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Ledger playing the role. The young actor tragically passed away before the movie was released but he won a posthumous Oscar for his work and the film grossed $1 billion at the box office.

Michael Keaton as Batman
Although there was no Twitter in the late ’80s, if there had been, the Interwebs would have lit up when Tim Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman. The comedian, up to that point, was best known for movies like Mr. Mom and Night Shift. Not conventionally handsome, Keaton seemed ill equipped to play the masked super hero or Bruce Wayne.

But of course the film was a hit, grossing $411 million back in 1989 and launching an incredibly lucrative franchise that is now on its second reboot. In fact when conventionally handsome and charming George Clooney took over the role for 1997′s Batman and Robin, the film was a (relative) flop grossing only $238 million.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Anyone who read The Hunger Games series before seeing the movie was surprised when Lawrence was cast in the lead role. The book describes Katniss as extremely thin and boyish looking with a dark complexion. Lawrence, although gorgeous, is far from boyish looking.

And yet she nailed Katniss’ character. Anyone reading the books since the first movie came out will have a hard time picturing Katniss as anyone but Lawrence. The actress can now demand millions of dollars to play the role because there’s no way she could ever be replaced. The Hunger Games movies have grossed $1.6 billion at the box office so far.

Do these choices mean that Eisenberg is a slam dunk? Not at all. Unconventional casting can also backfire. Seth Rogen didn’t exactly soar as The Green Hornet. His 2011 film grossed just $227 million. But it’s worth waiting to see. Maybe Eisenberg will make us forget all about Hackman.