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How Michael Rosenbaum's disastrous audition for Smallville's Lex Luthor got him the part

How Smallville's Lex Luthor did everything wrong, but still got the part.

Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor on Smallville
Image credit: Warner Brothers Television

Have you ever screwed up a job interview? Michael Rosenbaum can relate. The actor did everything wrong during one of the biggest auditions in his career, yet he still landed the role.

Many of us know Rosenbaum best as Lex Luthor, the role he played on the Superman prequel Smallville. For years Rosenbaum’s performance delighted fans, as he showed Lex’s slow descent into villainy. However, Rosenbaum wasn’t initially sure if he wanted the part.

Speaking to a crowd at the 2023 C2E2 convention, Rosenbaum recalled the odd way he landed the role. “I didn’t want to do it, because I thought it was just going to be some fluffy Warner Brothers Superman show. That’s not for me, I don’t know anything about superheroes or all that stuff,” Rosenbaum said.

Rosenbaum’s agent promised that the show would be grounded and serious. The actor remained unconvinced but went in for the audition anyway. “I went in because I had nothing to lose, and I didn’t care. You know when you go in, and you’re just like ‘whatever.’ That’s when you’re at your best.”

The audition was a disaster.

“I went in there and I remember the casting director standing there, and she had it all lit up. She said ‘Okay, you’re going to sit here,’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t think I’m going to sit.’ She goes, ‘What? Well, I have to relight it if you’re going to stand up and walk around.’ I go, “Okay, that would be cool.’ She goes, ‘Okay, could you go outside?’ I went outside for ten minutes, and she was pissed,” Rosenbaum recalled.

To Rosenbaum’s surprise, his audition behavior didn’t scare the producers away. “My agent called me a week later. ‘They want you to come test for the network and studio,’ and I went, ‘No.’ I wasn’t being a dick, I swear. I was just like, ‘I’ll never be that good again. Tell them to rewind the tape.’ You couldn’t rewind it back then.”

Once again, defying all logic, this tactic worked. As Rosenbaum recounted, his agent called him back with the good news. “You son of a bitch, it’s yours. I still thought they were going to fire me when I got to set. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it worked this time.”

It goes without saying, but don’t try this at home.

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Joshua Lapin-Bertone avatar
Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.
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