As villains go, Clancy Brown has covered the gamut of wicked characters across every medium with sinister perfection – but never is his evil expertise so evident as when he steps behind the microphone as the voice of Lex Luthor. Brown reprises his benchmark role as the focal point of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe animated original movies.
Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation will present the all-new Superman/Batman: Public Enemies on Sept. 29 in a Blu-Ray™ Hi-Def edition, a special edition 2-disc DVD, and a single disc DVD. Warner Home Video will distribute the action-packed movie, which will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download on Sept. 29.
The film may be called Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, but this is a tour de force for Lex Luthor – and Brown’s intonations captivate during every moment Luthor is on screen. In the film, Luthor has been elected President of the United States, and he uses the oncoming trajectory of a Kryptonite asteroid to frame Superman and declare a $1 billion bounty on the heads of the Man of Steel and his “partner in crime,” Batman. Superman and Batman must unite to stave off the pursuit of heroes and villains alike, stop the asteroid, and uncover Luthor’s devious plot to take command of far more than North America.
Voicing Lex isn’t Brown’s only upcoming starring role. Fans will get a healthy dose of Brown on large and small screens in the coming months as he appears in both the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street and in the Matt Damon vehicle The Informant!, as well as starring in
ABC’s primetime law office drama, The Deep End.
Brown was cast as a villain in his very first theatrical role opposite Sean Penn in Bad Boys, and then forever sealed his place in fantasy villainy as The Kurgan in Highlander. Before playing an immortal, though, Brown etched his name in cult classic history as Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
Beyond Highlander, Brown is regularly recognized from his standout performance as Captain Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, as the centerpiece of HBO’s Carnivale as Brother Justin Crowe, and to fanboys across the planet as gung-ho Sgt. Zim in Starship Troopers.
While he has voiced nearly 500 animated episodes and films, Brown is best known by the younger audience as Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants. He is widely recognized as the quintessential Lex Luthor in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, and he has scored kudos for his voicing of Mr. Freeze in The Batman, George Stacy/Rhino in The Spectacular Spider-Man, Long Feng in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Captain Black in Jackie Chan Adventures, and Mister Sinister in Wolverine and the X-Men. His voice credits, to list just a few, include roles in Phineaus and Ferb, Ben 10: Alien Force, Kim Possible, Duck Dodgers, Teen Titans, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and Gargoyles.
Brown made his TV debut in an episode of the The Dukes of Hazzard, and has since been seen in primetime guest appearances and recurring roles on series as varied as Law & Order, ER, Lost, Star Trek: Enterprise, The Practice, The Outer Limits, Tales from the Crypt and China Beach.
Want a treat? Pause for a moment to recall Clancy Brown’s patented voice for Lex Luthor. Suave. Smooth. Villainous. Now, as you read the Q&A, imagine that voicing uttering each of the answers. And enjoy …
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.
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.
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.
For more information, images and updates, please visit the film’s official website at SupermanBatmanDVD.com.