As the last surviving core cast member of the Christopher Reeve-starred Superman franchise, Gene Hackman played his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor for three of the four films. The now-retired actor worked with the late director Richard Donner, who died at the age of 91, on the original 1978 film and the sequel he originally leads before he left over creative differences before Richard Lester took over that featured Terrence Stamp's General Zod as the main villain. Hackman shared a memory of Donner with The Hollywood Reporter sharing a story on the set of the Warner Bros film.
"I showed up for the first day of make-up tests for Superman with a fine Lex Luthor mustache I'd grown for the role," the two-time Oscar-winner wrote. "Dick, wearing his own handsome mustache, told me mine had to go. He bargained to lose his if I did mine. True to his word, he celebrated my last razor stroke by gleefully pulling off the fake whiskers he'd acquired for the occasion. Dick made it fun, and that's why the films turned out that way, too."
Hackman largely kept his hair in the bulk of his time in the role but later revealed the character is wearing a wig. The first two Superman films paired Luthor, the self-declared "greatest criminal mastermind," with his more simple-minded henchman Otis, his trusted, loyal henchman, played by the late Ned Beatty, who died on June 13. The films also starred Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane. The Reeve-starred films grossed over 600 million combined globally at the box office. In 2006, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released cobbled from unused footage guided by Donner and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz. The bare minimal footage from Lester's film was used to tie up the original script as possible since Donner never completed his original sequel. Some of the Donner footage made its way to the maligned Superman Returns (2006), directed by Bryan Singer, with Brandon Routh taking over for the late Reeve.