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The Comic Book Character That Ballers Villain Steve Guttenberg Looked To For Inspiration

Ballers Steve Guttenberg smarming at The Rock

Last Sunday saw Game of Thrones' seventh season come to a polarizing close, which may have prompted some to wonder what to do with their HBO subscription for the rest of the year. But those in the know have been just as glued to the sports dramedy Ballers, especially Season 3, also airing on Sunday. One of this season's huge draws has been veteran actor Steve Guttenberg, who's been playing a hell of a villain as Wayne Hastings Jr. As it happens, Guttenberg told CinemaBlend he's drawn some serious character inspiration from one of DC's greatest criminal masterminds: Lex Luthor.

During a chat with CinemaBlend's own Conner Schwerdtfeger, the former Police Academy star Steve Guttenberg admitted that he's not only having a blast playing the scheming Vegas entrepreneur, but he's also thinking back to one particular variant of Lex Luthor's history to stay inspired. He explained his inspired approach as follows:

It's been really terrific to be able to be a sweet-faced villain as opposed to rough and tumble. I loved Gene Hackman in the first Superman. He was just extraordinary as Lex Luthor and tried to be as charming as he could while being such a villain. So he was somebody that I really looked at and studied a few times, the Superman with him being Lex Luthor.

After reading the fact that Wayne Hastings Jr. is a Lex Luthor-inspired villain -- at least in portrayal if not outright conception -- it's hard to see him as anything but. The iconic foe. With a smile that's approachable enough in one light, but deadly serious in another, Guttenberg's role has served to basically keep Dwayne Johnson's Spencer Strassmore and all of his cohorts on their financially-driven toes. And in true Luthorian fashion, Hastings isn't afraid to tell people "No," and with a great, big smile on his face; all the better to remind his enemies that his time is worth way more than they've valued it. Lex would approve.

Superman Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor flashing peace

Considering Hastings is a key part of this season's main arc, which involves Strassmore's attempts to bring an NFL team to Las Vegas, it would have sank the whole season if anyone who wasn't up for the challenge stood in the skin of Wayne's charming self. But it's a task that Steve Guttenberg has not only taken on admirably, but also enthusiastically. In fact, he's an actor that recognizes just how important the right adversary can be when it comes to any project, especially the ratings-friendly Ballers, as he further elaborated on just what makes his devious businessman such a big success in the show's third season:

The villain is a great role. You want to play the villain. That's the great part in Shakespearean plays, in Moliere, in Shaw, in Ibsen. The leading man, the leading woman, is the hardest part to cast because you need to get someone with charisma, good looks, and also acting ability, but the villain is integral to that hero. The better the villain, the better the hero, and it's all about the story and serving the play, serving the cinema, and as a villain you are serving a very, very important part of every story, which is conflict. Conflict is what makes a great story, so the better the villain is the better the conflict, the better the story. I'm a supporting actor. I'm supporting my leading man.

Most folks may remember Steve Guttenberg as a leading man in the golden age of 80's comedy, particularly with SNL and the afforementioned Police Academy series under his belt. But the case could be made that his approach to Ballers' baddie is a fantastic case for why he continues to land occasional roles of the more evil variety. For those of us who have dug into his refreshing presence as much as he has himself, a new era of Guttenberg-ian character acting and/or villainy is something we wholeheartedly support. In fact, DC Comics should take the following note: give Steve Guttenberg the role of Lex Luthor Sr., whether it's on the big screen or the small one, and really let him tear the DCEU a new one.

Ballers Season 3 continues its run on HBO every Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. ET. To see what other new and returning shows are on the way, head to our fall TV schedule.

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.