David F. Sandberg Talks ‘Shazam!’ & If Black Adam Was Ever In The Film

Shazam Asher Angel Jack Dylan Grazer David F. Sandberg Black Adam

Shazam! director David F. Sandberg talked with us while on set and he opened about a lot of things including if Black Adam was involved with the script at some point.

When Shazam! was first announced, every one assumed the film’s main villain would be Black Adam. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was cast in the Black Adam role years ago and fans definitely wanted to see him take on Shazam. It was later revealed that Dwayne Johnson would get his own solo film for Black Adam and that the character would not appear in the first Shazam! film.

Now as filming is complete and it’s in the final rounds of post-production, Shazam! has become one of the most anticipated films of the year and it’s officially the next film in DC’s slate of movies. The film has a lot riding on it after Aquaman‘s huge success. From the looks of it everything is going to be fantastic in the Shazam! movie.

During our visit to the set of Shazam!, we got the chance to talk with some of the talent from the film and that included visionary director David F. Sandberg. While talking a bout the film, Sandberg revealed a few very interesting things about it like that Black Adam May have been a previous draft of the film, but he was completely removed by the time he came on board. Check out the full interview below.

Reporter: You’re the first DC movie to in production after Justice League. I want to know how the result … the critical reaction, and sort of everything reacting to that movie changed this movie at all. Obviously, this is a bright movie. It’s sort of dark. Was there any …

Sandberg: I mean, it’s such a separate film that I don’t think it changed anything really. It’s very different from Justice League. It’s still the same universe, but just has a very different tone, and it’s not … yeah.

Reporter: Do you think about any of that, the past criticism of DC movie?

Sandberg: Not really.

Reporter: The comic Shazam is lesser known for some people.

Sandberg: Yeah.

Reporter: Is there any character you were particularly interested in when the project came up, or that you knew about?

Sandberg: He was lesser known to me as well when they approached me. Yeah, I was just vaguely familiar, so I did like a deep dive research kind of thing after.

Reporter: What was it about the character that made you want to take on this project?

Sandberg: Well, basically they told me, “Oh, it’s like Big with superpowers.” It’s like, that sounds awesome. Like there’s so much you can have with that wish fulfillment of this kid who gets to become a superhero and try out all these things. Yeah, it just felt very unique.

Reporter: Is there any talk, or was there any talk about putting the Zoltar machine in the amusement park, and can you still do this?

Sandberg: Well, yeah, maybe we can. Well, we actually have other references to Big.

Reporter: Does it involve the Chopsticks?

Sandberg: You’ll have to see exactly what they are. Yeah, there’s a couple of them actually.

Reporter: You kind of briefly touched on it, and it’s something we keep hearing a lot about, is the tone of the movie. So like, can you break it down maybe in your terms what you consider the tone?

Sandberg: It’s sort of a … Yeah, it’s a fun movie…Like, it’s not like a pure comedy, because you still have those … touches some pretty dark subjects and some pretty scary monsters, but it’s more of … I like to compare it to like ’80s movies, like Goonies, and Ghostbusters, and Back To the Future. Like, that sort of like, “Oh, it’s a family kind of … ” It’s not dark and gritty.

Reporter: This movie deals with this magical corner of the DC universe that has never been explored on film, so there-

Sandberg: Which is great when it’s like, “Well, how do we explain that?” Well, it’s magic so it’s like, finally.

Reporter: Can you talk about the casting a little bit? How did you end up with Zach, what did he bring to the table?

Sandberg: We did very extensive casting. We read, I think it was over a hundred people for the role of Shazam. I mean, that’s usually the case. You just read tons and tons of people until you see some … You see right away that it’s like, “Ooh, that’s the guy.” And that’s kind of what happened with Zach once I saw … He had self-taped and sent that in. And so, I … “Ooh, that’s the guy.”

Reporter: There’s a big battle sequence in the mall, in the toy store, and I’m just curious when you’re filming at a toy store where there’s … you’re in the DC universe and the characters are known, as a director, what do you want to see on the toy shelves that maybe don’t exist in the real world but you can have fun with on set?

Sandberg: For that, I mean, everything exists that we had in there. It’s all these, yeah, DC toys, and …

Reporter: Well, was there anything you created specifically for the toy set?

Sandberg: No, it was sort … No, they’re all sort of real DC toys that are in there. I mean, some were like, “Hey, you can’t have that character, because that character’s not in the universe yet. You have to stick to these characters.

Reporter: Can you talk about the comics influence? We heard earlier that you were influenced by the new 52, and that kind of influenced the costumes and what-not. Can you talk about the influence that you pulled from the comics and maybe some of the changes that you went through in costume design?

Sandberg: Yeah, I wanted to incorporate a little bit of everything, not just in 52, but the older stuff as well, which is … The suit is one part of that where it’s like, “Yeah, I want the shorter cape of like the Golden Age comics.” But then we … And like, “Let’s try the hood from the new 52.” And little things like that, and trying to balance it. So we have things and references from the old comics, but a lot of the story takes inspiration from the new 52. So it’s a combination of like, “Oh, I like this, and we like that, and let’s put it together.”

Reporter: Can you talk about the relationship that we … You gave a little information on Shazam and Freddy as the resident superhero expert. Can you talk a little bit about bringing that to the film and the fun that, that sets up?

Sandberg: Yeah, it’s basically two kids having fun with superpowers, but one of them is like an adult, which just already just visually, it’s like funny with this little kid and this big guy, and they’re like, “Oh, awesome.” And doing all these things. And then we got really lucky again with casting, with Jack Dylan Grazer and Zach Levi together, are like awesome, because a lot of times when we’re shooting, I’ll just wait to yell cut, because they always keep going and add little things. And most of that won’t end up in the movie, but it’s like, I like to see what happens, because no two takes are ever the same with those two as well, because they always are challenging things up, and yeah.

Reporter: In what ways are you setting up Shazam for the greater DC universe and the upcoming Black Adam movie?

Sandberg: Well, I mean, this movie’s mostly just about introducing Billy Batson and Shazam, and who he is, how he came to be. Yeah, it takes place in this DC world, where all these heroes exist, but in some ways, yeah, it’s both sort of self-contained, while also being a part of something bigger. But yeah, that’s a non-answer.

Reporter: How much effort was there to make sure it worked self-contained ? Where like in Justice League, that movie works better if you’ve seen other movies before it. So how much did you sort of think of like that as you’re developing the movie?

Sandberg: No, in that case, it’s very standalone. Like, you don’t have to have seen any of the other films, because it’s its own contained story really. Yeah, it’s just more the world of it that’s part of it.

Reporter: Can you tell us a little bit about Mark Strong as a villain? He’s one of the few parts of the Green Lantern movie that people don’t usually criticize.

Sandberg: Yeah.

Reporter: So, and he talked about how this was kind of a second chance at playing the villain but…

Sandberg: Yeah, and he really enjoys playing a villain as well. He really has fun with being a bad guy, which is great, because it’s just so fun to watch with someone who enjoys being evil. Yeah, we’re very lucky to get him, because he’s such a great actor.

Reporter:Is there any sort of fun Easter egg to his character from Green Lantern in this movie?

Sandberg: No, there isn’t.

Reporter: A lot of superhero movies kind of go overboard with their final act, but what we’ve seen from these big action sequences here, they’re all kind of these relatively personal spaces, like a mall, or a winter carnival. Is that something that kind of carries through the whole movie?

Sandberg: Yeah, it’s a very sort of personal story, and it’s not … which I like, because I find it more engaging when it’s not like an entire world and everything, like it’s blue beam in the sky and Robin coming in, and like, so it’s fun where it’s like … Yeah, this whole carnival is in danger and all these people, and you can be saved, and it’s more manageable and I think it’s more engaging as well.

Reporter: Have you commiserated at all with James Wan as both of you are making your DC comic book movies at the same time?

Sandberg: I actually haven’t seen him in a long while now. I may not have seen him since before he went off to shoot. So, no, we haven’t really talked about that. We’ve emailed about some things, but no, not really.

Reporter: Can you talk about the setting? I mean, this is like set during Christmastime, like the wintertime. Is there a purpose for choosing that specific time and setting for this film?

Sandberg: It’s a lot about family and Christmastime and this family holiday. And it’s about like finding your family with these foster kids and everything. So yeah, it was just very appropriate for the story. It just meant that we had to shoot it here in winter, which has been pretty brutal. Shoot it all on location during nights, because they were like … They were telling me like, “If you shoot the carnival during the day, you get more kid hours, everything will be easier.” And I was like, “Well, it’s not gonna look good with all the lights and everything.” So yeah, so we’ve been shooting it during the nights and it’s been pretty miserable.

Reporter: Have you already thought about post credit scenes and what you want to do, or is it something you think about in the editing room?

Sandberg: We already thought about that, yeah.

Reporter: Was there ever a version of this project … I know earlier ones always involved Dwayne Johnson’s character. Was that already gone, is that already off the table by the time you came on board?

Sandberg: Yeah, when I came on board, it was like, “Yeah, we’re doing a standalone Shazam movie.” Yeah, and I know they’ve been sort of … The project has I think has existed in various forms before, but I haven’t really … I’m not really familiar with all of that.

Reporter: Was there a reason that you chose Philly? Like, even ignoring the fact that it’s not Fawcett City.

Sandberg: Well, we went with Geoff Johns’ idea. I think he picked Philly because of Benjamin Franklin and all of that stuff. And the thing about Shazam, or Captain Marvel, is it’s been different … It was Fawcett City at some point, but I think originally, it was New York, and like it’s been … So it’s not like, “Oh, it has to be Metropolis or something.” It can be anything really.

Reporter: So you’ve mentioned the new 52 to and currently since Rebirth in DC, we haven’t had a Billy Batson character active in comics. Has there been any effort, or anything that you’ve worked closely with Geoff Johns in this movie that might launch some new DC books, or has that been something that you’ve been thinking about, like what could spin out of this movie into the comics?

Sandberg: I know there’s some comic plans, but I don’t know a lot about them, just little bits and pieces, but I think they definitely want to do more with Billy Batson and Shazam.

Reporter: Can you talk about the learning curve of this movie for you as a director, you going from two small budgeted horror movies to something epic like this?

Sandberg: Yeah, it’s quite a marathon. Like, it’s a lot of work. Yeah, it’s a very different way of working, just because you have to do all this previs, and like plan everything out months in advance. And then when you’re shooting it … It’s not always as fun as shooting a smaller movie, because you have to shoot … Oh, today we’re shooting this little piece, and this little piece, because this piece is second unit, this is on blue screen, this is CGI. It’s a lot of things to keep track of. So the shooting is not always fun, but the result is so much more awesome than … when you have when you have these kinds of resources. So yeah, it’s been a lot of work. I mean, especially like now, we’re shooting main unit during the day and second unit is shooting during the night. And I want to be part of as much of it as possible, so I’m not getting a lot of sleep, but it’s … Yeah, we’re doing some cool stuff.

What do you think of David F. Sandberg’s comments on Shazam! and Black Adam? Sound off in the comments section below.

We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Angel) case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart—inside a ripped, godlike body—Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong).

Directed by David F. Sandberg, Shazam! stars Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Grace Fulton, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans, and Ron Cephas.

Shazam! will be released in theaters on April 5, 2019.

The Superhero Movies Of 2018, Ranked From Worst To Best

2018 has gone by too fast. It seems like yesterday when the beginning of the new year was upon us, and the advent of having so many superhero movies hitting theaters seemed like a dream come true for every fanboy and fangirl. It’s also funny to look back and remember that although we ended up with a whopping nine major theatrical superhero movies, we almost had eleven. Sadly, Fox delayed both Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants to 2019 instead.

Even with those two films delayed, 2018 was still a massive year not just at the box office, but for the continued advancement of the genre on a number of levels. Whether it was through the cultural significance of a film like Black Panther or the exciting animated adventures of Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, there was no shortage of exciting superhero stories told on the big screen this year.

Here are the theatrical superhero films of 2018, ranked from worst to best.

9. Venom 

Venom Tom Hardy Eddie Brock Marvel Sony

Yeah, Venom is an interesting film to say the least. Many have doubted Sony and their plans to create their own universe centered on Spider-Man villains that is said to be “adjacent” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially after what happened with their proposed plans for a shared universe set within the canon of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man films.

What director Ruben Fleischer brought to audiences is this bizarre, clunky, yet surprisingly entertaining throwback to the early 2000s era of superhero cinema. It has major narrative and technical flaws that keep it from being legitimately a “good” film beyond some moments of ironic brilliance, but Tom Hardy’s performance is one of the most entertaining comic book movie performances put on screen in a long time.

8. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp Avengers 4 Marvel

It’s pretty hard to follow in the footsteps of such a massive crossover event like Avengers: Infinity War, but the microscopic (yes, pun intended) scale of Ant-Man and the Wasp is a nice lighthearted cleanser after witnessing Thanos’ decimation. It falls short of its 2015 predecessor, but director Peyton Reed still brings in some entertaining sequences that are a nice blend of action and comedy.

Both Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly have great chemistry, and the entire climactic chase sequence is pure delight.

7. Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 X-Force Fox

2016’s Deadpool was the surprise hit of that year. While many hardcore comic book fans were excited to finally see a proper iteration of the Merc with a Mouth, the industry was particularly surprised by how mainstream audiences embraced Ryan Reynolds as the beloved antihero of the Marvel Universe.

Deadpool 2 continues that trend of self-aware comedy mixed in with the badass action directed by David Leitch. Unfortunately, the film falls into some of the trappings of a “more of the same” type of sequel, but put on a bigger scale. The film certainly could’ve benefited from a more clever script beyond just making everything bigger than the first. While the film never recaptures that lightning-in-a-bottle that the first film had, it still holds its own with some great character moments and perhaps the best mid-credits scene of all-time.

Plus, the additions of Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) add more to the irresistible tone that Deadpool brings to the big screen. Overall, a decent sequel.

6. Teen Titans GO! To the Movies

Teen Titans GO! To The Movies

It’s kind of funny that Teen Titans GO! To The Movies is as entertaining as it is. Sure, the film is still targeted towards younger children that tune into the series on Cartoon Network, but the film is a surprisingly clever send-up of both the superhero movie genre as well as a hilarious tribute to the lore of DC Comics seen through the eyes of the Teen Titans themselves.

Also, the fact that the film ends with a stinger that teases the possible return of the original Teen Titans series justifies its existence in more ways than one.

5. Aquaman 


Aquaman is a much-needed win for the DC Extended Universe. The franchise received its biggest win in 2017 with Wonder Woman but unfortunately hit a massive roadblock with the disappointing Justice League. As it turns out, all the DCEU needed to do to get back in the right direction was to add water and filmmaker James Wan into the mix.

Wan really goes all out with this film. This is a visually stunning adventure film on both land and sea that really leans into the inherently cheesy nature of the character while simultaneously turning Aquaman into perhaps the most badass superhero in the DCEU thus far.

Some may be turned off by how campy Aquaman can get at points, but it’s hard not to get swept up into the fun when you have Jason Momoa having the time of his life.

4. Incredibles 2


It has been 14 years since we were last acquainted with the Incredibles. Thankfully, they haven’t missed a beat even after that long, long wait for the most-requested Pixar sequel of all-time.

It’s great to see Brad Bird bounce back with this exciting sequel after the earnest, yet disappointing mess that was Tomorrowland. Here, Bird is back on his element as a brilliant storyteller and is adept at further developing these characters.

Seeing the entire family in these hilarious and death-defying circumstances is so enthralling, particularly in the film’s climax. Also, everything involving Jack-Jack and Edna Mode are some of the funniest sequences of animation that Pixar has ever done.

3. Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers Infinity War Thanos Marvel Studios

What else is there that needs to be said about this 2018 film? It really is the most ambitious crossover event in cinematic history, and it has sparked an entire year-long conversation about what our surviving heroes will be doing next after all the chaos.

Anthony and Joe Russo accomplished the near-impossible task of balancing out dozens of larger-than-life characters in this kaleidoscope of comic book beauty that leads to some of the most epic battles ever brought to the big screen.

Also, with Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, it’s going to be interesting if that film has a moment that tops the pure awesomeness that is the scene in which Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) arrive on the battlefield in Wakanda.

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Who would’ve thought that an animated Spider-Man movie that features Spider-Noir and Spider-Ham on the big screen would be the best film centered on the webhead since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2?

Leave it to the minds of Phil Lord and Chris Miller along with the incredible creative team to bring us a true love letter to the character that would make Stan Lee and Steve Ditko proud. Yes, Peter Parker will always be our original Spidey, but this film proves that the best part about being Spider-Man is the fact that he/she can come from anywhere despite their personal background and circumstances.

1. Black Panther

Black Panther Marvel Disney Ryan Coogler

As big as Avengers: Infinity War was, it’s harder to find a 2018 movie that has had as big of an impact on the popular culture than Black Panther. But beyond the cultural significance that comes with such a film, Ryan Coogler crafted a powerful, touching story about legacy, family, principles, power and purpose.

It’s hard to log onto the internet sometimes because the world is in such a chaotic place. But Black Panther represents the power of storytelling and why seeing more diverse characters and stories on the big screen matters.

Films like Black Panther remind us about the power of cinema. It can unite audiences together despite their differences and can also inspire us to be better people. All those reasons and more are why Black Panther is the best superhero film of 2018.

Nathaniel Brail

Nathaniel Brail

Running things at HH. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @NateBrail