Zachary Levi Talks Almost Passing On ‘Shazam!’ & Henry Cavill Being Superman

While we were on the set of Shazam!, Zachary Levi told us the story of how he almost passed on the role and he also hyped up Henry Cavill as Superman.

Shazam! is full speed ahead and the world is starting to know his name. The first trailer introduced us to the kid who can turn into an adult with the wisdom of Solomon and numerous other superpowers and the brand new TV spot shows that the movie might kick all sorts of ass. Shazam! looks like a mix of Superman meets Big, and Zachary Levi is practically made for the role.

During our set visit to Shazam!, we got a chance to talk to Zachary Levi about his role in the upcoming DC Extended Universe film and what the actor told us might come as a big shock: he initially passed on the role. Zachary Levi also talked about the big Henry Cavill Superman controversy and you can check out exactly what the actor had to say about the film and Henry Cavill below.

Zachary Levi: How f—–g dope is this shit?

Q: You are a huge nerd, so when you get a script that has “Shazam” at the top, what was your reaction? Did you think, “This was made for me or…”

A: No, as a matter of fact. I guess I can go into this first, because you guys are the audiences to start this with. The truth is I had an appointment slip set up about two months before I got the job. My agency sent me an appointment slip for the role of Shazam in the movie Shazam. I knew that the Rock had been cast as Black Adam, and, so my first reaction is, “Why the hell are they sending me this right now?” I emailed them, and I said, “Hey, aren’t they looking for a) massive stars, or, at the very least, b) someone who is a massive person.” Even as a cursory Captain Marvel person, who knew very little, quite honestly, about the character at that point, I knew enough to know that. So, I emailed them back and I said, “Aren’t they looking for big stars or big guys?” There was kind of a non-committal, “We’re not really sure.” So, I said, “Well, I think I’m going to pass because I think that might be a waste of time. This doesn’t seem like I’ve got a shot at getting this job, to be perfectly honest.” Then some time went by. I was reading other things or looking at other things. It came back around. I got another audition for a completely different role. I had no idea exactly what the role was, but they were sides that were written specifically for auditions. I was like, “OK, there’s one scene where I felt I could probably portray this character.” I put myself on tape. That was sent to the creative team. Then, I get a call from my agent and they said, “Hey, so, what about that role of Shazam that you passed on two months ago, because they think you actually might be very right for this?” Then, at that point, I got very happy. But I was also still kind of confused. I camera tested probably five days later, or six days later. Then, the next day, I found out that David called me. I was at the gym. I think that was a peut pro. I got a call from David, who said, “You are my Shazam.” It was gnarly. It was insane. It was oddly, or ironically, reminiscent of when I was camera testing for Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. I knew that Chris Pratt had also passed on that role. I wanted it so bad. There was definitely a strange thing of, “Wow. When you are not holding on to something so tightly, if it’s not something you’re dying and dying for, but you can have an unbiased, somewhat clear idea of what you are trying to go after and know that you are just being you, you are bringing your essence…” Ultimately, that’s what I think got me this job. It’s what New Line saw. It’s what Warner Brothers saw. It’s what David saw and Peter Safran saw. They knew they needed to cast someone that could be as exuberant or optimistic or sassy as a 14-year-old boy and dammit, that’s me in a nutshell. It’s odd, too, because I’ve done so many things. My particular energy has gotten me into a lot of incredible jobs like Chuck, like Tangled, like Alvin and the Chipmunks or whatever. It’s always something that’s got a lot of heart to these characters. There was definitely a part of me that felt like, “Oh, maybe I’m never really going to have my shot at something like this because you need to be, I don’t know, one of the Chrises.” I don’t know, either starting super-ripped or super-moody or super-sexy, whatever that is. I always felt like I was more of an every-guy. I felt like I was following in a Tom Hanks kind of trajectory. But then when I realized that we genuinely were making something between Superman and Big, I was like, “Damn, this is a dream job.” I couldn’t have prayed or thought about this more. So, there, that’s how I became me… in this.

Q: Can you talk about getting to play the superhero that actually has complete exuberance being the hero?

A: It’s the best. Following up on what I was saying, I’ve been a comic fan since I was a little kid, but I don’t know it nearly as probably everyone sitting in these chairs, but in many many other people. So, I’m not going to say that there’s not another… There are two characters that I can think of in all of comicdom, including DC and Marvel, and it’s Billy Batson and Peter Parker. Those two to me, at least that I know, you get to go on this journey of like, instead of it being, “Oh, I have to save the world again [begrudgingly voice]” or whatever that is. It’s like, [hyper-enthusiastic voice] “I get to save the world again.” It’s that. As a nerd who loved and lived this world for so long, and still do to some level, that I don’t have to restrain myself with the f—–g coolness factor, is so great. I have to act so little. I just get to be me on so many levels. It’s great. It’s really really fun. It’s a pain in the ass doing some of this shit. It’s painstaking. It’s little by little, and little by little, and all the action and how it’s all put together. The suit is very very tight. To be perfectly honest, I can only do #1 in it. They have to take the whole thing off to drop a deuce and that’s a pain in the ass. But these are the prices you pay to be a superhero? F—–g sign me up. It’s great. It’s great.

Q: You play a character where you and another actor are playing the same character. So, how much do you talk to Asher and how do you line that up, so it works all the way through?

A: That’s an excellent question. We were having conversations very early on, as soon as I got cast, obviously a whole slew of different meetings and conversations and fittings and all those kinds of stuff. And, one of those things was, “When can Asher and I get some time to just hang out, and also time with David all together going through scenes?” We got as much as we possibly could. He was still shooting Andi Mack, for quite some time, I think almost all of our prep and everything, but was able to come up a little bit and we were able to hang out. Fortunately, he’s just a really good, cool kid who also really loves life and video games and sings and dances and things I can relate to. And I go, “Oh, wow. Cool.” So, we kind of hit it off immediately and he’s got a lovely family. A lot of it is just kind of… cause you are shooting out of order. It’s not like I could really watch him do all of his stuff. I started off in one of my scenes and I was like, “Ok. I think this is the choice I am going to make,” and then once you do, you just have to commit to that choice. Otherwise, your performance is all over the place throughout the movie. I think everything has been going good. Everybody seems to be happy. When everybody is happy, I am happy.

Q: How do you balance playing a 14-year-old with the wisdom of Solomon?

A: Good question. Good question. For those in the back, how do you balance playing a 14-year-old who also is supposed to have the wisdom of Solomon in my acronymical, which is not a word name. Acronymical could be a word, though. I’d like it to be a word.

I asked this question of David at the camera test, or maybe right before it. Having done the research on the character and being like, “How is this going to work?” If you have read The New 52, it does take a little license with that. In fact, I don’t think it’s the only version of Captain Marvel or Shazam that’s taken license with this essentially paradox. Essentially, what was settled on is the idea that while some of these powers, or these namesakes and powers – be it Hercules or Atlas or what have you – are a little more evident as Billy is becoming Captain Marvel/Shazam. You guys all know when I say Shazam, I mean Captain Marvel and vice versa. His name is now that. I know a lot of people are upset about that, but a lot of those people just need to get over it. How do you sell Pepsi without calling it Pepsi? It’s just part of that. Any way, moving on. I think some of those are more evident. With the wisdom, it’s not quite as evident. He’s growing into that, I think, a little bit. It’s magic. But he does show his wisdom, I think, in certain areas throughout the movie where you see him make a decisive move or he does something where you go, “Oh, that would be a more wisdom of Solomon-type of thing.” That’s all I got on that, I think. Better to ask the people who are above my pay grade.

Q: Was there any other touchstone in the comics that you looked at to inspire your performance?

A: No, no. As soon as I got the job, Geoff Johns sent me a whole bunch of stuff, and some other friends recommended stuff. I wanted to read those to kind of familiarize myself, but, also, see if there were little nuggets or little things. But the truth is The New 52 is really…not canon for this… because this is even different than what The New 52 is. I did quite like Kingdom Come. Even though that’s a completely different situation, it shows Captain Marvel in a really incredible… the innocence. He’s an adult and he still has that heart. I thought, “That’s such a cool thing to be able to take that in and is ultimately a sacrificial move at the end and all of that.” I just found that was more inspiration for me than even The New 52 in a lot of ways because we get away with a lot in comics. You get to draw whatever the hell you want and you, as the reader, get to put a real voice in your head to those characters. But in the movies, as an actor, you really have to try and bring that to life in the most realistic way possible. That’s a really weird thing to do when you shoot lightning from your hands. That’s a weird thing to do. Mark and I joke back and forth like, “I guess that’s what it is like to shoot lightning from your…,” when we are acting out because you are making it up as you go. But, how do you balance that with being a real person and more than that, you are supposed to buy that I’m a 14-year-old inside.

Q: Shazam takes place after Justice League, how much is Billy/Shazam aware of those characters and does he try to embody any of that as he’s being his own superhero?

A: We are definitely within the DCEU world. Everything that has happened… again you should ask the people above me about some of these things. But the bulk of essentially, I think since the Man of Steel, all of that has really happened in our world. Freddy is more the comic book, not just comics, he is the superhero aficionado. That guy is all about it. All of that stuff, theoretically, we could have been watching on the news as it was going down. Does that answer your question?

Q: Yeah, but also, does that ever influence him? Is Shazam ever, “Oh. Now I’m going to be like Superman. Now I’m going to be like Batman.”

A: Umm… No, because oddly enough, Billy isn’t a big superhero aficionado. Billy’s been so obsessed with trying to find his parents, trying to find his family. And he’s lived on the streets quite a few times in between all that. To him, that stuff is going on, but he’s not caring so much about that.

Q: Did the way you were unceremoniously killed off in Ragnorak maybe give you a [inaudible, but basically make him hesitate…] to signing on for another thing where that might happen again?

A: No, because I’m the Earth’s mightiest mortal. What the hell are they going to do to me? No. I knew when I got cast as Fandral in the first one, though I wasn’t able to do it, I knew that the Warriors Three could be really fun characters if they ever developed them. They just didn’t. They didn’t. they didn’t in the first one. They didn’t really in Dark World. That’s not to say there weren’t some moments that were shot that weren’t used ultimately in the movie. Even when I got killed, there was more to that scene. Granted, maybe 30 seconds more of a line here, a line there. Kill, kill, you’re dead. I knew Fandral could be fodder, would be fodder. I don’t know, unless Marvel really wanted to be like, “We want every single character we’ve ever seen, particularly demi-gods, to be able to be a part of Avengers.” But then the truth is… to be honest… If let’s say Fandral was still alive and let’s say they tapped me to be in Avengers, I’d probably be sitting in Atlanta for three months doing almost nothing and then they’d be, “Okay, now we’re ready for you. You guys go in,” And then we’d get killed then. The way it all worked out is exactly the way it was supposed to. Certainly, in the moment, would have been cool if Fandral got more to do? Dude, what a fun character. Errol Flynn. Viking. Space God. Like, c’mon. Ladies man. C’mon! That’s all fun. So, that was a little bit of a bummer but looking back, if I didn’t die, I might still be under contract with Marvel and I never would have been able to get this job. And I say, “F— that.” This is the coolest thing ever. I’m so happy. And, literally to be able to jumpstart my life. I’m healthier and stronger and happier that I’ve ever been in my life. The people I get to work with, on and off screen here, has been tremendous. Also, going back to your question, if you are looking at the titular role of a movie, I don’t think you’re as afraid you are as dispensable. You know what I mean?

Reporter: Tell that to Henry Cavill.

Zachary Levi: Well, but he’s still Superman. He’s still Superman. Just because they haven’t gotten around to making another standalone Superman movie, doesn’t mean he’s still not Superman and doesn’t mean he’s still not killing it as Superman. Doesn’t mean everybody doesn’t still love him as Superman, right?

What do you guys think about Zachary Levi’s comments on the Shazam! movie, as well as Henry Cavill and Superman? Are you excited for Shazam? 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

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Superhero Cinema 2018 Black Panther Avengers Thanos The Incredibles Aquaman2018 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. You can start the gallery by clicking "Next."

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 WaspAnt-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 2Deadpool 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

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 2incredibles-2-pixar-disney

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 WarAvengers 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-VerseSpider-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 PantherBlack 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.

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Nathaniel Brail

Nathaniel Brail

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