Zachary Levi will join the DC universe this spring when he becomes Shazam, but it almost didn't happen. I got a chance to visit the set of the next DC movie last year and speak with the man who will play the superhero form of Billy Batson, and he admitted that he initially turned down auditioning for the role because he assumed it would a waste of time. According to Levi...
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.'
It's not too surprising that Zachary Levi felt he might be wasting his time auditioning for a role like this. Shazam's big antagonist had been cast long before the hero and if your bad guy looks like Dwayne Johnson, then you probably want a hero who at least looks like he'll be a fair match. Zachary Levi, even after spending a lot of time in the gym, still doesn't look like The Rock, and he's also not as big a movie star.
Of course, the truth is that quite often major stars don't get cast as superheroes, superheroes roles make big stars. Chris Pratt is blockbuster leading man material now, but that wasn't the case when he was cast in Guardians of the Galaxy, a role Levi himself once auditioned for. Henry Cavill wasn't a household name before becoming Superman. Zachary Levi is really just following the path that several other have walked before him.
However, turning the audition down once wasn't enough for Zachary Levi, on the set of Shazam! Levi explained that while he may have moved on, the movie hadn't, and once the studio got a handle on just who this character was going to be, it was decided Levi was perfect for the part. Levi goes on to explain:
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.
In the end, it really does seem like Zachary Levi is the perfect choice to play Shazam. He has a youthful energy about him which has been obvious in several of his roles, such as his breakthrough on the TV series Chuck. It's all the more obvious when you meet him in person. He was clearly excited to be playing a superhero in a major film.
Check out Zachary Levi in Shazam! in the most recent trailer, below.
Since Shazam is a 14-year-old boy in a superhero's body, there may be nobody quite as perfect as Levi. Luckily, there were people involved in the new Shazam! film that realized that even if he didn't.
Shazam! arrives in theaters this April.