How Zachary Levi’s Failed Guardians Of The Galaxy Audition Helped Him Land DC’s Shazam

Zachary Levi as Shazam in Fury of the Gods
(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Sometimes when Hollywood closes a door, it opens a window. Just ask Zachary Levi, who lost out on what would have been a career-making role in Guardians of the Galaxy only to eventually land the titular role in DC’s Shazam! Though it all went down years ago, he’s now opening up about how his failed audition for James Gunn still led him to the opportunity of a lifetime. 

In 2012, industry sources were reporting that the role of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star Lord was down to two actors: Zachary Levi and Jim Sturgess. Obviously, it didn’t go to either of them -- though the rumors about Levi were true. He told The Playlist how he ended up being on the shortlist to play Peter Quill, and how it ended up going to someone else: 

James [Gunn] and I knew each other, we were friends, we would have game nights at each other’s homes, had a lot of mutual friends. And so he had asked me to come in and read for Star-Lord, and I did, and then that led to the next step, and then all of a sudden I was camera testing. Oh man, I wanted that role so bad, like so, so, so, so bad. It came down to me, one other guy, and Chris Pratt, but Chris was always their favorite and he was hesitant to take it, which is understandable, I mean it’s a big franchise thing, it’s Marvel, does it work out, does it not work out? Is this what everyone is going to know me as for the rest of my life? All of those things that go through your head.

Chris Pratt’s hesitation to sign on for the cosmic Marvel movie is understandable in retrospect. Though since then, he's become one of the most famous actors working today. And his decision to take the role ended up leading to a domino effect not only in his life, but in Zachary Levi’s too

But eventually, and I think smartly, he decided to take the job and so it didn’t go my way or anyone else’s way for that matter, but I hoped I left enough of a good impression with James that when I was auditioning for ‘Shazam,’ and his very dear friend, and manager, and sometimes producing partner, Peter Safran, calls up James because this is how our industry works…Fortunately, I was in good standing with James, I try to be in good standing with as many people as I can be and try to be a decent person, and I think between that and how well James thought I did in the Star-Lord test, he said, ‘Yeah man, you really should give Zach an opportunity at this. I really think he could be great.’ Was that the thing that sent it all over for me? I don’t know that, but I’m sure it was part of that conversation, absolutely. I’m indebted to James that he would believe in me enough to remember that and pass that info on.

James Gunn’s decision to recommend Zachary Levi for the DC flick turned out to be wise. The film went on to be a big success, and its sequel is well on its way to being completed. If anything, this situation is a reminder that hard work and good networking can lead to amazing results, even if they don’t come when you expect them. Fans can see more of Levi as the Big Red Cheese when Shazam! Fury of the Gods hits theaters in June 2023

If you haven't already, you can check out the original 2019 movie on HBO Max now. You can also see Chris Pratt's performance in the role of Star-Lord by streaming the Guardians of the Galaxy films on Disney+.

Katherine Webb