Shazam!’s Zachary Levi Reveals Which Actor He Thought Would Land His DC Role

Costumed Zachary Levi smirking in convenience store in Shazam!
(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson finally decided in 2014 that he wanted to play Black Adam, that left the role of the Kahndaqian anti-hero’s adversary Shazam (once known as Captain Marvel) up for grabs. Three years later, Chuck star Zachary Levi was cast as the World’s Mightiest Mortal, i.e. the superhero self of Asher Angel’s Billy Batson. One of the actors Levi beat out for the role was John Cena, but Levi was convinced that Cena would be selected to play Shazam instead.

Zachary Levi revealed this during his recent appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, saying how he figured choosing John Cena for Shazam! would be the logical choice since he would serve as a good foil to fellow WWE star Dwayne Johnson’s portal of Black Adam. After noting how he was not the first choice to play Shazam, Levi said the following:

I'm still shocked I got the job, honestly. I know that The Rock was playing Black Adam – who in the comic book is basically like the twin of Shazam – like the Bizarro version. And I was like, 'I'm not getting a shot. No. I am not the twin of The Rock; I thought this was a John Cena thing. But fortunately, I was just an adult that never grew up inside, and so they thought I was their man. And I'm really hoping they don't change their mind after the sequel.

John Cena certainly has the physicality to play a mighty superhero, and I imagine he would have done a good job delivering the childlike enthusiasm necessary to properly play Shazam. But in the end, director David F. Sandberg and the Shazam! team felt that Zachary Levi was a better fit for the character. That said, while the actor did put on some muscle for the role, a little padding was required to pull off the physique we expect from Shazam.

John Cena in Peacemaker

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Still, at this stage in the game, Zachary Levi can almost certainly rest easy knowing he won’t be replaced as Shazam following the release of Shazam! Fury of the Gods… or at the very least, John Cena won’t be tapped as his successor. That’s because Cena has since been brought into the DC Extended Universe to play Christopher Smith, a.k.a. Peacemaker, a gun-toting vigilante who believes in achieving peace at any cost, no matter how many people he has to kill along the way. Peacemaker debuted earlier this year in The Suicide Squad, and now he’s leading his own HBO Max series that premieres in January.

Zachary Levi’s first outing as Shazam was a critical and commercial success, and we’ll see him and the rest of the Shazam Family back in action for Shazam! Fury of the Gods in about a year and a half. Although Shazam! teased an alliance between Doctor Sivana and Mister Mind, outside of a secret cameo, neither are set to appear in the sequel. Instead, Fury of the Gods recruited Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu to respectively play the main antagonists, Hespera and Kalypso. These two are daughters of Atlas, one of the mythological figures from whom the Shazam heroes draw their powers. They also have a sister being played by West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler, though not only has her character not been named yet, it’s unclear if she’ll be a villain too.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods wrapped principal photography at the end of August and is set to be released on June 2, 2023. Keep your eyes peeled on CinemaBlend for more updates about the sequel and other upcoming DC Comics movies.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.