Published Apr 08, 2019Zachary Levi thought his dream of playing the lead in a superhero film was over. After losing to Chris Pratt as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy and being killed off as Fandral in the Thor series, the comic book-loving actor believed that the door to superhero stardom had fully closed. But, as with any classic superhero, there was still one last glimmer of hope around the corner.
That glimmer was Shazam!, the seventh film in the DC Extended Universe film series, which features Levi in the titular role. A comedic actor best known as the lead in spy dramedy TV series Chuck, Levi's boyish charm and enthusiasm made him the ideal candidate for the role, as the buff alter-ego of 14-year-old Billy Batson.
Speaking to Exclaim! on the set of Shazam! last year in Toronto, Levi said, "Through all the things I've been through and therapy and yada yada, you've gotta accept that your journey is your journey. Sometimes, that's a very difficult thing to do, especially when you see the things that you want and thought you'd be a part of and they're just not materializing."
His patience has paid off. In its opening weekend, Shazam! topped the the box office in its debut weekend with $53 million U.S., scoring a 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Its "Big meets Superman" premise has helped set the film apart from its contemporaries. While early DCEU instalments like Batman v. Superman and Justice League featured dark colour palettes and bleak dramatics, Shazam! is filled with humour and bright colours.
Actor Mark Strong, who plays Shazam!'s villain, Dr. Sivana, believes that the film is just what the franchise needs as it continues to evolve. "The DC Universe has been pretty dark and very brutal quite recently. I think Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air," said Strong, "but this is going to bring humour. I think it's high time."
Levi in the central role has been crucial to the film's success. Says Strong on his co-star, "[Zach] is just a really funny individual himself. He's perfect casted because — I hope he doesn't mind me saying this — he's like a big kid. He has the exuberance and enthusiasm of a big kid. It's perfect casting for a guy with a 13-year-old's brain."
With Shazam!'s early success, it's hard not to imagine a future for Levi and the character. Having waited so long for his shot, the actor is game to step back into the suit in the near future. "Like Chuck, I keep finding these roles, or they keep finding me, that are full of heart, and I think that's a lot of fun," says Levi. "I can't wait to see Shazam standing next to Superman or Wonder Woman and being like, 'What am I doing right now?'"