For fans of the recent Shazam! movie adaptation, it is probably fairly difficult to imagine anyone other than Zachary Levi as the superheroically transformed Billy Batson. Levi embodied everything that people love about Shazam — he had the superhero stature, sure, but he also had a boyish charm, as well as an overall sense of joy about being able to inhabit that body. He was kooky, and there was no brooding in sight.
The casting was so spot-on that you might think that Levi, a genre veteran (Chuck, Thor: The Dark World) was in the mix for Shazam from the very beginning. As it turns out, he was in the mix — but he was being considered for a much smaller role.
In our exclusive clip from the upcoming home entertainment release, director David F. Sandberg and producer Peter Safran talk about how they first saw tapes of Levi auditioning for the smaller part of "Adult Freddy," before they had the electric idea that Levi would be perfect for the lead. Schedules being what they are, Levi's first audition to play the man with the giant bolt on his chest ended up being done over Skype.
As Sandberg says in the video, Levi just looked and felt like Shazam from moment one. His all-important question to Safran was, "Why is this guy not our Shazam?" Levi's response to receiving an upgraded audition was as excited as it was cautious: "I think that would be pretty cool."
Indeed it was and is cool, as the actual audition footage clearly shows Levi having a blast as the character, which is what separates Shazam from the DCEU superhero pack in the first place. He may look and sound like an adult, but he's just an overgrown kid having fun. Levi sold that all-important character trait from the start, and here's hoping that he'll get to do so again. We'd pay good money to see him riff with Jason Momoa's Aquaman, or better yet, any incarnation of Bruce Wayne. Shazam could potentially end up getting sha-stabbed with a batarang, but he'd probably just laugh if off.
Shazam! has said the word, and is available for digital purchase right now. It will morph into Blu-ray on July 16.