Mark Strong on ‘Shazam!’, Comic Book Movies, and Having a 14-Year-Old Arch-Nemesis

     January 23, 2019

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Early last year, when Shazam! was filming in Toronto, I got to visit the set with a few other reporters. While on set I got to watch filming, talk to most of the cast and director David Sandberg, and learn a ton about the next DC comic book movie. While I was confident going in that the film would be a lot of fun, I’ll admit everything on set was even better than I expected and I left Toronto thinking DC and Warner Bros. could have a huge hit on their hands. And after watching the trailer and recent TV spot, I’m pretty sure you agree with me.

While on set, we got to talk with Mark Strong about playing the supervillain Doctor Sivana, who you’ve seen in the trailers. During the wide-ranging interview, he revealed why he wanted to play the role, how Sivana is very different from his portrayal of Sinestro in Green Lantern, how they’ve written the character, why he can’t stand his arch-nemesis is a 14-year old boy, what it was like filming the action scenes, his thoughts on the comic book movie genre, and a lot more.

Scripted by Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) from a story by Gayden and Darren Lemke (Goosebumps), Shazam! tells the story of a 14-year-old boy named Billy who, when he shouts the word “SHAZAM!”, can turn into an adult superhero. Asher Angel plays the boy, while Chuck star Zachary Levi plays the adult Shazam. It breakout Jack Dylan Grazer plays Billy’s best friend Freddy Freeman. Shazam! also stars Djimon Hounsou, Grace FultonFaithe HermanIan ChenJovan ArmandCooper Andrews, and Marta Milans.

Check out what Mark Strong had to say below. Shazam! opens in theaters on April 5th.

Question: With you being in this film, I’m curious if that means that Green Lantern is no longer part of the DCEU?

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Image via Warner Bros.

MARK STRONG: It is part of the DCEU. But, you know, my version of Sinestro I think is going to be rebooted, as they say, no doubt when the new Green Lantern comes out, which I think they’re doing. But as I said and I mean it, I felt really… it was a little interrupted because Sinestro was gonna go into the second movie and become the yellow Sinestro that we know and love and cause havoc. It got cut short by the fact that they never made a second movie of that particular incarnation of Green Lantern and Sinestro. But, thankfully, I’ve now got a chance to maybe exercise my evil credentials with Doctor Sivana.

Besides that sort of DC redemption, what was it that you liked about Sivana that made you want to do it?

STRONG: I think because he is a proper, in the New 52 incarnation that Geoff’s [Johns] done, he is a proper supervillain.  He gets to fly, he can create electric fields in his hands and fire electricity. I love the whole notion that in his eye he has seven sins that manifest themselves at various points whenever they or he wants them to. So, it’s a good, proper supervillain.

Do you feel that rather than Sinestro, who’s like an iconic character, unlike Sivana and Billy, do you feel like you kind of get to make Sivana your own?

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Image via Warner Bros.

STRONG: Yeah, I do. I feel like because we’ve gone through a whole process of many superheroes now, we’re looking for the slightly more obscure ones or we’re discovering the slightly more obscure ones. I was really surprised to find out that in 1940 when the original comic came out Sivana was in the second edition. So, he is a proper old school villain and as nobody has done it before, I’m really excited at the idea that I get to invent my version of him.

Was it surprising to you to see that old original version of Sivana and then come to set and see your costume is not the dentist outfit that he’s so famous for having?

STRONG: Well as you all know this is the New 52 version in which he’s much more robust and much more powerful. Obviously, originally, he was a scientist and I think the story was he was thwarted and the world didn’t understand him… in fact, he originally he went to Venus and then came back. I don’t think my Sivana goes there necessarily. Nevertheless, he’s able to sort of channel that thing that all great super villains do, which is a need to have complete power and basically rule everything. That seems to me to be a standard of good ol’ fashioned evil characters.

This is a character who we’ve seen your wardrobe and we’ve heard a little bit about and he’s very wealthy and very powerful even without his super powers, Do you feel like this is a character that feels that he is entitled to his power?

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Image via Warner Bros.

STRONG: What I love about this movie and the way they’ve written it is there is a reason he is how he is. Often villains can be painted in broad strokes. They are evil, and that’s it. But, we get to see him young, we get to see a scene in which he’s bullied not only by his older brother, but by his family and is misunderstood as a young boy. What the movie has at its core is this idea of family and who is your real family. You know Billy is looking for his real family. Is his family this new bunch of kids that he becomes part of? Is it his mother he’s become estranged from? And I think the same is true of Sivana. He’s looking for where he belongs and I think he feels that because of the disappointments he had as a child.

[Strong has to quiet down as a scene films. The scene features Asher Angel’s Billy Batson and Grace Fulton’s Mary. Mary is trying to convince Billy not to leave the group home.]

STRONG: That’s Grace, isn’t it? She’s a great Mary. She’s perfect. and has to become a kind of mother to the kids because they’re all younger than she is. I mean she’s 21 and they’re all younger. So, she’s actually kind of embodied in real life who she is in the story, having to take care of them.

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