While we’re now less than month away from finally launching the Justice League movie into theaters, DC Films is also hard at work crafting new superhero stories under the DC Cinematic Universe banner—and the next major new DC superhero has been cast. THR reports that Chuck star Zachary Levi has landed the lead role in the DC Comics adaptation Shazam!, which is the next DC film to go into production early next year after Aquaman just recently wrapped filming.
The story follows a boy named Billy Batson who has the power to transform into an adult superhero simply by uttering the magic word “Shazam!”. THR notes that the name Shazam is an acronym made up of “the ancient world gods and historical figures Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury, from which the big Batson derives his heroic attributes when in adult form,” which may be how this new character fits into the Greek mythology-infused world of the DCEU. Indeed, when director Zack Snyder crafted Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he approached the characters like icons in Greek mythology, and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is the daughter of Zeus.
David F. Sandberg, the filmmaker behind the small-budget mega-hit horror film Lights Out and this year’s successful prequel Annabelle: Creation, is directing Shazam! for New Line Cinema, the Warner Bros. banner that is handling this particular DC film. The movie is expected to take place within the DC Extended Universe and will be in continuity with movies like Aquaman and Justice League, meaning Levi could potentially be sharing the screen with the likes of Gal Gadot or Ben Affleck somewhere down the line.
While some fans (and Dwayne Johnson) pushed for Armie Hammer to be cast as Shazam, it was Levi—a veteran of the small screen who also stars in Netflix’s upcoming Alias Grace—who came away with the role. Interestingly enough, Levi is also part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as he plays Fandral in Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok.
THR notes that John Cena, Derek Theler (ABC Family’s Baby Daddy), Zane Holtz (From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series0, Jake McDorman (the Limitless TV series), and Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods) were also in the mix, so clearly Sandberg and New Line had a specific type in mind.
New Line Cinema is concurrently developing a separate movie focusing on Shazam! villain Black Adam with Dwayne Johnson in that lead role, but Shazam! is moving forward first as Johnson’s schedule is booked solid. Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) and Darren Lemke (Goosebumps, Shrek Forever After) are the current credited screenwriters on the Shazam! movie, and filming is poised to begin in February 2018.