Zachary Levi wants to fight zombies in the next ‘Shazam!’ movie

Zachary Levi wants to fight zombies in the next ‘Shazam!’ movie

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Zachary Levi gets to do some ridiculous things in Shazam! Fury of the Gods. The 42-year-old actor is suiting up again for this DC superhero sequel, which once again centers on teenage foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) as he transforms into the hard-hitting, high-flying hero Shazam. The second film follows Levi as he battles monsters, practices his lightning skills, and faces off against new villains (including Lucy Liu and Helen Mirren).

But there’s one moment that Levi particularly geeked out over.

“I get to punch a dragon multiple times!” the actor says gleefully. “Listen, he deserved it. He’s a mean dragon.”

With Fury of the Gods in theaters now, EW sat down with Levi to talk about dragons, dames, and Shazam’s potential future.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Zachary Levi in ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’

| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Take me back to when you first started thinking about the sequel. What excited you about coming back?

ZACHARY LEVI: To be honest, after the first movie, I had loosely pitched this to some of the bosses, like, “If we do a sequel, it would be kind of interesting if we could tap into the Greek mythology of it all.” It was very loose. I didn’t have any specifics, but I just knew that so many of Shazam’s powers are based in Greek mythology, and there’s a lot of that already in the DC world as well. So, a little time goes by, and I got pitched this not-super-detailed idea of what the sequel could be, involving the Daughters of Atlas and Greek mythology and a dragon. I was like, “A dragon? What, are you kidding me? Let’s go!”[[Laughs]We had Mark Strong playing Doctor Sivana in the first movie, who was fantastic and a singular villain, and now we bring in three badass ladies in Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler, who are all so insanely lovely and talented on and off screen. So that just added another layer of dope.

Your director, David Sandberg, told me that you taught Helen Mirren how to hoverboard between takes?

A little bit! I gave her her first little taste.[[Laughs]She was very safe! I was holding her hand. You can see the video: I was just giving her a little balance action. But I love those things. I just want to get on them all the time and just go float around. I put my earbuds in, listen to music, and I just float.

If you’re going to play a superhero who can fly, this seems like the next best thing.

Right? Like, if Shazam all of a sudden lost his powers, or if for some reason all of his powers are working except for flight, he can be like, “Alright, guys. I’m gonna get on my hoverboard and go fight crime.”

I’m curious: What was the biggest difference between making the first film and returning for a sequel?

We all got to hit the ground running a little bit more. We set a tone and a cadence with the first one. We didn’t have to figure that out anymore. We could all just come back and have fun together. And we did!

From an individual character standpoint, Billy is now three years older. He’s almost 18. He’s almost graduated out of the foster care system, which he is very scared about because he’s afraid he’s going to lose this family he fought so hard to find. And on top of that, he’s trying to be the best son and brother and leader to the rest of the Shazamily as they’re fighting crime and stumbling through it. Emotionally, that’s where he’s at, and I just tried to layer that into the performance.

I imagine with the first film, you have to establish this character and what his powers are and how everything works. Coming back for the second one, you’ve sort of done the hard work and have a sense of what everything should look like.

It’s definitely helpful because the first one was a big experiment, you know? Every movie’s kind of a big experiment, but this character especially. Everyone knows who Superman is, which is a double-edged sword. If you’re Superman, everyone has an idea of what you’re supposed to be. We had this not-unknown but lesser-known IP. The downside is that a lot of audiences don’t know what’s going on, but the upside is that they don’t expect anything. They allow it to kind of be what it is. That gave us that leeway, and audiences really enjoyed it. So now, the pressure is: Don’t screw that up. Keep the DNA that made it great, and just build on it. And I think we did that.

We talked about working with David Sandberg. What was it like to reunite with him?

David comes from a really cool, darker, edgier genre background, and I think that really helps to balance a lot of the fun and silly and higher notes within the Shazam franchise. Visually, he brings a lot of cool stuff, just the way he paints frames. He’s given me a lot of leeway and a lot of leash to go improv and ad-lib and create the character, which is always really fun.

Like you said, that’s sort of intimidating to build a character from the ground up — but it’s also probably rewarding.

Totally. And you’re like, “Well, I hope that people like my choices!”[[Laughs]

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Zachary Levi and Helen Mirren in ‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’

| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

This film centers on the friendship between Billy and Freddy, played by Jack Dylan Grazer as a kid and Adam Brody as a superhero. How was it getting to spend more time with Adam in this one?

It’s really interesting because Adam and I are both Josh Schwartz alums. He was obviously one of the leads of The O.C., which was created by Josh Schwartz, and right after The O.C., Josh created Chuck. So both Adam and I are kind of Josh ciphers.[[Laughs]The characters that we played in our respective shows were a lot of who Josh saw himself as. So we already had an interesting connection, and I loved working with him. 

I loved working with Adam and Ross [Butler] and DJ [Cotrona] and Meagan [Good] and Grace [Fulton] and all the kids. I can’t stress enough how blessed we are that we got all of the people that ended up in these role. You can have one bad apple, and being at work can be way more miserable. But we had all these wonderful, lovely, tasty apples that made this great apple pie. I’m using metaphors I never thought I was going to use.[[Laughs]

You mentioned working with a lot of the younger kids. What’s the vibe like on set with these big goofy group scenes?

They were all lovely to work with on the first one, when they were even younger, and now, they’re growing into themselves. They’re becoming young adults, which is a trip because then you’re like, “Wait, how old am I?” But I just try to bring as much positivity to the day as I can. I bring a big speaker. I play music throughout the day. I think particularly with a movie like this, the more we can enjoy ourselves making it, the more the audience will enjoy watching. I just wanted to try to be a little bit of an uncle to these kids. They’re getting to ages where they might want to talk to other adults about things that are going on in their lives, and I tell their parents, “Listen, I’m here. I’m Uncle Zach. I’ll do whatever I need to do to keep these kids on the straight and narrow because they’re all so talented.” We know Hollywood can be a really weird place sometimes, and if you don’t have the right guidance around you or protection around you, it can chew you up and spit you out. So all these very talented, lovely kids. I want to protect their hearts and their talent, and I want them to all go flourish in their futures.

So if you’re bringing a speaker on set, what’s on the playlist?

It’s basically all upbeat dance pop. It spans the decades. I don’t know if you can tell, but I am a very upbeat, gregarious, outgoing person.[[Laughs]I love to dance. And that type of music just puts a little pep in your step. And it makes the day go by so much more fluidly.

I would also bring my Nintendo Switch to work and connect it to the TV, and we’d play some Mario Kart or Mario Golf. On weekends, I would have little pool parties, and we’d play bocce ball and go swimming and barbecue. We already all knew each other from the first one, so this was even better because we had that familiarity.

I know there’s been some chatter about the future of DC films, especially with the regime change. Shazam is interesting because Peter Safran, the studio’s new co-chair, is a producer on this movie. Do you have any ideas of what Shazam’s future might look like?

Right now it’s like the first one, where we didn’t know we were going to do the sequel. We just wanted to make the best movie we could and get that movie to the world. And we’ve made a great movie. I want to get that movie to the world, and I hope people enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it. They’ll decide what the future is.

But me? I would love to do a superhero meets zombie movie.[[Laughs]That’s what I would lean into.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Billy Baston and his foster siblings face off against the Daughters of Atlas in the Shazam! sequel.

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