About The Production
If You Want to Save the World-Say the Magic Word!
"Every kid dreams about being a superhero," says "SHAZAM!" director David F.
the world of our story, where Superman and Batman exist, Billy Batson is a kid
who basically gets that
wish." But for Billy, there's a twist-he doesn't just get the superpowers, he
becomes an adult-on
the outside, at least-with a power-laden name: SHAZAM stands for Solomon,
Hercules, Atlas, Zeus,
Achilles, and Mercury.
Inside, the Super Hero Shazam starts out as a cynical foster kid struggling
to find his place in
the world, who knows nothing about such heroes, let alone how to be one. It's a
unique aspect of
the character, Sandberg allows, adding another: "His power comes from magic.
He's just a kid, but
because he's pure of heart and strong in spirit, he's the chosen one. He's the
champion. That was
really interesting to me."
Star Zachary Levi says it's the combination of all aspects of the story that
he found so
compelling. "Yes, it's about Billy Batson becoming Earth's mightiest mortal and
defender just in time
to meet some serious supernatural evil that he needs to learn how to defend
against, but really it's a
great coming of age story within a family story within an action story."
For Levi, starring in "SHAZAM!"-a movie about wish fulfillment-is truly life
possibly the other way around. It's hard to say whose dreams are really coming
true, Shazam's or his
own. "More often than not, you've got a character who is begrudgingly pulled
into the superhero
thing, and they have these powers and everybody needs them and they're thinking,
'Oh great, I have
to save the world again?'" Levi explains. "But Billy Batson is stoked, making
Shazam one of the few
superhero characters in all the comic universes that's genuinely thrilled to be
a superhero. I knew
that would make my job as an actor infinitely easier, because I wouldn't have to
hide any of my
excitement to be bringing Shazam to life."
"SHAZAM!" marks producer Peter Safran's second foray into the superhero
genre, after last
year's enormously successful "Aquaman." While he acknowledges there are
similarities in that both
characters struggle to find their place in their respective worlds, Safran says,
"Each of the DC
properties can-and should-have a different tone. They all live in different
worlds, and for Shazam
we loved the idea of combining the big action movie with all the wonderful
elements. What I've personally always loved about 'SHAZAM!' is the wish
fulfillment element, the
idea that anybody can become a superhero. Your dad doesn't have to be a
billionaire, you don't have
to come from the planet Krypton. So that, combined with the family story that
was always intrinsic
to the Billy Batson/Shazam storyline, were the things that really drew me to
Safran was also pleased to work with Sandberg, a fellow horror expert
entering the DC
universe. "David's a guy that became known very swiftly for his horror
continues. "'Lights Out,' 'Annabelle: Creation'-two movies that were both
critically acclaimed as
well as commercially successful. What people will realize with 'SHAZAM!' is his
Henry Gayden penned the uniquely action-packed and lighthearted script from a
story he and
Darren Lemke adapted from the comics. "I read the Geoff Johns New 52 comic
book," Gayden recalls,
"and then I read The Power of Shazam! from Jerry Ordway, from the 1990s, and a
couple of the early
books. I instantly saw the appeal of the story and the characters and really
honed-in on so many
things that I love to write about, all in one package. I enjoyed writing it from
the perspective of a kid,
channeling the logic of a 14-year-old who suddenly has all these powers and
who's not thinking, 'How
can I save the world,' but, 'What cool stuff can I do?'"
Levi attests that when the "SHAZAM!" screenplay came his way, "I couldn't put
it down! I
read it, just flipping pages, going yeah, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, more yes, all
the yesses. It spoke to
the hero's story, it spoke to the kid's story, to the family's story...and baked
in the DNA of it was the
humor and the heart."
In addition to Levi, the filmmakers cast an engaging group of actors-adults
and kids-to fill
the major roles, from esteemed veterans like Mark Strong as Super-Villain Dr.
Thaddeus and Djimon
Hounsou as the magic-gifting Wizard, to familiar faces Asher Angel as Billy
Batson and Jack Dylan
Grazer as Freddy Freeman, along with Faithe Herman, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen and
filling out the roster of fosters.
Shooting almost entirely in Toronto-inside and very often outside in the
winter-Sandberg surrounded himself with an excellent behind-the-scenes team with
already had a shorthand, including DP Maxime Alexandre, production designer
Jennifer Spence, and
costume designer Leah Butler. Sandberg relates, "We were very lucky to get some
of the best crews,
both locally from Toronto and from the 'Aquaman' stunt team who came straight
from Australia, a
first AD who's done a lot of big-scale movies... We really had the A-team working
Sandberg says Levi's passion and youthful nature were vital in his casting.
"It was important
to find someone who could feel like a kid in a grownup's body. I think a mistake
a lot of people make
when grownups try to play kids is that they just sort of lower the IQ, just play
it dumber. And kids
aren't dumber, they're just inexperienced, and more enthusiastic about life. And
they don't have the
filter that a lot of adults have. So that's what we were looking for and what we
absolutely found in
Levi was thrilled with the opportunity to tap into the 14-year-old in him. "I
don't want to say
I'm a man-child," he jokes, "but I happen to be an enthusiastic, hopeful,
energy-filled type of person.
So, to show up on set and get to play this character, Shazam, and fly around and
fight bad guys? I
was totally in! I was so eager to shoot every scene of this film, to be able to
bring not just a really
badass Super Hero to life, but one who has so much heart and charm and humor."
The actor surmises that growing up reading comic books and playing video
set him on a particular trajectory, but still, "the scene where the Wizard first
transforms Billy into
Shazam and he hears his voice for the first time-and it's my voice! I couldn't
wait for that moment,
I knew it was going to be so much fun." Or, to act out the moments "when he sees
his reflection for
the first time, the whole montage of him learning what his powers are..." Levi
adds. So, really,
Levi says that to play a boy in a grown man's body was really about
straddling the two sides
of himself. "Kids don't get bogged down with life the way adults do. They're not
dealing with 401ks
or mortgages; they're just going to school and thinking, 'I really don't wanna
go to math right now.'
They haven't built the catalogue of experiences in their journey to adult
wisdom yet to understand
why things are the way they are.
"But even as an adult, and especially as an actor," he continues, "I've
always tried to maintain
a lust for life, along with enthusiasm and sincerity, which I think is what most
kids just exude naturally.
Up to a point, they have a purity of heart, and I think that's what's so great
about this story and what's
unique about Billy specifically. He is pure of heart, and that's why the Wizard
endows him with this
power. And that's a big gamble-giving this 14-year-old kid the power of the
Along with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the endurance of
power of Zeus, the fighting abilities of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury,
"He's also got the ability
to wield lightning, which is very much in tune with his Zeusitude, if I can be
so bold as to call it
Zeusitude. I'm coining that phrase right now," Levi quips.
On set, the actor had as much fun with the discovery of Shazam's powers as
did. "One of the moments that just delighted me was the scene when he's stopping
the robbery, and
he figures out he has bullet immunity. Basically, he just starts giggling
because the bullets literally
tickle him." Long before production began, just reading the scene, Levi
confesses, "I just lost it, I
started laughing out loud, legitimately LOL-ing by myself in my living room.
Because it's the joy of
that moment. You don't get to see Batman or Superman being tickled by their
abilities. Those guys
are dudes who've had a lot on their shoulders for a long time, while Billy's
just stepping into this
world. You get to experience his delight, and I just loved it."
Speaking of Shazam's fellow Super Heroes' attributes, director Sandberg
offers, "Shazam has
the best secret identity of all. He becomes a totally different person, a young
boy. So, if he needs to
blend in or get away, he can say 'Shazam!' and turn into Billy, just a normal
That normal kid is Philadelphia teen Billy Batson, who, long before he's
superpowers or a Super identity, has run from foster homes in six Pennsylvania
he doesn't need anyone but his real mom. He's been searching for her since they
were separated in
a crowded carnival years ago and finding her, his only family, is Billy's sole
focus and greatest wish.
Peter Safran relates, "Billy Batson is a kid whose mother disappeared when he
was three years
old, so he has grown up in the system, bouncing around from foster home to
foster home. He's
always run away in search of his mother. And in our story, he's finally placed
with the Vasquez family
and the other foster children that they are raising."
The staunchly self-reliant Billy is played by Asher Angel, who had not heard
of the character
nor his counterpart before reading for the role. But the young teen quickly did
his homework, stating,
"As soon as I got the part I rushed to the comics store with my parents, reading
more and more and
realizing how great this character was. I just thought, 'This is crazy! I'm
gonna be in this movie and
be a part of the DC family now.' It's incredible, especially for my first
In addition to admiring the hero his character would become, Angel found a
lot about Billy to
appreciate. "Billy's had a hard life but he's a smart, street-savvy kid. And
yeah, he's a little sneaky,
too, but he's had to be. He's been his own guardian, he's had no one, which has
kind of been his
choice because he just wants to find his mom. So, he's had to do everything for
himself in order to
stay alive and look for her."
As they are two sides of the same character, Angel and Levi naturally never
shared the screen.
However, they did spend a little time together and with Sandberg hashing out
mannerisms that they could share in their portrayals.
"We needed to find some common ground to give both performances a similar
has a sarcastic streak, and we both picked right up on that," Levi smiles.
"It was important for us to figure out each other's mannerisms and do some
things the same
so the audience will always understand it's the same person on screen," Angel
agrees. The pair first
met at a premiere for another film, where, Angel says, "Zac just said, 'What's
up, Billy?' and was so
energetic and so much fun, and just a sweet, humble guy."
Because he's been so laser-focused on finding his mother, Billy is unable to
opportunity for a loving family when he arrives at the Vasquez home. Instead,
it's just another
stopgap to escape from as soon as he has a chance. But before such a moment even
transported not to another home, but another realm.
Angel details, "Billy's on the subway one minute, and the next he's in this
crazy place called
the Rock of Eternity, where he runs into this Wizard who's looking for someone
and sees something
in Billy. He picks Billy Batson as the chosen one and tells him to just say his
Clueless as to what's going on, and responding more to the Wizard's insistent
tone than out
of any wish to go along with the rantings of some crazy old magician, Billy
Freaked out by what's just happened and who-or what-he's become, Billy has no
to do. But he knows who will know: his new foster home bunkmate, Freddy.
With nowhere else to turn, he hightails it back to the Vasquez house to ask
Freddy for help,
because if anyone can figure out this superhero thing, it's the superhero super
nerd. Sandberg feels
a lot of the funniest moments in the movie come from our superhero just hanging
out with the
ultimate fanboy. "Freddy is just the expert that Shazam needs."
Jack Dylan Grazer plays the role of Freddy Freeman, who has clearly had a
tough young life
but who definitely hasn't lost his sense of humor...or mischief. "Freddy lives at
the foster home, and
he lives with a disability that has to do with his leg and his spine and his
foot, so he walks with a
crutch. He gets bullied for it, but he doesn't really let it affect him. He lets
it roll off his back and,
rather than feeling sorry for himself, he laughs about it and makes fun of
himself. He's confident,
which I really admire."
Freddy may exhibit a fair amount of bravado, but he's not invulnerable...he
just hides it well.
What he doesn't attempt to hide is his collection of superhero memorabilia or
the fact that, as Grazer
notes, "He's a total superhero fanatic, like extraordinaire. He knows
everything. So, when he finds
out that Billy is a superhero, it blows his mind. This is a dream come true. At
first, I don't think it
even crosses his mind to think, 'I wish I could be in his shoes.' I think he's
just so caught up in being
in the presence of a real superhero. And he knows exactly what to do."
"Freddy has to act as Shazam's how-to manual," Sandberg offers. "He
what to test for: super strength, invisibility, super speed, and so on. So, we
get to see the two of
them having a lot of fun with that but also really discovering the abilities
Shazam has. Of course,
because they're kids, they're going to film it and put it on YouTube."
Grazer says he found the story "empowering, because usually it's grownup
fighting crime or bad guys. But this time it's a kid; at least on the inside
he's still a kid. And he's
scared, but he still wants to help save the day. And Freddy is another kid who,
by being friends with
Billy, gets to help in his own way."
Though Levi didn't have the opportunity to act with Angel, he and Grazer
spend the better
part of the movie together. "Jack was awesome, the dynamic was great," he says.
"And I think storywise, their friendship really helps to sell the idea of an
adult who's a kid on the inside, because if you
don't have that other kid to bounce back and forth with, you'd just have an
adult pretending to be a
kid in a bubble. You need that exchange to make it work."
When Freddy isn't mentoring/managing Shazam, he's often with the hero's true
The relationship between those characters, though at first a prickly one, was
equally important to
conveying the story. Just as they both did with Levi, Angel and Grazer hit if
off right away. "Jack was
exactly how I imagined Freddy," Angel states. "He's such a cool guy and loves
what he does, and I
knew he would be perfect and that we'd have a lot of fun."
"Freddy is really the proxy for the superhero fans in the audience," Sandberg
says. "And the
way Jack plays him-this fast-talking, funny kid who walks with a crutch and
seems to be as far from
a superhero as you can be-just proves what I like about this movie: that
everyone can be a hero."
Five additional kids fill up the group home where Billy comes to live. Mary
eldest of the foster children who, when we meet her, is applying for college, is
played by Grace Fulton.
The youngest, Darla Dudley, is played by Faithe Herman. Darla's excited to have
a new kid join their
family-a little too excited for Billy, as evidenced by his reaction to her bear
hugging him when he
walks in the door. Her fervor is offset by gamer Eugene Choi's lack of
acknowledgement, followed by
Pedro Pena's barely audible grunt as they pass on the stairs, played by Ian Chen
and Jovan Armand,
The younger actors got along well and hung out off-screen, which paid off in
family dynamic onscreen, complemented well by the foster parents Victor and Rosa
portrayed warmly by Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans.
Sandberg explains, "Victor and Rosa are former foster kids themselves, so
they know what
it's like and they want to create the best environment for these children. They
will take on any kid,
even someone no one else wants. So, they have a very different bunch with all
kinds of personalities,
all trying to get along under the same roof. And they do. It's a bit of a
chaotic home, but it's a very
loving home that Billy comes into."
Though their meeting is brief, perhaps the adult who has the most significant
impact on Billy
is the ages-old Wizard. The magical entity-the last of his kind-resides in an
ethereal place called
the Rock of Eternity, where he reigns over the Seven Deadly Sins: soulless
depravities held captive in
stone, eager to escape their bonds.
Djimon Hounsou plays the otherworldly being with a combination of gravitas
as befits his increasingly perilous circumstances. "The Wizard represents those
attributes that are
profoundly humane, and he is the keeper of all that is good," Hounsou states.
The actor notes that his character is the last of seven wizards to survive,
and though he is
growing weaker, "he must hold on to find the one, true champion. The Wizard
believes he exists out
there, and has faith that the gifted child will eventually come, though some
cannot be steered away
from the temptation of the Sins."
But the Wizard sees something in Billy Batson that makes him believe this boy
could be the
hero he's been seeking. "My character sizes him up and realizes, 'Wow, he is my
champion. He is
the one,'" Hounsou adds.
And just in time. Shazam's newfound nemesis, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, has arrived
on the scene.
Safran notes, "We first encounter the Wizard through the eyes of a young
Thaddeus Sivana, who's a
boy at the time, eight years old. We come back when the Wizard, who has been
fighting evil for
thousands of years, desperately needs to find a successor now that he is frail
and obligated to pass
along his powers."
Portrayed with measured arrogance by Mark Strong, Sivana sees matters very
from...well...everyone. "He's a heat-seeking, ballistic piece of evil," Strong
observes. "A hero is only
as good as his villain, so if your villain isn't terrifying, the stakes aren't
high enough. He's got to be
Strong and Sandberg discussed early on how to portray Sivana. "Dr. Sivana is
a very interesting
Super-Villain," says Sandberg. "We can sympathize with him because this was a
kid who almost got
the chance to be a superhero, but failed."
Strong also believes good villains work better if they're understood, even if
we don't like
them. "The superheroes often get their young lives sketched in so that we can
they've come from," he says. "And in this movie, you're shown a young Thaddeus
being bullied by
his brother, and being sidelined and misunderstood by his family."
The lack of a nurturing family has played just as important a role in shaping
as it has in shaping Billy. However, the rejection that pushes young Thaddeus
over the edge follows
him for the rest of his life, festering and feeding an obsession. Therefore,
Strong says, "When he has
another chance, he's had a lifetime of thinking about how he was belittled, so
chooses the dark side."
A Magic 8 Ball that was young Sivana's favorite toy serves as a reminder of
the magic he
desires, that's slipped through his fingers. "This is something he keeps with
him throughout the
movie," explains Sandberg. "From the beginning, his brother teased him about it.
But it remains an
important talisman to him."
Also key to Sivana's treachery are the Seven Deadly Sins: Greed, Sloth,
Wrath, Lust, Gluttony,
Pride and Envy. Ideal allies for a man who has spent decades believing that
everything wrong in his
life was due to the failures of the people around him, rather than his own
"The Sins can be frighteningly real and a pretty phenomenal force to be
Strong asserts, "and while Sivana would argue he is in control of them, they
would probably argue
that they are in control of him."
Sandberg offers, "They've been kept at bay for years, but now... Let's just say
Shazam and Dr. Sivana are pretty much invincible to anything we have on Earth,
except for magic,
which means only one of them can defeat the other."
COSTUMES & TRAINING
To create the Shazam look for a modern audience, Sandberg turned to his
collaborator, costume designer Leah Butler. Butler says that, for her, "A
superhero costume begins
with research and design. All iterations of Shazam! comics since the 1940s were
illustrations began to start work on the movie version. Once the actor is cast,
then the detail work
begins to meld the illustration with the attributes of the actor. We get them in
for a full body scan
and that starts our development process with the actor's physique. Every muscle
is put into a
computer program so that we can digitize the information. On this film, we
worked with Film
Illusions, and they took all of Zac's dimensions and did the sculpt, and we
created a mold from there."
Butler worked with Sandberg and, of course, referenced the comics, to
determine the look of
the hero suit. Safran relates, "We embraced the classic look-the red suit, white
cape, boots and
lightning bolt. But David had a very specific vision of how he wanted to make it
more current, from
the designs and patterns to the fabrics used. I think fans will see all their
favorite elements from the
classic Shazam costume, and also appreciate what we did with it to make it feel
The lightning bolt presented the biggest challenge for Butler and her team.
"We really wanted
it to be a practical lighting piece, rather than a visual effect, so that we
would see the reflection on
the body and the muscles and the face. And that's also important for the
director of photography,
so he can key off of that."
"It's a pretty awesome suit," Sandberg smiles. "The fact that Leah was
actually able to make
the bolt light up, practically, was great because it's really a signal of his
magic. And when he's using
his powers, it lights up even more, responding to when he's shooting lightning
from his hands, for
As with many practical effects, to get the bolt to function properly took
Nevertheless, Sandberg says, "When you get some of those cool shots where Shazam
is coming out
of smoke and the first thing you see is that lightning bolt shining through?
It's like, okay, yes, it was
worth it to go through all of this!"
Of course, with the super suit come the superpowers, and the need to know
just what his
abilities are. Freddy helps Shazam figure out his powers by staging a series of
tests, with sidesplitting results. Plus, being teenage boys, they can't resist
showing off. As Sandberg
says, "They're kids so they make all these hilarious videos that are kind of a
superpowered version of
Special effects supervisor Cameron Waldbauer says he and Sandberg "talked
about the gags
in the film, especially when Freddy and Shazam are devising all these crazy
tests, and how we could
make them funny and over the top-add an extra gag to it here and there, so it
advances the story
but is also just a good laugh."
And because superheroes fly-as Shazam and Freddy will eventually discover-the
production turned to the best means of achieving that effect: the tuning fork
rig. Stunt coordinator
Kyle Gardiner, who joined the crew straight off of "Aquaman," says, "What you
can achieve with the
actor is really more access, more control, and the ability to accomplish certain
convincingly, especially with our ground base system, so we often have no need
for wires. Among
other things, it gave us the ability to fly Zac through a real mall, where you
don't have the
infrastructure to rig."
Gardiner says that Levi was a dream to work with. "Our goal is to get
everything right so all
the actor has to worry about on the day is acting, and Zac worked with us to
have it down to a T from
day one. He was comfortable enough to perform all the intricate actions and
still maintain the
comical elements that are part of the character."
Flying-especially via tuning fork-requires a good deal of core strength. As
Levi's dedication began right on the heels of winning the role. Levi turned to
Grant Roberts at Granite
Gym in Los Angeles to get him into fighting form.
Starting at a weight of approximately 200 pounds, Levi packed on over 20
pounds of muscle
by, among other things, lifting weights five or six days a week, often twice per
day. Grant placed him
on a strict diet as well: for five days each week, he consumed between 3,000 and
4,000 calories a
day. On the other two days each week, Levi was able to carbo-load, fueling his
next five days and his
consistently lean gains.
While many actors might consider such a regimen punishing and the trainer a
sorts, Levi did not. "Grant Roberts was incredible," he says. "He's a former
body builder and a
sweetheart of a guy. For five days a week, we just pushed as much weight as I
could possibly bear,
and I ate an insane number of calories. But as far as I was concerned, I wanted
to use the opportunity
to get in the best shape of my life. Of course, I was also doing it for the
fans, 'cause I want to be this
guy, the Shazam they expect."
Levi wasn't the only one getting into fighting shape. Across the pond, Mark
worked hard to make sure he was ready for battle. Gardiner recalls, "Mark showed
up on set ready.
He'd done everything we'd asked with his trainer in England and his core
strength was beyond belief.
He got in the tuning fork and mastered it within an hour, and that made our life
a lot easier. He
picked up the choreography really quickly and is very athletic, a complete pro."
Not only did Strong want to be able to meet the physical challenges of the
role, he was eager
to look the part. "All good super-villains have a good outfit, don't they? If
Shazam's costume is the
incarnation of a superhero in the mind of a 14-year-old boy-brighter, louder,
bigger than a grown
up might imagine-then presumably Sivana is a scientist's version of what a
badass scientist would
"Mark's got a great, statuesque frame and an air of elegance about him,"
Butler notes. "We
took fabrics that would appear almost royal-cooler tones, a beautiful purple and
a dark royal blue,
with velvets and leather trims. He also has a shirt in muted gold silk, and a
long leather coat, of
"We need a lair!"
LOCATIONS & PRODUCTION DESIGN
Though the story takes place primarily in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
"SHAZAM!" was shot on
location and on soundstages in Toronto, Canada. Production designer Jennifer
Spence notes, "David
Sandberg and I have worked together quite a bit, which makes for an easy
transition. We did his first
film together, 'Lights Out,' and then 'Annabelle: Creation' and now 'SHAZAM!'
It's lovely because we
know each other very well, he's such an easygoing guy, and I understand where
he's coming from
Spence was a particularly apt choice for the film because not only do she and
a shorthand, she has a personal understanding of certain elements of the story.
"The story about all
these foster kids really touched me because I have a history of working in group
homes before I was
in the film industry. So, designing and building a foster home truly meant
something to me.
"When I was thinking about the foster home," she continues, "not only was I
the Shazam story and where Billy Batson comes into it, but also Freddy, the rest
of the kids, and the
parents and what they might be like. Their characters are all an influential
part of the design. Rosa
is a Latina mom and Victor is from Hawaii, and I wanted it to feel like there
was history there and
culture. Their history as individuals and then as a couple is present in the
home. These things are
important to the parents. I think the reason kids do well in this house is
because of the connection
they have with the parents, which often isn't the case; it is often just a place
to stay. I think that when
Billy arrives he starts to sense that there's something different about this
house and these parents
and these kids that he hasn't yet experienced in any of his previous foster
Spence designed the Vasquez house, where a good deal of the story takes place
course of the film, to be "very colorful with a lot of open space." She also had
to devise a means of
sharing the soundstage space with another enormous set-the Rock of Eternity-so
she built up,
rather than out. "The only way I could construct the house, which is two floors,
was to set it up as
two floors, which is not that common. I accommodated it by making it a bit
bigger than a normal
house so that we wouldn't have to move walls in order to have enough room for
the crew. It turned
out nicely because when you move through the house, you're able to see into all
the rooms from
various points, which helps the storytelling feel authentic."
In choosing her color palette, wallpaper and furnishings, Spence strove to
the Vasquez's history. "Not all the furniture matches; it's not of a certain era
but from every era,
because I felt like they would have collected things from yard sales and so
forth. They're not wealthy
and they're housing six kids. But they've created a loving environment. So much
of what you will see
was created by the incredible team work of so many artists who strove to help me
create the look
and feel of this film, too many incredible artists to name, but I couldn't have
done it without their
creative input, and that's what this movie is about...teamwork."
Spence and her team also allowed for the kids' personal touches, none more so
whose room is reflective of his passion for all things superhero. In fact, one
of the first things Billy
notices when he arrives is Freddy's Batarang, and Freddy wastes no time in
showing Billy his
collectible Superman bullet.
The designer herself dove into the comic books in order to envision the
immense Rock of
Eternity set. "That was a complicated one," she reveals. "In the comics, all
seven statues of the Sins
were on the left-hand side of the main floor. There was no sense of balance that
we designers like
to create. There was a lot of debate about whether or not to change it up, to
put three on one side
or make the space round... Ultimately, David was adamant that we keep it the same
as in the book,
so we worked out the layout and the square footage, the size of each statue, and
so on. He wanted
them to be imposing and for you to get a sense of the vastness of the place when
you step into it."
Researching caves around the world aided in her designs. "One of my favorites
Vietnam, another was in New Zealand, and there are really beautiful rock
formations in Arizona. I
worked from portions of each to connect the space to our planet, because even
though it's a comic
book story, it takes place in a real city, Philadelphia, so I wanted to ground
this magical locale with a
sense of realism, too. We also used some Egyptian-style artwork to make it feel
like there's an ancient
history to the place."
Spence worked with creature designer Neville Page to devise the look of the
Sins and their
functionality. Sandberg says, "It had all these rooms and portals to other
dimensions, and was a very
enchanted place. It was something I had looked forward to, walking in there and
seeing the Sins, and
it was just as awesome as I had imagined."
As in the New 52 comic that inspired the screenwriters' adaptation, the story
is set at the
height of the holiday season. "We loved the idea of a movie set at Christmas,"
Safran says. "I don't
think there's any time of year that is more family-oriented, and no time of year
when, if you lack a
family, you would feel it more. For Billy Batson, joining a family just before
Christmas made for a
wonderful juxtaposition between his desire to be on his own and his real chance
"Christmas is about family-you go back and see your family, you all hang out
it felt very right for this story but also added an interesting visual element
for us," Sandberg observes.
Among those elements is a full-blown Christmas carnival, where Billy's story
where, years later, he returns-as Shazam-to face off against Dr. Sivana. Spence
confirms, "It was
a fully operating carnival and we rented all the rides and booths. Though we did
buy the Ferris
wheel-sourced by my set decorator Shane Vieau-because we had to drop it, it gets
break it, we buy it."
To capture all the action, director of photography Maxime Alexandre-another
vet-utilized a range of light and lenses. "There was a big contrast between,
say, the Rock of Eternity
and the real-world settings," he states. "Lens-wise, I decided to go with Master
Prime. We worked
a lot on light design, using LED lights from ARRI that gave us control of every
single bulb. And we
came up with beautiful lights for diffusion-soft lights for a long distance of
20, 40, even 60 feet from
one single source, which we nicknamed THE SHAZAM."
Sandberg says, "It's a comic book movie, a comedy, and a monster movie with
the Seven Sins,
but it's also got these more emotional scenes, and I think Jen's sets and
Maxime's work both make
for a good 'real-world' contrast and make it all come together."
For the film's final element, music, Sandberg worked once again with composer
Wallfisch. "Ben is the only composer I've worked with so far, and the guy is
amazing," says Sandberg.
"Something we talked about is that I wanted it to feel very much like a classic
because Shazam is a Golden Age Super Hero, and I wanted to honor that history."
"David and our cast and crew have threaded a beautiful, heartwarming story
action and comedy," Safran comments, "and I think the hardcore DC fans are going
to get what they
want, and moviegoers are going to get the big screen experience they go to the
Levi concurs, adding, "This is a movie that 100 percent taps into a family
audience, a fan
audience, and the in-between audience. The entire family can go and enjoy it
together, and, speaking
as a fanboy and sometimes-adult myself, the fanboys and fangirls, and adults in
general, are going to
see a kickass superhero movie with 'SHAZAM!'"
Sandberg states, "We set out to tell Billy Batson's story-that family is not
blood, but bond; that you can find a home even if it's not where you were
looking for it. And because
it's Shazam, we also get to experience what it would be like if every kid's wish
to be a superhero came
true in the biggest, most comical, exciting, action-filled and magical way."
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