With Shazam! now in cinemas for a few weeks, the director (David F. Sandberg) and producer (Peter Safran) dived into talking all about the film and revealing secrets they couldn’t previously discuss. Whilst guests on The Empire Film Podcast the pair revealed the original ending idea involving that cameo; if they were ever tempted to mention Captain Marvel; reveal a few Easter Eggs; discuss script changes and answer whether Shazam! is a Christmas movie. Plus a lot more.
Superman – Final Scene
The idea was always to end with Superman. That is something we set up throughout the movie. We definitely talked about having Cavill come be Superman but we just couldn’t make it work with his schedule. There were a lot of different stories about it but the truth is we just couldn’t make it work. We only had that school where we were shooting for a very specific period of time when the kids were out of school. And it just didn’t work for him. And the truth is, in the end, it works so much better because it’s about the reaction of Freddy. So you really are on Freddy’s face rather than on Superman. So for us it ended up being the best situation. And just cutting at the point, hard-cut to credits, it gets a laugh. Because the original scene was him just sitting down, having a little chat with the kids basically. And it ended with Freddy saying “I have so many questions.” Who wore the costume? It was actually Zack’s stunt double.
We knew that the other Captain Marvel was coming out almost in the same month. Which is hilarious. But to us it was, let’s not even go there, because we can have fun with it in so many other ways. And of course we did have Captain Sparkle Fingers which some people have suggested might be a nod to another movie. But no, it just made sense, his fingers are sparkling, why wouldn’t he be Captain Sparkle Fingers.
We did change some things. Originally the whole third act pretty much only took place in the carnival. And it felt like we needed to get out there and actually show off Philadelphia. We have the scene on the Rocky steps, in the script that scene always took place there. But then during the shoot it was like, we don’t really want to spend the money to go there for just a day or two to do that. Let’s just shoot everything in Toronto. But once we had the movie and I showed it to the studio, everyone was like “that scene really needs to be on the Rocky steps.” Because I shot it just on a street corner in Toronto. But then we were actually able to go Philly.
Adam Brody and D.J. Cotrona – George Miller’s Justice League
It is a coincidence, I had no idea when we were casting them. This film is about wish fulfillment, and it ultimately fulfills D.J.’s and Adam’s wish to put on superhero outfits and be superheroes, so it was incredibly satisfying for them to be able to do it. But the truth is they were just the best guys that auditioned for those particular roles. And they didn’t actually know they were even auditioning for superheroes. They knew they were auditioning for Shazam! but to keep things under wraps we had Henry (Gayden, writer), he wrote scenes that were just random scenes but reflected the types of characters we were after.
The Boardroom Scene & Horror
Talking to the guys at the studio, basically like lean into your horror background. Make the sins a real threat. So when they threaten the family towards the end, it’s like okay this is a real threat. And to me, as long as you don’t go full on gore and blood flying everywhere you can get away with it. It’s like Jurassic Park or something like that. Kids like that but people get eaten in that movie. For the sins, the Demon Dogs from Ghostbusters with their glowing red eyes were a huge inspiration.
There’s a little Watchmen reference in there. Some really old school Captain Marvel Easter Eggs that only a few people will get, with one of them being Geoff Johns probably. There’s some relics in the Rock of Eternity that you would have to be a true aficionado to pick up. But they’re there, and they’re very evident, but to really know what they are we had to dig pretty deep. And there’s even a creepy doll in the background in the pawn shop.
Billy Batson’s Mother
In the comics he is an orphan, his parents are dead. At some point we came up with, what if his Mum was actually alive, because that’s quite different. You have a lot of orphans in the superhero world like Batman and Superman. Even though it went against the old comicbooks. It was something that felt very different and could lead to something very emotional and strong, which I think it did. The decision to have her reject him, where did that come from? It feels very real. To have this person say I’m not ready, this is not a good time for me. She does not have her life put together, she’s not in a good place where she’s ready to be a Mum. And it leads into the idea that family is not necessarily about blood but is certainly about bond. And that you can find families in unexpected places. And you would think him finding his mother, that would be the solution to his problems, but it’s not. It’s in fact the family that he’s now with that really provide him with that family that he needed.
That’s straight from the comicbook. It was interesting seeing people speculate online about it. But for us it was always the big payoff, that was always in the movie. That we wanted them all to become a super family. And we knew from the first time we screened the movie, when you see the 5 lightning bolts coming through the smoke and here they are in their colorful outfits and the audience cheers. They cheer and they clap and we knew it was this incredible payoff for the film.
Is Shazam! A Christmas Movie?
To me it is very much a Christmas movie. Not just in that it takes place at Christmas but the theme about family feels very much Christmas-like. But we don’t try to play it up too much, partly because it’s being released in April. But in many ways I’d say it’s a Christmas movie, something you can watch at Christmas.