[UPDATE: The Wrap's Umberto Gonzalez is currently refuting this story. The rest of this article has been left as it was originally published.]
The tentative frontrunners to play Shazam's namesake are actors John Cena and Joshua Sasse, according to a new report. Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation) has confirmed that pre-production on Shazam is now underway, ahead of principal photography getting started in early 2018 in order to make a spring 2019 theatrical release date. With the most recent script draft for the DC Extended Universe movie having been completed by Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo), the search is now underway to find the actors to play the film's eponymous superhero and the young boy, Billy Batson, who (respectively) transforms into him upon saying the magical worlds "Shazam!"
While actors such as Smallville alum Alan Ritchson have thrown their hat in the ring to star in Shazam, Cena and Sasse are the first names reported as being proper candidates to actually land the job. The in-progress synopsis for Sandberg's DC Comics film adaptation suggests that the movie will be by and large faithful to Shazam comic book mythology, lending further credibility to the idea that these two actors are among those being considered for the project (which, as previously reported, in indeed poised to become the next DCEU film to enter production).
According to That Hashtag Show, Cena and Sasse are the current frontrunners to star in Shazam, after an unidentified third candidate and fellow dark horse contender fell out of favor with the movie's producers and creative team. Both Cena and Sasse are well-chiseled, brawny actors who have demonstrated a knack for comedy of late with their work on the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck and the TV series Gallavant, respectively, and read as being solid picks for related reasons.
Cena's acting career in particular has been picking up speed of late, between his upcoming starring roles in the animated Ferdinand and the Transformers spinoff Bumblebee, respectively. A role in a superhero tentpole like Shazam would both further ensure that Cena's wrester-gone-Hollywood career stays on its current trajectory and set up an eventual showdown between Cena's Shazam and Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam in the DCEU, at the same time. While that won't happen in Sandberg's film, we do now have a better idea of what the plot for Shazam will encompass thanks to this working synopsis obtained by THS:
Based on the DC Comics character "Shazam!" Billy Batson becomes Captain Marvel, the world's mightiest mortal, when he says the magic word "Shazam! The name is an acronym for six gods and heroes of the ancient world as well as their attributes. The wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles and speed of Mercury.
The DCEU fully embraced the mythological fantasy side of DC Comics lore with the release of director Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman earlier this year, so it stands to reason that Shazam won't be hesitant to incorporate similar elements into its own narrative (including, at least some of those that are mentioned in the in-progress synopsis). Providing more evidence of just that is the breakdown for Billy Batson in the film - describing the character as being a 12-15 year old male "granted access to incredible powers by the wizard Shazam [when] he speaks the wizard's name and is struck by a lightning bolt that gives him the powers of the gods."
Of course, the very nature of the Shazam character means that the movie (like its namesake) will combine muscular action with light-hearted comedy, making it one of the more comedic installments in the DCEU to date. Variety is the spice of life, of course, and the playfulness of Shazam should make for a nice compliment to the relatively more straight-faced DCEU movies that are on the horizon - including, director Zack Snyder's Justice League this fall and director James Wan's Aquaman in December of 2018. You can expect to learn more about Sandberg's own DCEU adventure (and possibly, get confirmation about who's starring) before either of those other DCEU projects hit theaters.
- Wonder Woman 2 (2019) release date: Nov 01, 2019
- Cyborg (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Green Lantern Corps. (2020) release date: Jul 24, 2020
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019