While the first Shazam film became one of the more celebrated entries into the DCEU, the Superman tag at the end of the film has turned into an object of fascination amongst DC fans.
Yes, a Superman character appears in Shazam!, but is only shown from the neck down, as the future of Henry Cavill's take on the character was in question at the time.
When it came to Shazam!'s sequel it was a goal to "pay off [what was] set up in the first movie" and feature a Justice League cameo where the filmmakers could "pull up" and have a major DC star appear. but Superman's inclusion in that first movie will forever be without a big name to back it up.
How the Shazam Superman Cameo Came to Be
Speaking in a new interview with Collider, Shazam! Fury of the Gods director David F. Sandberg revealed how the headless Superman cameo from Shazam! came to be.
The filmmaker said that the plan was to "have Henry [Cavill] show up as Superman," but when the actor could not make it on the day of shooting and "the Henry thing fell apart [at DC]," they had to use "stand-in footage" they had shot:
"Yeah. No, it was there from the beginning. I mean, the funny thing was, in the first movie we were gonna have Henry [Cavill] show up as Superman. Then, when we were shooting that scene, they were like, 'Well, Henry is not gonna make it on this day, so we'll shoot it with a stand-in and then we'll have to pick up his coverage later on.' It's like, 'Okay…' So, we shot it like that, and then the Henry thing fell apart and we couldn't do it. So we had to just use the stand-in footage, and that's why it ends before you see his face."
He then brought up the inclusion of Wonder Woman in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, joking that when she was in the script he thought "[it wasn't really gonna happen:"
"So for this one, Wonder Woman was in the script and I was like, 'It's not really gonna happen.' I mean, it makes sense because of the mythology and the Greek gods and everything, but it's like, 'I don't believe it's gonna happen.'”
Sandberg even noted that when they were shooting the Wonder Woman sequence in the sequel it was very much the same as it was for Superman in the first film:
"And then, when we were shooting that scene, or the majority of it, it was the same thing, like, 'Oh, you're gonna have to shoot with a stand-in and then we'll pick her pieces up because she's not gonna make it here to Atlanta at this time.”
It was then that the Shazam! director started to think of creative solutions for if Wonder Woman Gal Gadot could not actually ever make it to set, thinking about the idea of having "some other god" come in and save the day:
It's like, 'Sure. Yeah.' So that's when I started thinking, 'Okay, so when we don't get her, how do we solve it?' Because it's such a big– we have to have it in the movie. So I was like, 'Okay, we need some other god then, I guess. Can we have [Helen Mirren’s] character actually survive? It's gonna be so lame if she shows up.' But that was sort of my Plan B."
"But then it actually happened" and Gadot was able to shoot with the Shazam team. Sanberg added that the Wonder Woman actress actually being a part of the movie made him "very happy" because he didn't think they could have done another headless cameo:
"But then it actually happened and we were actually able to shoot with her, which made me very happy. Because, I mean, we poke fun at the headless cameo in this movie, and we could not have done that if she didn't actually show up at the end, I think, because people would have just been so pissed off."
The Curious Case of the Headless Superman
While is it cool for fans to get another peak behind the super-powered curtain, it is kind of upsetting that the Shazam! team was kind of left hanging on what could have been a special moment in the DC blockbuster.
Yes, the headless camera still works and kind of fits perfectly with the comedic tone of Shazam!, but it could have been even more exciting if the camera had then panned up to reveal Henry Cavil was actually there.
This is not the first time David F. Sandberg has spoken about the Superman cameo either. Back in 2021, the director tweeted in response to Shazam 2 casting rumors that "halfway through shooting Shazam the plan was still for Cavill to be in it:"
"Not going to comment on casting rumors for several reasons. One being you can’t be sure about anything until it’s happened. Halfway through shooting Shazam the plan was still for Cavill to be in it. Scoopers could have scooped that and been right at the time but wrong in the end."
But things seem to have worked out this time around, which is heartening to hear for the Fury of the Gods team. If they were forced to include yet another headless cameo but for Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, audiences would have been not impressed.
And even though Cavill did not pop up in that first Shazam! film, as last fall's Black Adam proved, sometimes a full-on Superman cameo is not all it is marked up to be.
David F. Sandberg's latest DC blockbuster, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, is playing in theaters worldwide now.