However, Levi's first taste of comic book films came a few years before Shazam! when he appeared as Fandral in Thor: The Dark World.
Unfortunately, Levi's role was relatively small, with Marvel Studios misleading the actor and giving him little to do during his stay in Asgard. To make matters worse, Marvel killed off Levi's character in Thor: Ragnarok and ended the DC star's short stint at Marvel.
Kevin Feige Misled Zachary Levi About MCU Role
Appearing on Josh Horowitz's Happy Sad Confused podcast, Zachary Levi opened up about his time in the MCU as Fandral, one of the Warriors Three, in the Thor films.
Fans already knew that Marvel Studios lied to the actor about the importance of Fandral, but Zachary Levi went one step further, revealing that he met with Marvel boss Kevin Feige before accepting the role.
Speaking on the podcast, Levi admitted that it was "kind of a crazy sequence [of events]," and that he had initially been cast as Fandral in Thor (2011), which Kenneth Branagh directed.
Levi was ecstatic to be part of the expanding universe during those opening years and thought playing a "swashbuckling Lothario" seemed like a "fun role," especially given the prestigious director that helmed the original film:
"Listen, it was kind of a crazy sequence, because I was cast as Fandral, the Dashing in the original 'Thor' film [that] Kenneth Brannagh directed. [I] was amped. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t get Captain America? Whatever dude, I get to be Errol Flynn. I get this swashbuckling Lothario, like come on? What a fun role.’
Unfortunately, the actor could not play the part, as his breakout series Chuck had been renewed for six additional episodes. Instead, the part went to Once Upon A Time star Josh Dallas, and Levi has shared that he thinks Dallas "played that role so well:"
"But 'Chuck,' which was also a massive blessing in my life, but had these moments that were heartbreaking where they like last second, they picked us up for an additional six episodes, and they said you can’t go do that movie, and I was crestfallen. I was so bummed… And that role went, and Josh Dallas ultimately played that role so well, and he was in the first film."
In a strange twist of events, Dallas could not do the second film, and it was here that Feige approached Levi, asking if he wanted to "take this role again."
Given that the Warrior's Three had been underutilized in the 2011 film, Levi was reluctant to take on the part again but claims that Feige insisted the role would "be a huge part of" Thor: The Dark World. Ultimately, the group was limited to a smaller supporting role in the sequel; "Not so much, as it turned out," Levi reflects:
"Feige is like, ‘Hey, would Zach want to take this role again?’ And to be honest, look… and I insisted on talking to Kevin about it, for two reasons. One, I saw the first movie, and I didn’t really feel like the Warriors Three were utilized in that great of a way. And I was like, ‘Is that going to be the case again, because if it is, I don’t really want to do that, you know?’ And he’s like, ‘No, no, no, it’s gonna be a huge part of this movie.’ Not so much, as it turned out."
It also seems that some of Levi's reluctance came from his desire to play a more high-profile role in the MCU. This is especially understandable given that Thor: The Dark World was released just as popularity for the universe began to snowball around the world:
"I was like ‘Hey, listen I also don’t want this to preclude me from being able to be another character. If this is the only chip I get to play, then thanks, but I would rather wait for something else.’"
In an attempt to book the actor, Feige assured him that big-name actors like Chris Evans often played more minor roles before they got their big break, citing that Evans played "Johnny Storm, and then he got to be Captain America."
Sadly, Levi got the impression that despite his ambitions to appear in "Prime Marvel," the studio didn't seem interested in casting him in a more prominent role:
"He’s like, ‘No, no, you know Chris [Evans] was Johnny Storm, and then he got to be Captain America. Also, Ray Stevenson was Punisher before he was Volstagg.’ I mean, there were a few… Technically though, these were kind of Marvel tangential films… This was Prime Marvel. So it was kind of saying, it could happen, but also I was like, ‘Whatever.’"
Given this, Levi took on the job and said that he "appreciated" the opportunity to appear in a Marvel film but remains disappointed that the Warriors Three "weren't really used all as much as I hoped":
"Anyway, point is, ultimately, it seemed like it would all be fine. So I did the film, The Warriors Three weren’t really used all as much as I hoped they were going to be used, but I appreciated the job.”"
The Wasted Potential of the MCU
It seems that not even thousands of years spent fighting, hanging out with the god of thunder himself, and dealing with his mischievous brother Loki were enough for Marvel to do something substantial with the Warriors Three in the MCU.
Instead, the group was relegated to minor characters, despite having a more expansive role in the comics.
The Warriors Three aren't the only characters to suffer such a fate, either, with Betty Ross not even being mentioned since The Incredible Hulk in 2008.
Of course, there's only so much the MCU can squeeze in, despite their best attempts to push out an incredible amount of content in recent years.
Fans can only hope that, in the future, Marvel will stop underutilizing so many otherwise important characters and learn from their mistakes with the Warriors Three.