Currently, fans around the world know Zachary Levi as Shazam, the grown superhero version of foster kid Billy Batson. The DC icon made his debut in 2019’s Shazam!, and has another film coming up in two years titled Shazam! Fury of the Gods.
Before his time in the world of the DCU, however, the actor was known as a lesser character, but in a larger world. As many may know, Levi was first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Fandral in Thor: The Dark World, who is one of the Warrior’s Three.
The Shazam! star didn’t really leave much of a mark on the MCU and not by to any fault of his own. Instead, Marvel simply didn’t give him much to do––and his time on Thor: Ragnarok certainly didn’t help.
At Dragon Con 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia, the MCU and DCU veteran, commented on his time with Marvel, and how he found the silver lining in it all.
Lots of the Warriors Three… or Not?
During the Atlanta-based Dragon Con 2021 as attended by The Direct, Zachary Levi had a panel where he was able to talk about his experience working on the Thor films for Marvel Studios.
Despite how everything worked out, the actor stood his ground in saying that “working on Thor was… a dream come true:”
“Working on Thor was also a dream come true. I grew up devouring Marvel Comics books. I was definitely a Marvel kid as a comic book reader… So it was cool. I was very grateful that I got to be a part of that.”
He jumps back to the beginning of his time in that world, reminiscing about how “it happened, and then it didn’t happen:”
“Particularly since it happened, and then it didn’t happen, because I was cast in the first one but was doing Chuck, and they wouldn’t let me do it, and then the second one came around and the talented Josh Dallas was doing Once Upon A Time, and they wouldn’t let him do it, because all of a sudden Marvel’s like, ‘Ooo Zack, remember us? Wanna come play this role?’”
After having seen what the first Thor was, he was honest in saying that “he didn’t really feel like The Warriors Three were used all that well," but what caused him to come on board for the second one? Well, according to Levi, Marvel said that they "'[were] going to use The Warriors Three a lot in Thor: The Dark World'":
“To be honest, I had seen the first one, and I didn’t really feel like The Warriors Three were used all that well, so I was like, ‘Hey, are you going to actually use these folks’… And they said, ‘Oh no, we’re gonna use The Warriors Three a lot in Thor: The Dark World. A lot. Yea, you’re going to be busy.’ And I was like, ‘Okay,’ so I signed up for it.”
Ultimately, the Warriors Three had less screentime in the final cut of The Dark World than in 2011's Thor.
He goes on to say that it was “very cool… [that Kenneth Branagh] believed in [him]:”
"I got to be in the Marvel Universe and play a really kinda fun, interesting, different kinda character, and that ultimately Kenneth Branagh believed in me enough to cast me in the first one… that’s very cool. [...] I also didn’t have that much to do, ya know? And really, nothing to do in the third one… I knew I was going to die in the third one. I didn’t know I was going to die, having said nothing. Even the few words they gave me were going to be taken away.”
As always, Levi finds silver linings in everything. The actor says he “knew even then that [Taika Waititi] was a genius:”
“But at the end of the day, I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll go take a trip down to Australia, and I’ll get to go meet and work with Taika Waititi for a couple of days, because I knew even then that that guy was a genius. So that was worth it… And even if I didn’t die, they were probably going to snap me out of existence anyways, who am I kidding?”
Another silver lining, especially in hindsight, was that “he got reborn in the DC Universe:”
“But also, in hindsight, I got that journey, I died in the Marvel Universe… and then I got reborn in the DC Universe, and I can’t even tell you how unbelievably cool that is and how grateful I am for that. As an older dude, I’m not the young guy on the market who everybody wants to be like ‘oh that’s our cool superhero guy,’ and I’m like ‘I’m the guy that's been a nerd for a long time, and is like 40,’ and they're like ‘yea. Actually, you know what, you’re perfect 'cause you never grow up inside.’”
Out With the Warriors Three
It’s hard to think that anyone could reasonably defend how the Warriors Three were handled throughout their time in the Thor franchise. While there were certainly good story aspects being integrated around them, they were second fiddle to nearly everything and certainly didn’t hold the same importance as they do in the source material.
To know that Marvel Studios directly promised the actor far more to do makes it all the worse. It's no secret though that the second Thor film had plenty of behind-the-scenes drama, not something to excuse the situation by any means, however.
Fans were probably just as frustrated as Zachary Levi when it came to the character’s quick and not so flattering death in Thor: Ragnarok. All the Warriors Three suffered the same fate, so at least Levi didn’t have to suffer alone.
As the actor makes sure to emphasize, as unfortunate and frustrating as all of that may have been, it led to him being cast as Shazam, something that has led to an even better path for Levi. Hopefully, his time in the DCEU is long and fruitful, and maybe he’ll even get to double-dip into the MCU in the future.
Levi’s next outing as Shazam, in Shazam! Fury of the Gods is set to hit theaters on June 2, 2023.