BY: Rohn Romulo
TEEN actor Asher Angel (TV’s “Andy Mack”) stars as Billy Batson, a cynical foster kid struggling to find his place in the world, who knows nothing about super heroes, let alone how to be one, in New Line Cinema’s action-adventure “SHAZAM!”
“His power comes from magic,” explains director David F. Sandberg. “He’s just a kid, but because he’s pure of heart and strong in spirit, he’s the chosen one. He’s the champion. That was really interesting to me.”
Sandberg adds, “Shazam has the best secret identity of all. He becomes a totally different person, a young boy. So, if he needs to blend in or get away, he can say ‘Shazam!’ and turn into Billy, just a normal kid.”
That normal kid is Philadelphia teen Billy Batson, who, long before he’s granted any superpowers or a Super identity, has run from foster homes in six Pennsylvania counties, convinced he doesn’t need anyone but his real mom. He’s been searching for her since they were separated in a crowded carnival years ago and finding her, his only family, is Billy’s sole focus and greatest wish.
The staunchly self-reliant Billy is played by Asher Angel, who had not heard of the character nor his counterpart before reading for the role. But the young teen quickly did his homework, stating, “As soon as I got the part I rushed to the comics store with my parents, reading more and more and realizing how great this character was. I just thought, ‘This is crazy! I’m gonna be in this movie and be a part of the DC family now.’ It’s incredible, especially for my first movie!”
In addition to admiring the hero his character would become, Angel found a lot about Billy to appreciate. “Billy’s had a hard life but he’s a smart, street-savvy kid. And yeah, he’s a little sneaky, too, but he’s had to be. He’s been his own guardian, he’s had no one, which has kind of been his choice because he just wants to find his mom. So, he’s had to do everything for himself in order to stay alive and look for her.”
As they are two sides of the same character, Angel and Zachary Levi who plays the titular super hero, naturally never shared the screen. However, they did spend a little time together and with Sandberg hashing out some general mannerisms that they could share in their portrayals.
“We needed to find some common ground to give both performances a similar essence. Billy has a sarcastic streak, and we both picked right up on that,” Levi smiles.
“It was important for us to figure out each other’s mannerisms and do some things the same so the audience will always understand it’s the same person on screen,” Angel agrees. The pair first met at a premiere for another film, where, Angel says, “Zac just said, ‘What’s up, Billy?’ and was so energetic and so much fun, and just a sweet, humble guy.”
In Philippine cinemas April 3, “Shazam!” is a New Line Cinema production, and distributed by Warner Bros., a WarnerMedia Company. Use the hashtag #SHAZAM
David F. Sandberg (“Annabelle: Creation”) directs New Line Cinema’s “Shazam!,” the origin story that stars Zachary Levi (TV’s “Chuck”) as the titular DC Super Hero, along with Asher Angel (TV’s “Andi Mack”) as Billy Batson, and Mark Strong (the “Kingsman” movies) in the role of Super-Villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. Peter Safran (upcoming “Aquaman,” “The Conjuring” and “Annabelle” films) serves as the film’s producer.
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Angel) case, by shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart—inside a ripped, godlike body—Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong).
“Shazam!” also stars Jack Dylan Grazer (“IT”) as Billy’s best friend and ultimate superhero enthusiast, Freddy, part of the foster family that includes Mary, played by Grace Fulton (“Annabelle: Creation”); Darla, played by Faithe Herman (TV’s “This is Us”); Eugene, played by Ian Chen (TV’s “Fresh Off the Boat”); and Pedro, played by Jovan Armand (TV’s “Hawaii Five-O”). Cooper Andrews (TV’s “The Walking Dead”) and Marta Milans (TV’s “Killer Women”) play foster parents Victor and Rosa Vasquez, with Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou (“Blood Diamond”) as the Wizard.