BY: Rohn Romulo
POPULARLY known for starring as the Losers Club’s asthma-afflicted Eddie in the global horror blockbuster “IT,” Jack Dylan Grazer now stars in New Line Cinema’s action-adventure “SHAZAM!” in the role of Freddy, a geeky foster kid who has had a tough young life but who definitely hasn’t lost his sense of humor…or mischief.
In the film, superhero enthusiast Freddy helps out his bunkmate, Billy (Asher Angel) who’s freaked out by what’s just happened and who—or what—he’s become. By shouting out one word—SHAZAM!—Billy can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam, courtesy of an ancient wizard.
If anyone can figure out this superhero thing, it’s the superhero super nerd, Freddy. Director David F. Sandberg feels a lot of the funniest moments in the movie come from our superhero just hanging out with the ultimate fanboy. “Freddy is just the expert that Shazam needs.”
“Freddy lives at the foster home, and he lives with a disability that has to do with his leg and his spine and his foot, so he walks with a crutch. He gets bullied for it, but he doesn’t really let it affect him. He lets it roll off his back and, rather than feeling sorry for himself, he laughs about it and makes fun of himself. He’s confident, which I really admire.”
Freddy may exhibit a fair amount of bravado, but he’s not invulnerable…he just hides it well. What he doesn’t attempt to hide is his collection of superhero memorabilia or the fact that, as Grazer notes, “He’s a total superhero fanatic, like extraordinaire. He knows everything. So, when he finds out that Billy is a superhero, it blows his mind. This is a dream come true. At first, I don’t think it even crosses his mind to think, ‘I wish I could be in his shoes.’ I think he’s just so caught up in being in the presence of a real superhero. And he knows exactly what to do.”
“Freddy has to act as Shazam’s how-to manual,” Sandberg offers. “He immediately knows what to test for: super strength, invisibility, super speed, and so on. So, we get to see the two of them having a lot of fun with that but also really discovering the abilities Shazam has. Of course, because they’re kids, they’re going to film it and put it on YouTube.”
Grazer says he found the story “empowering, because usually it’s grownup superheroes fighting crime or bad guys. But this time it’s a kid; at least on the inside he’s still a kid. And he’s scared, but he still wants to help save the day. And Freddy is another kid who, by being friends with Billy, gets to help in his own way.”
Zachary Levi (Shazam) and Grazer spend the better part of the movie together. “Jack was awesome, the dynamic was great,” he says. “And I think story-wise, their friendship really helps to sell the idea of an adult who’s a kid on the inside, because if you don’t have that other kid to bounce back and forth with, you’d just have an adult pretending to be a kid in a bubble. You need that exchange to make it work.”
When Freddy isn’t mentoring/managing Shazam, he’s often with the hero’s true self, Billy. The relationship between those characters, though at first a prickly one, was equally important to conveying the story. Just as they both did with Levi, Angel and Grazer hit if off right away. “Jack was exactly how I imagined Freddy,” Angel states. “He’s such a cool guy and loves what he does, and I knew he would be perfect and that we’d have a lot of fun.”
“Freddy is really the proxy for the superhero fans in the audience,” Sandberg says. “And the way Jack plays him—this fast-talking, funny kid who walks with a crutch and seems to be as far from a superhero as you can be—just proves what I like about this movie: that everyone can be a hero.”
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.