Comic Book Casting: Shazam! / Captain Marvel

Although he holds the distinction of being the first comic book superhero to be adapted to film, DC’s Captain Marvel remains a concept hard to grasp both in comics and film. Often working under the title Shazam! due to a conflict over the Marvel name with another publisher (guess who?), Captain Marvel’s popularity has ebbed and flowed over the years both in comics and film, with a Saturday Morning TV show in the 70s and some great (and not so great) appearances in DC’s animated series.

But just as a bolt of lightning can transform a young boy into Captain Marvel, the right ‘creative’ bolt of lightning could make Captain Marvel a dynamic and successful movie. Let’s get to it.

The Concept:
Since joining the DCU in the early 70s, Captain Marvel has always had to fight to get out from the shadow of another caped, superhero with dark hair: Superman. But if you dig down to the core concept of it all, he’s more than just a Superman duplicate. At its heart, the story of Captain Marvel is a superhero version of the movie Big. Think about it; the ultimate in wish fulfillment, transforming a young radio prodigy into a fully-grown adult with superpowers, but still with the mind and conscience of a child. He’s enlisted to duty by a wizened sorcerer named Shazam, and goes up against technological threats like Dr. Sivana and also former pupils of Shazam like Black Adam.

Captain Marvel (or Shazam! as it would be) is the well-worn classic story of a boy trying to grow up, and being immersed in the world of adults and being able to see that world through the sometimes distorted but sometimes-purer eyes of a child. With superheroes.

The Director:
To do Shazam! and do it right, you can’t just get any director. This isn’t an action movie, although it has action; it’s a film about a young boy growing up but with amazing special effects. To do that, I’d enlist legendary director Chris Columbus. He’s shown he can work with child actors in movies like Home Alone and Harry Potter, and that he can handle an special effects-heavy film with the latter. Columbus is no stranger to comic book movies, having been tapped early on to direct Fantastic Four before bowing out and also writing the screenplay for the 90s adaptation of Little Nemo. Sure he may not be the hot young director out to make a name, but after what we’ve seen in Green Lantern maybe WB and DC should look for a more trusted hand to make this vision come true.

The Cast:

Billy Batson / Asa Butterfield: Although it’s about an adult superhero, at its heart it’s about a boy becoming a superhero. 14 year-old Asa Butterfield impressed me with his work on Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang and especially his role in the BBC series Merlin, and could really embody Billy Batson as more than just an alter-ego but the real heart of the movie.

Captain Marvel / Jon Hamm: I’m probably going to get a lot of flack for once again casting Hamm in a comic book movie, but for this he seems perfect both in appearance, presence, and most importantly acting chops. He might seem a little old to play Captain Marvel, but that age could add an esteemed flair to his visuals while also acting as a young child in a grown-up body. For Captain Marvel you can’t just cast the best-looking bodybuilder who took some acting lessons, you need an actor first who can look the part.

Shazam / Omar Sharif: Sharif is a certifiable movie legend, and could add an immense about of weight and some comedic levity to a Shazam! movie. Whether you know him from his classic roles in Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago or recent films like Hidalgo and 10,000 B.C., Sharif could embody the wizard Shazam in body and soul.

Doctor Sivana / Dustin Hoffman: Far from the Lex Luthor-type that DC recently recast him as, Doctor Sivana is one of comics’ foremost mad scientists. His penchant for inventing outside-the-box technologies for personal gain and the termination of Captain Marvel could be played to the hilt with Dustin Hoffman. Although his best known villainous role may be that of Hook in Hook, I could see Hoffman playing this rather serious … even while uttering phrases like “Curses! Foiled again!”

Black Adam / Dwayne Johnson: The Rock’s name has hovered around this role for years, and try as I might I couldn’t find anyone who filled out the part better than the former WWE champion. Johnson could definitely be a threatening villain to stand up to both Batson and Marvel, and could easily embody the jealousy and rage the Egyptian has shown in comics.

Mister “Tawky” Tawny / Doug Jones & Nathan Fillon: Although he might be considered by some to be too comedic for a superhero movie, Captain Marvel isn’t your typical superhero movie; it’s a coming-of-age power fantasy, and what’s better for a fantasy than an upright-walking, talking tiger? Enlisting Nathan Fillon as voice actor and Doug Jones (Hellboy) to act out his movements could really bring Tawky to life in a unique and imaginative manner.


  1. yes to all, especially fillion, his voice work is great and he could bring the right amount of whimsy to Tawney

  2. I’ve never been a Marvel Family fan, but I like your ideas here. If it’s set in the present, I think the producers would definitely have to change Billy from a radio prodigy to a YouTube or podcasting phenom (which is probably more credible anyway). Maybe he’s a comic book podcaster that gets super-powers…I’m sure no one around here could relate to that particular fantasy!

  3. I’m not a Capt. Marvel fan but I’d if this had that cast I’d definitely would have to check it out, especially with Nathan frackin’ Fillion having a role!!!

  4. Excellent call on Sharif.

  5. I think Black Adam is a fantastic character. Not sure if the Rock can pull him off though.

  6. Holy Cow! How weird is it that I just read Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil and was writing a review for it on my blog and was just writing that it needed to be a movie and then this is the latest article on Ifanboy?!? Crazy! I will link my readers to this!

  7. Jon Hamm is certainly the go-to-guy when you need chiseled features.

  8. I always thought Captain Marvel would work best as a Pixar/Dreamworks animated feature directed at the G-rated audience. Why can’t their be a superhero movie aimed directly for kids. Keep it fun and light. I’d really love to see those folks adapt the Jeff Smith mini that came out a few years ago. it had just the right amount of all-ages whimsy needed for the Big Red Cheese

  9. Admit it, you love Jon Hamm and want to marry him.

    Just kiddng, these are all good choices. I could totally see the Rock as Black Adam!

  10. Man that sounds good to me. I use to watch the live action show as a kid and really miss him being around.

  11. After seeing Jon Hamm in the live action Ambiguously Gay Duo, he definitely needs to be in a superhero movie. And The Rock as Black Adam…awesome. Make this happen, Chris.

  12. I think Arnold Vosloo would be a better choice for Black Adam.

  13. nice, great casting

  14. Awesome, great picks! Especially like the Tawky idea.

  15. The best “Remake & Reboot” I’ve seen thus far. Good job.