I was a fan of David F. Sandberg from the very first time I saw the short film “Lights Out.” And when he brought that creep factor to the big screen, and followed it up with Annabelle: Creation, I continued to be impressed. When Mr. Sandberg took on Shazam! it became pretty apparent the filmmaker had a few more tricks up his sleeve. As a storyteller, the man has a knack for balancing humor and horror. And he is certainly having a bit of fun bringing that to the big screen. And yes, he did it again in Shazam! Fury of the Gods.
We recently spent some time at the junket for the new sequel. David was in attendance to talk about his latest supersize sequel. He opened up about bringing in assorted monsters, and working off of Chris Morgan and Henry Gayden’s script. The filmmaker talked about his approach to creatures, and bringing in a little mythology into the mix. It’s always a pleasure talking to David. Make sure you check out the engaging new sequel, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, currently playing at a theatre near you.
How did you approach this sequel, and how involved were you in the script? Because the first one was very much a horror-centric film, as well.
This is very much the same thing. I mean, the script was sort of a bit of a collaboration. We were talking early on what it would be, and then Henry Gayden would go off and write. And Chris Morgan came in and did an operation as well, or did some work on it. No, but I love those horror pieces and I love the monsters to design it, and it adds a lot to the movie in the form of a real sense of danger and a threat. And I could do that stuff all day. I mean, we actually did shoot a lot of stuff with just random people reacting to monsters all around Philadelphia. But it was like, “well, the movie is about Shazam, and we should probably get back to them a little quicker,” so we cut some of it out.
I love that stuff because, I think, it also makes for a more complete movie when you have that. That’s the kind of movies that I grew up and love like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws and things like that where it’s, particularly with Raiders where it has a mix of everything.
You have a way of making even the smallest characters count. How much of that is in the script? How much is that in you going, we need this, we need some of that, we need all these characters represented.
Yeah, I mean, that’s the big part of it. The characters reacting to it, even if it’s not our main characters, you want to see how people get affected by it to be invested. And yeah, a lot of that was added because, in the script, it was not a lot. It was sort of just like, oh, the pods open up, and monsters run amuck. So, it’s like, this needs to be more than the, just that one sentence, you know.
Yeah, and you even make a little cameo.
Which was really fun to do. I got to do a little bit of stunt work and get hoisted up on wires, and I kept doing it take after take. Because they’d say, “Hey, aren’t you happy?” And I was like, “well, almost. I can do a little better. I can throw myself more.” No, that was a lot of fun. I was actually all bruised afterward from the harness and everything.
It’s a tricky time for DC and you guys are facing a lot of new content coming up. Did you feel all the chatter and all the stuff that was going on? Did it interfere in any way with you focusing on the story you’re trying to tell?
No, because I mean, Shazam has always been a little bit of a standalone thing where we haven’t been tied into the bigger mythology of it, which is sort of the case with this one as well, which is probably in our favor because DC, they’ve told us now that what we’re doing, with Shazam, doesn’t interfere or contradict anything that they have planned for the future.
So they don’t have to reboot Shazam or anything like that. So we’ll see what happens. I don’t know what the full plans are, but it’s good to know that there weren’t any changes needed or anything like that.
What was it about this story, telling this tale for Fury of the Gods and Shazam?
Well at first, we looked at what the comic books were doing, the new 52 version, the later issues, and it felt like they went much more in this fantasy direction where they go into all these doors in the room of the Rock of Eternity and everything. And we felt that we wanted to have something that was more like the first movie in that it is in our real, grounded world, and we bring the fantastic elements into that.
So we started talking about this whole thing about, well, his powers come from God’s and mythological characters, and what if the powers were stolen from them and given to Shazam? Because that gives the motivation to the bad guy that you can understand. But Shazam didn’t steal it, but it’s not his. Of course, they want it back. I thought that was really interesting. And it’s cool to bring mythology and superheroes together because they’re very related in some ways.
But then we had the Daughters of Atlas. And then it was like, who can we cast for that? And had, especially for Hespera, we were like, what’s the best we could aim for? And our aim was for someone like Helen Mirren, but I didn’t think we’d get her, but it was like, let’s try, and then we’ll move on and go down the list. And she said yes right away, which was amazing.
And then that actually changed our casting for Calypso, which we started out looking at just doing auditions and finding someone lesser known, but once we got Helen Mirren, it was like, oh, we need to step it up and get someone who can act against her. And that’s when we started talking about Lucy. And the great thing was then when we went to her, we could say, oh, you get to act with Helen Mirren, be her sister. And yeah, Rachel, we just found. I wasn’t familiar with her because West Side Story hadn’t come out yet, so she just was one of many who auditioned, but she really stood out because she’s just such a star.
Well, the cast here is great, uniformly great.
I think a lot of it may be because they all get a chance to shine. Is it difficult finding that vibe? Was it difficult kind of reconnecting them so easily? It looked effortless.
Yeah. I mean, they love each other. I mean, on the first movie, they really became a family. So, for this one, it was just like a big family reunion, and I think that’s helped with the new actors coming in, that they were just welcoming right away. You’ve seen they hang out together, they love each other, and so I’ve been very happy about that. So you don’t have to worry about the cast in any way.
Have you thought specifically about where you would go with a third film?
No. I mean, I would love to see more of Mr. Mind, not just because I’m the voice of him, but I think it’s such a unique character in that you have a little worm, but who’s actually really dangerous and can do some really cool stuff.
He was originally supposed to be in this one. It was Mr. Mind that got the Goddesses into our world, but it was too much story to tell for this movie, so he had to take a backseat for a bit.
Well, I think you said it, you’re dealing with not only the history of the comics, the history of Shazam, but you’re dealing with mythology. I feel like that opens your world up in a way.
Yeah. That you could do a lot of things. This is a world where Manticores exist, so you know. Yeah.
Was there a creature you were really happy with that you created here?
Well, I do really like the Harpes because they’re kind of scary. They’re probably the scariest ones. The way they look. But I think Manticore is something I haven’t really seen in another movie, so that was cool. Just a lion with a scorpion tail and bat wings that breathes fire and stuff.
It was fun to see that. Now Zach and Asher have such a good partnership. In a way, they work so well together, even though they’re not on screen together. How easy was it to see them both continue to grow in the role?
Yeah, I mean that’s a trick to cast. You cast people who are very much like their characters because it makes your job so much easier. You can just like, “yeah, you just go, just do your thing.” I mean, they bring so much to it; they’re coming up with their own new lines and things like that. There’s a moment when Jack/Freddy is in a prison cell, and he finds a tooth on the ground. And he starts like, “there’s a tooth in here?” And that was something he made up on the day because the production designers had put little teeth and bones and things in there, and they’re fantastic to work with because, yeah, it makes my job very easy, and then I can focus on all the technicalities and difficulties.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/interview-david-f-sandberg-talks-shazam-fury-of-the-gods/