John August Explains The Death of ‘Shazam!’

Believe it or not, but I’ve been following the development of John August’s Shazam! since Comic-Con 2007, when attached director Peter Segal and I chatted briefly about it during an interview for Get Smart, a film that was not even done shooting yet. And here we are more than a year later and the film is dead. It’s amazing what can happen in a year’s time. As August explained on his personal blog yesterday, Shazam! has died in the script stage due to some cold feet and misguided direction of the execs at Warner Bros.

“When we turned the new draft in to the studio, we got a reaction that made me wonder if anyone at Warners had actually read previous drafts or the associated notes,” explained the scribe, whose previous work includes Go and Big Fish. “The studio felt the movie played too young. They wanted edgier. They wanted Billy to be older. They wanted Black Adam to appear much earlier. (I pointed out that Black Adam appears on page one, but never got a response.)”

Furthermore, August cited the failure of the kid-friendly Speed Racer and the overwhelming success of The Dark Knight as the basis for hesitation among the decision makers at WB. It is clear that Warners’ higher ups are more concerned with replicating the good and avoiding what has gone wrong than taking each project on its own merits. To do this, August says, “ignores the success of Iron Man, which spent most of its running time as a comedic origin story, and the even more pertinent example of WB’s own Harry Potter series. I tried to make this case, to no avail.”

It is sad really, as both August and director Pete Segal seemed to have a lot of enthusiasm for bringing such a classic character to the big screen. I had faith that they would have been able to adapt a story which was created in the early 1970s for a modern audience. And whether it was kid-friendly or not, it still would have been cool. Aparently my opinion is not shared with the people holding the checkbook at WB. Too bad.

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