‘Shazam!’ Screenwriter On Film Development: ‘It Won’t Be Happening’

While most of Warner Bros’ movie attention whenit comes to comics properties has been focused on “Batman 3,” “Watchmen,” “Green Lantern” and a few other projects that are either set to hit theaters soon or are on the fast track to development, one potential film — “Shazam!” — seems to continually get lost in the shuffle. And according to “Shazam!” screenwriter, John August, there’s a pretty good reason for that.

“[’Shazam!’] won’t be happening,” August said in an extensive post on his blog, offering insight to the production which a little over a month ago made headlines after announcing the property had moved from New Line to Warner Bros. proper. “I don’t think it’s on the studio’s radar at all. It may come back in another incarnation, with another writer, but I can say with considerable certainty that it won’t be the version I developed.”

Just to refresh you, “Shazam!” caused a big splash at the San Diego Comic Con last year when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson told MTV that he was ready and waiting to step into the role of the film’s main adversary, Black Adam, and then we further added fuel to the fanboy fire when we reported that Warner Bros. had acquired the rights for “Shazam!” from the now defunct New Line Cinemas, bringing along co-directors Peter Segal (”Get Smart”) and Michael Ewing, which breathed new life into a possible “Shazam!” feature film. In the meantime, as he writes on his blog, August continued working on the script.

“I wrote a draft for New Line [that] I would describe…as a comedy with a lot of action,” August wrote on his blog. “I got notes from New Line and the producers — mostly about set pieces, and keeping Black Adam from becoming too sympathetic — but before I could get started, the WGA went on strike. I couldn’t write, nor did I talk to anyone involved for 100 days.”

“When the strike was over, Shazam! was suddenly a Warner Bros. movie. The new executive at Warners said he agreed with the New Line notes, and told the producers I should go ahead with my rewrite,” continued August. “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. 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 was under contract to deliver one more draft. So I took them at their (written) word and delivered what they said they wanted: a much harder movie, with a lot more Black Adam,” wrote August. “It wasn’t the action-comedy I’d signed on to write, but it was a movie I could envision getting made. The producer and director liked it, and turned it in to the studio while I was in France. By the time I got back, the project was dead.”

And while August mentions that these types of events are just part of the job as a screenwriter — and likewise says he has no hard feelings against Warner Bros. (“My next movie is at that studio, so while I’m frustrated by the way they handled this project, I have no axe to grind. When they have a movie they want and support, they’re top-notch.”) — he does make it clear that he blames two particular films for the death of “Shazam!”: “Speed Racer” and “The Dark Knight.”

“The first flopped; the second triumphed,” wrote August. “Given only those two examples, one can understand why a studio might wish for their movies to be more like the latter. But to do so 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.”

So for those of you holding out hope to see Billy Batson utter that magical phrase and get struck by lightning, the chances of you getting hit by lightning seem far, far better these days.

Are you disappointed with this news? Do you think a darker version of “Shazam!” is a better idea, or would you have rather seen the franchise take a lighter route? Talk to us in the comments, folks.