'Shazam!' supersuit 'didn't cost $1 million to make', says producer

Earlier this year it was reported that the spandex supersuits worn on screen by Zachary Levi in the new DC superhero movie Shazam! cost the production a mind-boggling $1 million (£762k) EACH.

That astronomical figure came from an interview in Total Film with Leah Butler, the film’s costume designer, but it was quickly disputed by director David F. Sandberg who admitted he didn’t know the “final number” for the cost of the iconic red, white, and gold costume.

Shazam! producer Peter Safran, who was likely holding the pursestrings during development, has now categorically denied that million dollar price tag in a new interview with Yahoo.

“[The suit] did not cost a million dollars per suit to develop the thing,” Safran says. “It was a story that went around.”

“That’s why the movie is just him sitting around talking,” jokes Sandberg, “because that’s all we could afford.”

Zachary Levi rocking the supersuit in <i>Shazam!</i> (Warner Bros./DC Comics)
Zachary Levi rocking the supersuit in Shazam! (Warner Bros./DC Comics)

For the look of the suit the filmmakers had 80 years of comic book history to draw on, and Sandberg says they deliberately went for a retro look for Levi’s costume in tribute to the character’s legacy. “That’s why he has the shorter cape,” the director says, “which is a bit out of fashion these days where most superheroes have long capes.”

He adds they were heavily inspired by the character’s look in The New 52, a 2011 revamp of the entire DC comic book line, which added a hood to the iconic red suit, amongst other adjustments.

“[It was about] making him look both old school but at the same time modern enough that if you put him next to any of the heroes from the Justice League, he would fit in,” adds Sandberg.

Shazam’s human alter-ego is 14-year-old Billy Batson – played by Asher Angel – who turns into the flying superhero simply by saying the magic word “Shazam!”

This means Levi, who previously appeared as Marvel’s Fandral in Thor: The Dark World, only ever appears in one costume in the role, and he admits it’s not the comfiest outfit to wear.

Early reactions to ‘Shazam’ compared it to ‘Big’, ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘The Goonies'(Warner Bros.)
Early reactions to ‘Shazam’ compared it to ‘Big’, ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘The Goonies'(Warner Bros.)

“Fortunately it’s a really cool, one look,” Levi says. “Unfortunately, it’s not the most comfortable of one looks, because these spandex suits are super, super tight, and a little claustrophobic, and there’s a lot of wiring and stuff throughout it. But whatever, that’s a small price to pay to get to be the guy who wears it.”

Levi adds that he felt pressure to get into great shape to play the role, after actors like Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Jason Momoa set the template for the look of the DC Universe heroes. But, he also says comic book artists have set an unrealistic bar for superhero physiques.

“[Artists like] Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld and all these guys for so long have been drawing these ridiculously massive biceps, with five biceps on the bicep, like how the hell are you supposed to bring that to life in real life?!”

Shazam! blasts into cinemas on Friday, 5 April.