With the release of Shazam! Fury of the Gods right around the corner, Dorkaholics had the opportunity to speak with the film’s screenwriters Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan. Gayden returns to the franchise after penning the first film, and is now joined by Morgan, with a resume including work on the Fast and Furious franchise as a producer.
When it came to developing the storyline for this sequel film, the team really honed in on the best story being a continuation of Billy Batson’s journey of learning to be part of a family.
“We figured out from the very beginning that it was about ‘how does Billy operate in a world where he actually has a family’ and use that as the internal conflict emotionally and then how do you externally best dramatize that story as he comes up against something that challenges that,” Gayden said. “And in particular these villains, I think are kind of a dark reflection of three people who also lost family in their life and don’t feel that he deserves what he has now, which threatens everything.”
As a pair of screenwriters working on this major superhero film, it turns out that each of them brought something different to the table that helped elevate the script to what is ultimately shown in the film. Morgan recognized Gayden’s strengths in voice and characters.
“Henry has a facility with the teenage mindset and voices and humor that I’ve never found in anybody else. I wish I could write that. I genuinely cannot so I’m kind of in awe of it,” Morgan said. “His character work is definitely the cornerstone of this franchise and it’s uniquely him.”
To Gayden, he found that Morgan’s innate ability lies in worldbuilding.
“Chris has this kind of ability I would call it superstructure where he can kind of imagine a giant skyscraper in his head and build it for you through words and he finds a way to really tell stories in a way that I’ve never seen anyone else do,” Gayden said. “And it was a gift to this movie in particular where we really had to build out the world of the daughters of Atlas and a lot of the mythology, and all of it from blue-sky and not from the comics.”
Diversity and representation was something that Gayden worked towards bringing to the film, especially as it tied back to the pages of Geoff Johns’ run of Shazam! within DC Comics’ New 52 era.
“The only new addition for this movie is being a lot more forthright about Pedro being gay. And that was hinted at in the first movie very subtly,” Gayden said. “And I thought it was really important and really, really fought for us including that and bringing that to the fore in this movie.”
And when it came to cameo appearances, Morgan likened the thought process to his younger days of leaving the theaters with friends and having impassioned discussions about things they would have liked to have seen in films.
“I remember when I was younger I used to go to see movies and the best part of it was afterwards. You go with your friends; you get some food you like, and then ‘you know what would have been cool? what about this and someone else?’” Morgan said. “The development on this felt exactly like that.”
This time around on Shazam! Fury of the Gods, they were able to go even further with their cameos than what was done in the first film.
“So early in the process, we’re like, you know what would be amazing, what if you pay off that thing that you set up in the first movie, the Superman from the neck down, and here you do the same thing, but you actually pull up,” Morgan said. “Wouldn’t that be cool? It started early as a fun idea amongst ourselves and then we were able to pull it off.”
Catch Shazam! Fury of the Gods in theaters on March 17, 2023.
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