Dwayne Johnson's Ego Destroyed Two Superhero Movie Franchises, Insiders Claim
Sources say that the actor's actions impacted both Black Adam and Shazam! 2.
The latest DC Comics adaptation is underperforming at the box office and hasn't gone over so well with critics, so now, of course, those involved are trying to figure out what went wrong. Shazam! Fury of the Gods star Zachary Levi has blamed the marketing of the superhero sequel, but he also posted on social media about an article in which insiders place some of the blame one DC Extended Universe (DCEU) actor in particular: Dwayne Johnson. The former wrestler, by the way, is not even in that movie.
According to sources who spoke to The Wrap, Johnson's attitude about his own DCEU character and what he did and didn't do because of it played a role not just in the failure of Black Adam but of the new Shazam! movie too. Read on to find out why.
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Johnson starred as the DC character Black Adam.
In 2022, Johnson joined the DCEU as the titular character in Black Adam. The movie made over $392 million worldwide, which might suggest it was a hit. However, according to Variety, it cost $195 million to make, plus $100 million in marketing, totally $295 million. Producer Joe Singer told Deadline, "The picture may be considered disappointing since it had Dwayne Johnson in a DC film. However, the picture will pass break-even and throw off a bit of profit."
As for how it did with critics, the movie has a 39 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes but an 88 percent audience score.
Johnson refused to film a scene with another DCEU character.
In The Wrap's new report, insiders suggest that Johnson may have undermined the potential of both Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods to preserve his own personal brand.
The publication states that "two high-level Hollywood insiders" claimed that Johnson refused to include a post-credits scene in Black Adam that would have featured Levi, who first played his DC hero in 2019's Shazam!. The scene reportedly would have shown Shazam being recruited into the Justice Society of America by Hawkman (Aldis Hodge).
Black Adam and Shazam have a close connection in the comics, but Johnson was reportedly more interested in tying his character to Henry Cavill's Superman. The Witcher actor played the hero in five DCEU movies, including his cameo in Black Adam. After that movie's release in October of last year, Cavill announced that he would be returning again as Superman in future DCEU projects. However, December brought another announcement from newly installed DC Studios co-chairman James Gunn that the Superman movie in the works would not star Cavill but that the role would be recast. Some have blamed Johnson for this confusion as well.
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He prevented Black Adams characters from appearing in Fury of the Gods.
A version of the nixed post-credits scene ended up being used in Fury of the Gods. But, because Johnson reportedly didn't want characters from Black Adam in that movie, actors from other DC projects Suicide Squad and Peacemaker were dropped in at the last minute.. (Johnson was also a producer on Black Adam.)
"By alienating the established property that his character was born out of, and refusing to integrate with other established characters, [Johnson] systematically crippled two franchises, and has harmed DC in the process," an unnamed insider told The Wrap.
The director of Fury of the Gods, David F. Sandberg, commented on the changes in a Hollywood Reporter interview published March 18. "There were supposed to be characters from [Black Adam's] Justice Society, but that fell apart three days before we were going to roll cameras," Sandberg said. "So, Peter Safran, who produced this movie and Peacemaker, made some calls, and thankfully, Jen Holland and Steve Agee were able to come by on very short notice."
He didn't help promote Shazam!.
Sources told The Wrap that Johnson put his own interests and brand ahead of the movies and wants the franchise centered on himself. By promoting a battle between Black Adam and Superman rather than Black Adam's ties to Shazam, he spoiled an opportunity to get fans more invested in the latter.
"Dwayne tries to sell himself as bigger than the movie," an anonymous executive said. "He's one of the few people who always thinks he's the most important person in any situation or room." The executive added, "Instead of making a movie, he wants to extend his brand and make a brand centered on himself."
In October 2022, CinemaBlend asked Johnson if Black Adam would face off against Superman. The article notes that Johnson had already been teasing the idea.
"Absolutely," he responded. "That is the whole point of this, man … I have been saying for some time, there's a new era in the DC Universe that's about to begin. And what I meant by that was introducing a brand new character. It's not a sequel, not an existing IP. It was… you know, Black Adam!"
Levi seemed to confirm that Johnson vetoed the post-credits scene.
Levi reposted an Instagram Story about The Wrap report and captioned it, "The truth shall set you free" with an upside-down smiley face emoji and a hands up emoji.
The actor also laid some blame on the marketing plan for Shazam! Fury of the Gods, which did poorly at the box office and received a 51 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. In a since-deleted tweet, Levi wrote (via Entertainment Weekly), "I think the biggest issue we're having is marketing. This is a perfect family movie, and yet a lot of families aren't aware of that. Which is just a shame."
Best Life has reached out to Johnson for comment on the report but has not yet received a response.