The trailer for Black Adam dropped after what seems like several years worth of announcements, delays, and comic book tie-ins. However, it turns out that Dwayne Johnson has been working on his grand entry to the world of comic books for far longer than that. The Scorpion King has been developing a Black Adam film since 2007, which makes this movie the culmination of 15 years worth of figuring out how to fit him into various versions of the DCEU. In an interview with Comic Book, it was revealed that it ultimately came down to a big decision and Dwayne Johnson making one phone call.
According to the interview, Dwayne Johnson was the key decision-maker for the final decision that cracked the story open. For a long time, the development process had been working on the idea of a movie that told the origin story of both Shazam (then known as Captain Marvel until lawyers got involved) and Black Adam (plus one intriguing detour with Suicide Squad). In a certain sense, this makes sense; both derive their power from the same mystical wizard and have been traditional nemeses in DC Comics. Black Adam has been consistently characterized as Shazam’s predecessor as the wizard’s champion, essentially acting as a dark mirror to his innocent heroism. But apparently, Dwayne Johnson realized at some point both characters were too big and opposed in tone to work in a single movie. Here are Dwayne Johnson’s own words:
The original plan, maybe five or six years ago I think, was to tell the two origin stories of Shazam! and Black Adam in the same movie. That’s what we had worked on… the script was delivered. When we all read the script, I immediately felt like, ‘We have to separate these two movies. We have to honor Shazam! and that origin story and what that is and what that can be for the fans and then we also have to tell our story, too, as well.’ I think in separating them, with the majority of the world not knowing who Black Adam is if you weren’t a serious comic book fan, it was important, I think to separate them and tell each story respectively.
Which does show Dwayne Johnson’s solid commercial instincts. While audiences may have been vaguely aware of Shazam/Captain Marvel before the 2019 Zachary Levi Shazam! film, Black Adam is certainly not a household name. Devoting a whole movie to just his origin (while using Shazam! to lay some track first) just makes a lot more sense. So early one fateful morning, Dwayne Johnson picked up the phone. Here is how Black Adam producer Beau Flynn puts it:
I got a phone call very early in the morning from Dwayne Johnson, which is always very intimidating… he called Hiram [Garcia] and I, he just said, ‘Brothers,” he said, “We’re gonna make Black Adam. We’re gonna tell this story. It’s so big and so important,’ and that was it. It was really an amazing… Dwayne’s instincts are so extraordinary but he was right. Again, we were deep in it and developing that script with both of them and there’s a reason why sometimes in our business sometimes you have to keep moving forward and sometimes the business tells you. We weren’t really cracking it. It wasn’t really working and then that’s when that call came through and everything changed.
First off, it is delightful to know that apparently, Dwayne Johnson calls people “brother” as much in real life as he does in the wrestling ring. After that point in the interview, aforementioned fellow producer Hiram Garcia goes on to point out that Shazam and Black Adam have very different vibes as characters, the former being a 21st-century child unexpectedly given the body of an adult and the powers of a god, while the latter is a rage-filled former slave from 5,000 years ago. It does make sense that perhaps the two should have separate movies and (presumably) have some kind of confrontation in the future in which we have to suspend disbelief to think Zachary Levi could fight Dwayne Johnson.
As you might expect from such a long-gestating passion project, Dwayne Johnson is putting the whole of his Hollywood power and massive charisma behind Black Adam. Apparently, he is being positioned as the center point of the DCEU from here on out, so it turns out that good things can happen to those who wait. Especially if they are Dwayne Johnson with a phone.