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The Untold Truth Of The Black Adam Movie

"The hierarchy of power in the DC universe is about to change." This quote is a staple of how Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson talks about his antihero character Black Adam and reflects the massive ambitions this actor has for the actor in the world of live-action blockbusters. First introduced in the pages of Fawcett Comics back in December 1945, Black Adam has been a constant adversary of Shazam in all kinds of media, including video games and TV cartoons. However, his first big-screen appearance will see him taking center stage in the solo movie "Black Adam." 

The titular lead isn't the only comic book legend making an appearance here, though. This entry in the DC Extended Universe will also feature the superhero group Justice Society of America, with Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo), and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) being a part of this group tasked with stopping the reawakened Black Adam.

With so many superheroes and antiheroes to juggle, it's no wonder that the untold truth of "Black Adam" is as enormous as Dwayne Johnson's muscles. The backstory of "Black Adam" concerns everything from the movie's lengthy development process to why actors like Brosnan inhabited their respective roles to even what Black Adam offers that few other Dwayne Johnson characters have, among other elements. Through breaking down the untold truth of "Black Adam," one better understands all the effort that went into realizing this blockbuster... and why the DC Extended Universe's hierarchy of power will, indeed, never be the same.

Dwayne Johnson's earliest connection to Black Adam

Dwayne Johnson's commitment to playing Black Adam goes back to before there even was a DC Extended Universe. Johnson's connection to this antihero was established in 2007 when he was attached to play the character in a "Shazam!" movie helmed by director Peter Segal. This prospective project would've reunited Segal and Johnson after the duo had worked together on the hit 2008 comedy "Get Smart."

Talking to Slashfilm, Johnson noted that he was originally approached to play the heroic character of Shazam, but he gravitated more towards the brooding Black Adam. A trip to 2008's Comic-Con, where fans were constantly telling Johnson that he should play Black Adam, only solidified his commitment to this role. While the stars seemed to be aligned for Johnson's first DC comics movie, this production would never come to be. 

The film was caught up in creative disagreements between its filmmaking team and executives at Warner Bros. while Segal later said in 2013 that Shazam was too similar to Superman (who had been then-recently relaunched as a cinematic figure in "Man of Steel") for Warner Bros. to make the film a priority. Johnson's big debut as Black Adam would have to wait for another day.

Dwayne Johnson briefly considered playing Shazam

By August 2014, a solo "Shazam!" movie was back on the table and, despite so many years having passed, Dwayne Johnson was still connected to the project. Time may have marched on, but Johnson had endured in his commitment to this particular corner of DC Comics mythology. In August 2014, Johnson told the Associated Press that he would be starring in this particular superhero movie but hadn't decided who he would be playing in the feature. Though conventional wisdom would've suggested that an A-list leading man like Johnson would portray the film's titular superhero lead, this actor had other plans in mind.

Johnson was instead eyeballing the role he'd been attached to in earlier incarnations of the project: Black Adam. He even expressed an intense fondness for this particular comic book character as he publicly expressed uncertainty over who he'd be portraying in the blockbuster. There's certainly a lot that's appealing about playing someone as plucky and ripe for comedic situations as Shazam. However, given that he both had already been signed on for the role before and loved this anti-hero, there was never much suspense over who Dwayne Johnson would be playing here. The role of Black Adam was practically tailor-made for this mega superstar.

The earliest signs of Black Adam being a darker comic book movie

"Black Adam" has been in production for an incredibly long time, but during its lengthy gestation period, much of its creative vision has remained surprisingly consistent. Specifically, the movie has always been talked about as being much darker than your average comic book movie, with this skewed tone stemming from the character of Black Adam being unafraid to enact tremendous violence on others.

This vision was apparent as early as 2018 when Hiram Garcia, president of productions at Dwayne Johnson's production outfit Seven Bucks Production, talked to Collider about what made "Black Adam" so special. Garcia noted that Black Adam being such a brutal anti-hero, not to mention his backstory as a former slave, led to him and Johnson becoming immediately enamored with the character. 

Even though at the time there wasn't even a finished screenplay for "Black Adam," Garcia was still passionate about the darker, more violent vibes that Black Adam was going to bring to the world of comic book movies. Such passion was strong enough to endure throughout the many years "Black Adam" spent in various states of development.

Dwayne Johnson almost debuted as Black Adam in Suicide Squad 2

While Johnson was confirmed to be playing the DC Extended Universe version of Black Adam by 2014, it would take years to solidify what project he would first appear as the character in. Warner Bros. went through several high-profile options for where his character could premiere, including in a sequel to one of the most lucrative DC Extended Universe titles. There was a moment in history when Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam would've debuted in an early version of a "Suicide Squad" sequel.

The Wrap reported back in 2017, when Gavin O'Connor was set to helm this project, that the plot of the proposed "Suicide Squad" sequel would've involved the titular villains guarding a priceless object that turned out to be Black Adam's tomb. It's easy to see why this concept would've appealed to studio executives. A movie full of baddies could've been the perfect landscape to drop a darker anti-hero like Black Adam while having Dwayne Johnson around could've given a "Suicide Squad" sequel an enticing factor to immediately separate it from its predecessor. 

However, this concept did not end up coming to fruition. Gavin O'Connor would eventually leave the "Suicide Squad" sequel, and the project would have to go back to square one on his story. Another opportunity to debut Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam had slipped through people's fingers.

Dwayne Johnson (kind of) debuted as Black Adam in Shazam

While there were initially plans to have Dwayne Johnson debut as Black Adam by way of being the main baddie of "Shazam!" those ambitions had been dramatically altered by 2017 when it was confirmed that this antihero would instead debut in a solo movie. This allowed both characters to have room to breathe, and they could establish their separate personalities and universes before colliding in one big cinematic showdown. However, just because Johnson doesn't appear as a physical flesh-and-blood presence in "Shazam!" doesn't mean he's entirely absent from this entry in the DC Extended Universe.

During "Shazam!" The Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) explains to Billy Batson (Asher Angel) about the history of people with the superpowers of Shazam, which included another champion that when evil when bestowed with these abilities. This is referring to Black Adam. The Wizard conjures up a holographic image of this champion that's shrouded in shadows but bears an enormous resemblance to Dwayne Johnson. This tiny hint at the existence of Dwayne Johnson as Shazam's powerful adversary was initially accompanied by a pronounced nod towards Black Adam's existence in a deleted "Shazam!" scene. Both of these moments serve as reminders to fans that Black Adam, even when he's headlining his own movie, is inseparable from the world of Shazam.

How did Jaume Collet-Serra come to direct Black Adam?

In 2019, "Black Adam" began to gain steam with the hiring of Jaume Collet-Serra as its director. A veteran of genre movies thanks to helming the likes of "Non-Stop" and "Run All Night," Collet-Serra also established a good working relationship with Dwayne Johnson after helming his 2021 star vehicle "Jungle Cruise." Collet-Serra also followed in the footsteps of James Wan and David F. Sandberg in being a director responsible for a Warner Bros. horror movie (in his case, "Orphan") who went on to helm DC Extended Universe projects, a trait that further cemented him as a natural choice to direct this blockbuster.

While there is a slew of factors that make it logical for Jaume Collet-Serra to direct "Black Adam," his reasons for doing the movie all boiled down to the lead character. Collet-Serra explained to Deadline that he was fascinated by Black Adam's unorthodox origins as well as his complicated approach to morality compared to other superheroes. His love for "Dirty Harry" and the thought of making "Black Adam" in the mold of that 1971 Clint Eastwood title also got him passionate about helming "Black Adam." With all these factors in play, it's no wonder Collet-Serra ended up taking on the challenge of bringing Black Adam to life.

The original Black Adam release date

After years of delays and false starts, comic book geeks got the biggest tease that "Black Adam" was finally becoming a reality when Warner Bros. scheduled a release date for the superhero movie blockbuster. Initially, the studio penciled in a December 22, 2021 release date, which, at the time, put it opening just a few days after the first "Avatar" sequel. While that was formidable competition for the first solo Black Adam title, Warner Bros. had plenty of reason to be confident that "Black Adam" could excel in this timeframe.

For one thing, this announcement came just a year after "Aquaman" became the biggest DC Comics movie of all time at the worldwide box office after opening at the end of December. Meanwhile, Dwayne Johnson had an incredible box office track record with Christmastime blockbusters thanks to his two "Jumanji" movies. On top of all that, Warner Bros. had previously launched a successful blockbuster that opened right after an "Avatar" movie thanks to the original "Sherlock Holmes." These were just a few of the many reasons why the initial Christmas 2021 release date for "Black Adam" seemed to suggest nothing but confidence in the title.

When Covid delayed Black Adam's release date

In his time as a wrestler, Dwayne Johnson took down countless fearsome opponents, while in his film career, Johnson's managed to conquer everything from earthquakes to massive wolves to Black Superman. But even this guy met his match when it came to the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, Dwayne Johnson couldn't press forward on following the original shooting schedule for "Black Adam" when this global pandemic reared its head. The initial principal photography plans for this feature were to get cameras rolling by the summer of 2020 so that "Black Adam" could be unleashed into movie theaters by December 2021.

However, once the pandemic threw the entire global entertainment industry into chaos, those plans became impossible to pull off. In an Instagram Live video (as reported by Comicbook.com) conducted a month into the pandemic in April 2020, Johnson noted that shooting for "Black Adam" had been postponed. However, the initial delay was just until the end of the summer or, at the latest, September 2020. A few months later, as the cast for this blockbuster was getting solidified, it was revealed that shooting had been further delayed to the very start of 2021. Filming on "Black Adam" would eventually begin in April 2021, nearly a whole year after it was first set to begin principal photography. Such a lengthy delay is a testament to the impact of the pandemic on movies big and small, with these ripple effects being something not even Dwyane Johnson could beat back.

Hawkgirl was cut from Black Adam

"Black Adam" doesn't just bring to the silver screen its titular antihero. The various superheroes of the Justice Society of America are also around in this movie, specifically the likes of Hawkman, Cyclone, and Atom-Smasher, to provide a straightforward heroic contrast to the morally murky Black Adam. Originally, the cinematic version of this team also included an extra member, Hawkgirl. Considering her counterpart Hawkman is a major player in "Black Adam," it's no surprise that she was initially set to have a role in this motion picture.

On Twitter, Dwayne Johnson confirmed that Hawkgirl was in the initial line-up for the movies Justice Society. However, extremely intricate factors that he couldn't get into specifics on led to the character getting cut. Johnson did not go into details on if the character had lasted long enough in the movie's production for there to be any kind of casting around the role. Though a disappointment for fans of this long-running DC Comics superhero, eschewing Hawkgirl wasn't a total wash for "Black Adam." Johnson also noted that the character's absence opened up the door for Cyclone to be a part of the movie. Sometimes, when one door closes, another one opens — or in this case, a Hawkgirl gets traded out for a Cyclone.

The original plans for a Black Adam/Superman showdown

Thanks to the presence of Viola Davis's Amanda Waller – not to mention getting referenced in the 2019 feature "Shazam!" — "Black Adam" is firmly connected to the larger mythos of the DC Extended Universe. Given that, it's no surprise that there's been lots of speculation about this antihero crossing paths with the most significant superheroes of this franchise from both fans and people connected to "Black Adam." This is especially true when it comes to the idea of Henry Cavill's Superman throwing down with Black Adam — a concept that keeps getting teased by very high-profile names.

The idea of these two characters crossing over at some point was given a new level of notoriety when Dwayne Johnson posted on his Instagram a picture of him and Cavill sharing a drink while attaching the hashtag #DCWorldsWillCollide. In April 2018, Cavill further teased this concept in an interview with MTV by noting that efforts were being made to get to a Superman/Black Adam showdown eventually, though he said that prospective duel would come after a Shazam/Black Adam meet-up. No official plans have been announced for such a crossover, but all of these teases show extreme interest from major DC Extended Universe in having two of its more prolific protagonists cross paths in a big way.

Why Pierce Brosnan was perfect to play Dr. Fate

Pierce Brosnan is no stranger to big-budget crowd-pleaser fare. Thanks to his lengthy stint as James Bond, Brosnan is an immediately recognizable face to countless moviegoers. His presence in further hits like the "Mamma Mia!" features and "Mrs. Doubtfire" has only increased his pop culture presence. It's no wonder the crew behind "Black Adam" would want somebody of Brosnan's caliber to be in the film in any capacity, let alone playing the superhero Dr. Fate. However, director Jaume Collot-Serra had much deeper reasons than recognizability informing his desire for Brosnan to play this part.

Talking to Vanity Fair, Collet-Serra noted that the role of Dr. Fate required somebody who had a towering presence. "Dr. Fate is a very powerful being, so you need someone like Pierce who can play powerful without it being overly done," Collet-Serra explained. "He can do it in a very subtle way. I mean, he's one of the coolest people in the world — he was James Bond! But as a person, he's magnetic, so warm with such gravitas." With these qualities firmly in Brosnan's wheelhouse, it's no wonder he was called upon to play the first-ever live-action incarnation of Dr. Fate.

How Black Adam offers a different kind of Black Adam performance

If there's a drawback to the ubiquity of Dwayne Johnson as an omnipresent movie star, it's that it can be hard to imagine that he can keep coming up with something new to offer as a leading man. At a certain point, won't he just start resorting to solely regurgitating what worked in the past? Decades into his acting career, Dwayne Johnson has to walk a fine line in offering up audiences what they want without falling into a trap of being tediously predictable. The role of Black Adam, then, was a fresh challenge for this performer since it offered such a drastically unique character for Johnson to inhabit.

Talking to Deadline, director Jaume Collet-Serra said that Johnson's work in "Black Adam" was quite unique. Much of this distinctiveness came from how Black Adam wasn't as chatty of a character as many of Dwayne Johnson's most famous past roles. Restricting his dialogue, as well as handing him a more isolated character compared to other social people he's portrayed, meant that Johnson had to broaden himself as a performer. He couldn't just rely on what he'd done in past movies like "Central Intelligence" to deliver the on-screen work needed to bring Black Adam to life.

Fans will find out what all these details add up to soon enough when "Black Adam" hits theaters on Friday, October 21.