Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and the joy of playing villainous goddesses in Shazam! sequel

4 days ago 35

NEW YORK – If superheroes have one thing in common, it is not so much capes or extraordinary abilities, but memorable foes.

As its spoilery title reveals, the new movie Shazam! Fury Of The Gods – a sequel to 2019’s Shazam! – has supersized its antagonist factor by going for immortal divinities, plural.

Which is how Billy Batson (Zachary Levi), whose nom de superhero is Shazam, and his pals find themselves battling the daughters of Atlas as they do the kind of things power-mad mythological beings are wont to do: unleash oversized beasties, flatten entire cities and point menacingly into the distance.

“A good thing about being about magic and gods was that they didn’t have to be in a similar age or anything like that,” director David F. Sandberg said by phone. “We could just cast the best people we could get.”

That turned out to be Helen Mirren as the bossy eldest sister, Hespera, and Lucy Liu as the steely Kalypso. Rachel Zegler played Hespera and Kalypso’s younger sibling Anthea.

Sandberg quickly realised that Mirren, 77, had not come to play – or maybe she had. “We had to talk her out of doing certain stunts that she wanted to do,” he said.

In a video interview, Liu, 54, and Mirren displayed an easygoing rapport, along with a few differences in temperament and approach.

Calling from Los Angeles, Mirren dispensed light-hearted jokes and pretended to be a quasi-gadfly at this whole acting thing, while Liu, who was in New York, brought up the ins and outs of portraying an antagonist.

These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Hespera and Kalypso are introduced as gods rather than goddesses. Is it an important distinction?

Liu: We’ve been talking about this, trust me. It’s Fury Of The Gods, and I was like, “Shouldn’t it be goddesses?” We thought, “We’re already in that realm, as long as it’s not huma...

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