Shazam! star Zachary Levi has signed on to play former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner in the inspirational sports drama American Underdog at Lionsgate.
Jon and Andrew Erwin will direct from a script written by Friday Night Light‘s David Aaron Cohen and Jon Gunn.
Warner’s story is one of NFL legend, and sounds pulled from a Hollywood screenplay anyway. He was playing in the Arena League and paying rent by bagging groceries for a while before signing with the St. Louis Rams to be their backup QB.
When starter Trent Green went down in the pre-season, Warner stepped in and led the Rams to a Super Bowl win while winning league MVP for piloting an explosive offense known as the Greatest Show On Turf.
He won MVP again two seasons later but the Rams were upset in Super Bowl 36 by the New England Patriots. After some lean years, he later led the upstart Arizona Cardinals to their first Super Bowl where they lost in a heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He retired a year later, before being voted to the NFL Hall of Fame. It’s arguably the greatest rags-to-riches tale in league history.
Levi is a good choice to play Warner. He’s a rising star that isn’t so recognisable yet to the general public that he can’t sink into the role of a NFL QB. He’s also tall with the right sort of physique, and he and Warner look pretty similar. Obviously that’s usually the case when casting a role like this, but not always (e.g. Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs).
“Kurt’s story is one of relentless faith — in his own abilities but even more so in a higher power. When I read Kurt’s story, I identified with the quiet strength he found to persevere — that’s something I think anybody can recognise in their own lives”, said Levi in a statement. “This is the kind of underdog story that sports movies are all about, and the fact that it’s true makes it even more special”.
Outside of Shazam!, Levi has starred in Disney’s Tangled and been a part of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel ensemble.
He’ll next be seen alongside Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch in Kevin MacDonald‘s Prisoner 760. For now, he’ll probably be working on how to throw a proper spiral until filming on American Underdog begins.