shazam villain mark strong

Just days after the big screen take on DC Comics’ Shazam! found its title hero in Zachary Levi, it has found its villain. Mark Strong, the intimidating English actor known for his work in the Kingsman films, Sherlock Holmes, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has joined director David F. Sandberg’s superhero tale as Doctor Sivana, one of Billy Batson’s classic nemeses.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news, reporting that Strong is in talks for the role of Sivana. Variety reports that Grace Fulton, who previously worked with Sandberg in Annabelle: Creation, has also joined the cast in an unspecified role.

This won’t be the first time Strong has played a villain in a DC Comic book movie – he took on the part of Sinestro in the ill-fated Green Lantern film, but that potential franchise fell over dead before his true villainy could be revealed in a sequel.

In some ways, Strong feels like an obvious choice: Doctor Sivana is bald, and so is Mark Strong! Perfect! However, it’s hard to knock a movie for having the good taste to cast Strong, an underrated actor with the habit of elevating every single film that features him. While he’s played his fair share of antagonists (his shaved head and angular features scream villainy!), he’s proven himself capable of lending warmth and humor to even the bleakest stories. Shazam! just got a whole lot more interesting.

But movie fans may already be familiar with Strong. Who is this evil guy he’s playing?

doctor sivana

Who is Doctor Sivana?

Doctor Thaddeus Sivana was an old-school comic book supervillain, first arriving to menace Shazam (then known as Captain Marvel; no relation to the Marvel character of the same name) in 1940. Being an evil genius, he quickly deduces that the magical superhero with the red and gold outfit is actually young Billy Batson and becomes a thorn in his side, menacing him for the majority of the early Shazam/Captain Marvel stories.

Doctor Sivana is very much the prototypical mad scientist and his design – chrome dome, round goggles, and white coat with a high collar – has defined what this kind of character has looked like for the past 77 years. In his earliest incarnations, he left the planet Earth after feeling rejected by society and returned as a villain hellbent on conquering the globe. In recent years, he’s been reinvented as a well-regarded scientist who taps into magic when science fails him, ultimately being drawn into a world of evil.

I imagine that a big screen adaptation will lean more heavily on the more recent interpretations. While comic book fans can appreciate a cackling mad scientist, there’s no denying that Doctor Sivana is a cartoon in his earliest appearances…and most of his later appearances, if we’re going to be completely honest. The appeal of Doctor Sivana has often been that he’s just a Bad Guy who does Bad Things, a figure of menace for the young Billy Batson to punch. However, an actor as soulful as Mark Strong will probably bring more nuance and humanity to the role than his comic book incarnation suggests.

Despite being the first noteworthy Shazam! villain, Doctor Sivana is not the most famous member of this rogue’s gallery. That would be Black Adam, a character set to be played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in his own solo movie. The casting of Strong here suggests that Johnson won’t have a role to play in Shazam! and THR backs that up, noting that the other film is being developed concurrently. Will both characters be set up in their own movies, only to clash in a third film? Warner Bros. is in the universe-building business, so I’d put money on it.

Shazam! is set to being production early next year.

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