Toronto Winter Made Shazam's Shoot A 'Pure Nightmare' For The Cast And Crew

With a sequel well on its way, "Shazam!" has proved to be one of the cornerstones of the current DCEU. The first film wears its heart on its sleeve unlike any other in the DC cinematic canon, injecting a child-like innocence into the moral conundrums of being a superhero. It is also the most light-hearted offering from the modern era of DC films, not without its coming-of-age conflicts, of course (think "Big" but with superpowers). Suffice it to say, "Shazam!" is downright heartwarming at times, but the same cannot be said for the production itself.

The production for "Shazam!," which was released in the Spring of 2019, was shot during the coldest part of the year in Toronto, Ontario, a year before the film's release. Plot-wise, the timing makes sense. Much of the film takes place during the holiday season, meaning the snow and festive decor that come with the setting fit the project nicely. However, due to the chilling environment, filming in Toronto made for a hellish production. Despite the fact that the city is a popular filming locale in general (and for superhero films more specifically), the cast and crew of "Shazam!" were not ready for the frigid temperatures.

'It was f-ing cold'

In a behind-the-scenes featurette, the filmmakers behind "Shazam!" spoke about the less-than-ideal circumstance the cold weather brought to the production. The video features the below-zero temperature in action, while everyone works extra hard to get through the shoot. To hype himself up, Zachary Levi repeatedly yells it's "not cold" during a scene in the snow. Even stunt coordinator Kyle Gardiner had to worry about the electrical cables, saying, "they'll snap because it's so cold." Producer Peter Safran (the co-chair of DC Studios) was not a fan, either: "We shot for three months of nights in Toronto in the winter. It was f****** cold."

Oof. The beautiful scenery on display makes the effort worthwhile, but I'd bet that they would have set the film in another season if they knew how cold it can get. At the very least, the final product speaks to the commitment of the filmmakers to get the job done right despite the circumstances. Even Swedish director David F. Sandberg had a hard time acclimating to the Canadian environment: "Everyone was like, 'Well you're Swedish, like, you're used to it right?' I'm like, 'No.'"

Toronto, home of the superhero (and villian)

Despite the wintertime temperatures, "Shazam!" is not the only superhero film to use Toronto as its primary filming location.

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" switched to Atlanta, Georgia for the upcoming sequel, but the first film is only one of many DC projects to have used Toronto as its primary shooting location. In 2015, "Suicide Squad" shot its shaky production in the same city (albeit in April, a warmer time of the year). On television, the slate of superhero shows from DC, including "The Flash" and "Titans," regularly shoot in Toronto, masquerading the city as an iconic fictional location from the source material (Gotham City, Central City, etc.). However, Toronto is not only reserved for DC — some of Marvel's biggest projects were shot in the Canadian city.

"X-Men" (2000) was the first major superhero film to shoot in Toronto and the surrounding Greater Toronto Area. Marvel Studios used the city and the GTA to film "The Incredible Hulk" years later, before revisiting Canada most recently to do reshoots on "Hawkeye." Of course, Atlanta remains the premiere location for the MCU, but Toronto has roots in the superhero genre since its earliest iterations. I think it's safe to assume that "Shazam!" was not the only film to experience the icier part of the city.

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" hits theaters on December 21, 2022.