Zachary Levi is known for playing Shazam in the DCEU, and with Shazam! Fury of the Gods on the horizon, he's poised to continue being an important part of the franchise. However, before he put on the character's signature red suit, Levi was in line to play another prominent DC role: Lex Luthor in Smallville.
It may sound surprising, but before Michael Rosenbaum was cast, Levi auditioned for the part of Superman's nemesis, and actually came quite close to landing the part. However, the audition did not go well.
The Hollywood Reporter recently did a Smallville profile for the show's 20th anniversary, in which the series' creators — Miles Millar and Alfred Gough — and stars shared anecdotes about the beloved show. While discussing the casting of Luthor, Millar revealed that Zachary Levi tried out for the villain, and actually did quite well. So well, in fact, that he went in to audition for The WB. Unfortunately, things went wrong in that last meeting:
"Zach Levi did an amazing audition for Lex. Incredible. We all went into The WB with Zach to be Lex. That audition was kind of a disaster. In leaving the audition, I remember thinking 'Oh, that was the biggest chance of his life.' And then he went on to incredible success. So you just never know."
Millar didn't specify what happened during the meeting. Funnily enough, back in 2018, Levi himself spoke about the audition with Michael Rosenbaum for the actor's Inside of You With Michael Rosenbaum podcast:
"[Smallville], I don't know if I’ve ever told you this. I tested for Lex Luthor and really thought I was gonna get that job. [Smallville-pilot director] David Nutter [...], I had some work sessions with [him]."
After Rosenbaum told him that he would have been a great pick for the role, Levi disagreed:
"I don’t know about that. I think you [Michael Rosenbaum] were fantastic on the show, and it wasn’t my path."
It's unfortunate to hear that the actor had a bad experience while auditioning for Lex Luthor, but things worked out for him, as he has been part of several prominent projects throughout the years such as Chuck, the Tangled franchise and, of course, Shazam!.
Zachary Levi will return to the DCEU in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, which flies into theaters on June 2, 2023.