DC boss James Gunn shrugs off 'Shazam' star Zachary Levi's anti-Pfizer tweet
DC boss James Gunn has addressed a controversial tweet from Zachary Levi that called into question the "Shazam!" star's position on vaccines.
On Saturday, Levi tweeted "Hardcore agree" in response to someone who asked whether people consider pharmaceutical company Pfizer "a real danger to the world." Levi's tweet has since ignited a debate as to whether the onscreen superhero is against corruption in the pharmaceutical industry or Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.
"Actors and filmmakers that I work with are going to say things that I agree with and things that I don’t agree with,” Gunn said Monday during a press event on the Warner Bros. studio lot, according to Variety.
“That’s going to happen. I don’t have a list of things that somebody should say because of what I think. And you know, I can’t be changing my plans all the time because an actor says something that I don’t agree with.”
The film executive and director added, however, that "if somebody's doing something morally reprehensible then that's a different story."
"We have to take all that stuff into account," he said. "It's a balance. It's a modern world and it's a different place."
Shortly after raising eyebrows with his anti-Pfizer stance, Levi tweeted a link to a 2009 press release from the Department of Justice announcing that the United States government had reached a $2.3-billion settlement with Pfizer "to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the illegal promotion of certain pharmaceutical products."
"Just one example of what I’m referring to…" Levi tweeted along with a pensive-face emoji.
While some interpreted Levi's follow-up tweet as proof of his disdain for Pfizer the pharmaceutical giant (not the COVID vaccine), others speculated that the "Chuck" alum found and shared the old DOJ press release in a desperate attempt to mitigate the damage caused by his original tweet.
Representatives for Levi have not responded to requests for comment from the Los Angeles Times.
Regardless of his intent, Levi found himself at the center of a Twitter firestorm less than two months before the release of his latest film, "Shazam! Fury of the Gods." The sequel to 2019's "Shazam!" stars Levi as the alter ego of an immature teenage boy who possesses the power to shape-shift into a grown man with super-strength and super-speed.
"Zachary Levi kicking off the marketing campaign for Shazam 2 by going anti-vax is certainly a choice," tweeted @I_am_da_BOM. "I dunno folks, if I was the lead actor in a new $125million movie that I needed people to go see I’d probably refrain from retweeting any conspiracy theories but hey that’s just me."
"Zachary Levi is perfect casting for Shazam, because this is a grown a— man with a child brain," tweeted @comicskirby.
It's not just Levi's alleged vaccine views that have come under scrutiny in the wake of his tweet. Many have used the opportunity to recirculate other controversial statements made by the "Tangled" actor in the past.
Some accused the performer of crying "reverse racism" and "reverse sexism" when he tweeted in 2018 that "men can't lead meaningful conversations about sexism" and "white people can't lead meaningful conversations about racism ... is both sexist and racist."
Levi addressed the fallout at the time in a lengthy statement doubling down on his opinion that being discouraged from leading conversations about sexism and racism "because of my gender and the color of my skin ... is discrimination." He added that he wasn't "attempting to downplay the wrongs that are happening to women or people of color in this world" or "trying to silence anyone."
Others shared a clip from a 2022 episode of the controversial "Joe Rogan Experience" podcast in which Levi praised Jordan Peterson — a Canadian psychologist who has been widely criticized for expressing misogynistic and transphobic views — as a deep thinker "with a lot of integrity."
"But I also know Jordan has his own things that people have issues with. I get it. Nobody's perfect," Levi told Rogan.
"While everyone is dragging Zachary Levi for this, don't forget he was just one Rogan's show admiring a transphobe & didn't say a word when Rogan misgendered Elliot Page," tweeted @LothWolffe. "He's scum."
"Today I learned that Zachary Levi is a weirdo anti-vaxxer who supports hate speech in all its forms," tweeted @MediumSizeMeech in reaction to the Rogan clip. "My bingo card is too full."
Several also judged Levi for a meme he once shared on his Instagram story mocking "Aquaman" star Amber Heard, who has repeatedly accused her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, of abusing her. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor has denied his ex-wife's claims.
"[Levi] believes in reverse racism, has supported people who were anti EVERYTHING minority and made fun of an abuse survivor," tweeted @blkcomictwit. "NEVER seen someone so determined to be jobless in my life."
On Monday, new DC co-chairmen Gunn and Peter Safran unveiled their their eight- to 10-year vision for the superhero factory. Though the execs have come under fire recently for scrapping projects launched by their predecessors, they assured fans that existing franchise stars — such as Levi, Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) and Jason Momoa (Aquaman) — could still return to the screen in the future.
However, the immediate plan is to spotlight fresh talent and introduce new characters to the universe.
“We’re figuring it all out,” Gunn said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.