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Why Zachary Levi Didn't Portray Fandral In Thor And How He Ended Up Playing The Character In The Sequels

 Zachary Levi in Thor: The Dark World
Zachary Levi in Thor: The Dark World

Over the years, we’ve seen a great number of actors who have appeared in Marvel and DC movies, with stars like Ben Affleck and Ryan Reynolds quickly coming to mind. Another name in that category is Zachary Levi, who took on the role of Fandral in the second and third Thor movies years before leading the Shazam! franchise.

While other actors who’ve appeared in both cinematic universes have stories about how they got involved that are fairly simple, by comparison, Levi’s is anything bu thatt. In fact, Levi was originally supposed to portray Thor’s friend and member of the Warriors Three way back in the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only to depart the project prior to shooting and then return later on.

So what stopped the future DCEU star from showing up in the 2011 superhero movie, and why did he return to the role a couple of years later? Here’s a hint, it’s pretty much the opposite of what happened with Chris Pratt’s time on Parks and Recreation Season 6.

Yvonne Strahovski and Zachary Levi on Chuck
Yvonne Strahovski and Zachary Levi on Chuck

Zachary Levi Was Cast As Fandral In Thor, But Dropped Out Because Of Scheduling Conflicts With Chuck

Zachary Levi’s Marvel journey started way back in 2009, when he was cast to portray Fandral in Thor, a film that would also introduce of Chris Hemsworth’s God of Thunder. But just a couple of months before the Kenneth Branagh-directed comic book movie was set to enter production, the actor had to depart because of scheduling conflicts with the NBC spy-comedy series Chuck, he told USA Today (via Digital Spy). The conflict came after the network ordered an additional six episodes of the show’s current season, meaning no Asgard for Levi... at least, not at that point.

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Years later, when speaking about the whole situation at DragonCon 2021 (via The Direct), the Shazam! Fury of the Gods star said that working on Thor was a dream come true since he grew up “devouring Marvel Comics.” but at that time, NBC wouldn’t let him go off and make the movie at the last minute.

Josh Dallas in Thor
Josh Dallas in Thor

Stuart Townsend Was Initially Cast As Levi’s Replacement, But The Role Ultimately Went To Josh Dallas

Not long after Zachary Levi was forced to depart the project, Stuart Townsend, who had previously played Lestat de Lioncourt in Queen of the Damned and Dorian Gray in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, was hired to portray Fandral in Thor. However, just days before cameras were supposed to start rolling, The Hollywood Reporter published a story stating that due to unspecified creative differences, Townsend was off the cast list and was being replaced by Josh Dallas, the future star of Once Upon a Time and Manifest.

Oddly enough, this wasn’t the first time Townsend departed the first installment in what would become a high-profile film franchise, as he was originally slated to portray Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but was replaced by Viggo Mortensen just prior to the start of principal photography. Mortensen would later tell The Irish Times that he felt awkward about the whole situation.

Zachary Levi in Thor: The Dark World
Zachary Levi in Thor: The Dark World

Levi Ended Up Playing Fandral In Thor: The Dark World After Dallas Dropped Out For Scheduling Conflicts Of His Own

Though Zachary Levi would have to miss out on the first Thor movie, everything came full circle for the actor, and he ended up being able to portray Fandral in 2013’s The Dark World. But what about Josh Dallas? Well, just like the man he replaced several years earlier, he would have to step away from Alan Taylor’s sequel for a similar reason, as he told Entertainment Weekly in June 2012:

I’ll be missing out on wearing all that hair. The timing wasn’t right. I’m bummed about it because I had such a great experience and great time making the first film and was really excited about coming back. Marvel and Disney tried to make it work. But because of my commitment to Once Upon a Time, I was not going to be able to do both. So I’ll have to hand the reins over to someone else. I love Marvel. I wish them all the best. I will certainly be first in line to see it.

Around the same time, word began to spread that Levi was being eyed to play Fandral after having to miss out on the first movie, with The Hollywood Reporter reporting in June 2012 that talks were in the early stages. The actor would confirm the casting a month later during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (via MTV News).

Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnarok.
Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnarok.

Zachary Levi Has Since Said It Was A ‘Bit Of A Bummer’ That His Character Wasn’t Really Developed Before Being Killed in Thor: Ragnarok

The Warriors Three – Fandral (Zachary Levi), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) – didn’t get nearly as much to do in Thor: The Dark World than they did in the first film. They had even less development before being killed off a few years later in Thor: Ragnarok, with Levi's character not saying a single word prior to being killed off by Hela (Cate Blanchett).

When speaking about the lack of development during a 2019 ScreenRant interview, the actor described the whole situation as a “bummer” Fandral so much fun and pretty much the live-action version of his Tangled character:

The way it all worked out is exactly the way it was supposed to. Certainly in the moment, would it have been cool if Fandral got more to do? Dude, what a fun character. Errol Flynn. Viking. Space God. Like, c’mon. Ladies man. C’mon! That’s all fun. So, that was a little bit of a bummer.

Levi admitted that it may have been for the best, as he could have still been under Marvel contract and not able to make Shazam!, which he described as “the coolest thing ever.”

Star-Lord revealed in Guardians of the Galaxy
Star-Lord revealed in Guardians of the Galaxy

Fandral Wasn’t The Only Marvel Character Zachary Levi Auditioned To Play

Zachary Levi’s Marvel journey doesn’t start or stop with his portrayal of Fandral, as the actor was also in contention to play two other Marvel superheroes: Captain America and Star-Lord, roles that ultimately went to Chris Evans and Chris Pratt, respectively. However, as Levi revealed during a 2023 appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, he wouldn’t get a chance to join the list of actors who played multiple characters in the MCU:

I remember going in for Captain America, and I was thinking, ‘Well, you know, I look like Rogers pre-serum! Like, clearly they could help me work out and I could get big, but, wasn’t meant to be – I did not have that energy, Chris Evans had that energy. … Right after that, Guardians [of the Galaxy] was kicking on, and I knew James [Gunn] through friends, and mafia, and games nights, and stuff like that, and we wanted me to come in and read for it, and I did. He was like, ‘Okay, let’s do a callback. I did that, and he was like, ‘Okay, we’re going to screen test you. You might very well be the guy.’

Later in the interview, Levi would admit that missing out on the chance to play Peter Quill was especially hard because he really thought “this is it.”

Though we most likely won’t see Fandral or the rest of the Warriors Three show up in any of the upcoming Marvel projects unless a resurrection is in store, we will be seeing a lot more of Zachary Levi in some of the big titles still set for release during the final months of the 2023 movie schedule.