Zachary Levi takes on Kurt Warner's incredible real-life story in American Underdog

Advertisement

Kurt Warner found the perfect person to play him for his upcoming biopic.

The NFL legend's incredible life story will hit the big screen in American Underdog, with Zachary Levi (Shazam!) playing the former pro athlete. And he certainly fits the part in a few first look images and new making-of video, American Underdog: From the Dream to the Big Screen, exclusive to PEOPLE.

One photo shows Levi, 40, on set with Warner, 50, with both men beaming for the camera. Even Warner thinks Levi is the "perfect person" to play him.

"We represent the same things," Warner explains to PEOPLE in this week's issue, on stands Friday. "When you think of someone playing you, you often think of the physical likeness they must have, but I believe Zac has both the physical and mental make-up to connect to my character."

American Underdog
Zachary Levi and Kurt Warner
| Credit: Michael Kubeisy/Lionsgate
American Underdog
Credit: Michael Kubeisy/Lionsgate

"Zac is a man of character and integrity, with a personal faith and belief in himself," Warner continues. "These are all things that I possessed and things I felt helped me to accomplish what I accomplished, but more importantly have made me the man I am today."

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

American Underdog
Credit: Michael Kubeisy/Lionsgate

Those same qualities are the ones Levi found in the story, making it about much more than football.

"What surprised me most about playing Kurt was when I was learning more about his story, I realized that his story is less about football and more about family, love, faith and perseverance," he says. "That is the heart of this film. It's kind of like: come for the football and stay for the family. I love that."

American Underdog
Credit: Michael Kubeisy/Lionsgate

For Levi, it's a childhood dream come true to be this close to Warner's story.

"Growing up, I was a Kurt Warner fan," Levi tells PEOPLE. "His Cinderella story is amongst one of the most amazing in all of sports. To be able to step into his shoes for even a moment to bring his and his family's story to the big screen is an honor and a thrill. There is something in this movie for everyone and we're really proud of that."

American Underdog, directed by the Erwin brothers (Jon and Andrew) and also starring Anna Paquin and Dennis Quaid, will be released by Lionsgate in theaters on December 10.