[Interview] 5 Things You Should Know About ‘FREE GUY’

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Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Director Shawn Levy’s FREE GUY is a highly entertaining high-concept film about one man being the change in his world. It’s also about blowing stuff up and rebelling against the establishment. Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a resident of Free City, a fantastical realm where robberies, violence and mayhem are an every-day occurrence. What he doesn’t realize he’s trapped in a videogame. Yet once he starts defying his programing, falling in love with Millie/ MolotovGirl (Jodie Comer), he not only matures, but also aids in her mission to bring down the game’s publisher, Antwan (Taika Waititi).

At the film’s recent press day, the cast and crew shared a few details with a group of us journalists – fun anecdotes we thought you should know too.

Blue Shirt Guy is a slightly different kind of hero for Ryan Reynolds. Deadpool’s naughty sensibilities are nowhere to be found here. Though there’s a lot in common with Owen from THE LEGO MOVIE and Truman from THE TRUMAN SHOW, the affable actor said it was another character from a classic film that inspired him. “There’s a movie that I love called BEING THERE starring Peter Sellers. That was the first foothold I had into this character and this world.” He valued that character’s outlook. “There’s something really wonderful about playing a character who’s kind of naive and innocent – exploring everything with new eyes and sort of filtering that through the prism of comedy and occasionally cynicism. I love a playing character who is sort of stepping out of the background into this new person.”

Jodie Comer sings a cover of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy.” By now you’ve heard that including the song was Reynolds’ idea. The song there in earlier drafts had been The Outfield’s “Your Love,” which didn’t quite suit the mood. He said, “It’s a great song, but not fitting right.” It was Carey’s upbeat chart-topper that really ignited the scenes. “Carey’s ‘Fantasy’ just came like a lightning bolt and it was like an engine for so much of the movie.” Levy mentioned they had no idea this addition would blossom into. “Little did we know that by the third act of the movie, we’d have a cover of that song by our very own Jodi Comer in the movie.” Comer sheepishly added, “I always forget about that.”

(L-R): Lil Rel Howery as Buddy and Ryan Reynolds as Guy in 20th Century Studios’ FREE GUY. Courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Lil’ Rel Howery almost cried during his monologues. In addition to being a fun, hilarous action film, it’s also a little of bromance between Guy and his best friend/ Free City security guard Buddy. And a few of their scenes together have platonic underpinnings to them that are quiet moving – especially for the actor performing them. He elucidated, “It’s always weird when you do speeches like that. You’re emotionally tied to it. I remember shooting it with Shawn and them. We was talking [and] I had to take a walk. I wasn’t going to, like, tear up in front of y’all. Buddy has a couple of those moments, which is what I loved about the character is that innocence came with how comfortable he was with his friendship.” Reynolds credits dimensionalizing their characters helped nail the poignancy. “I think Rel and I and our respective characters live at this intersection of a little bit on the page, a little bit, you know, in the moment. Rel and I just immediately, from the moment we met, kind of clicked.”

The filmmakers spoke to game designers and coders for accuracy. Levy said, “This movie was about threading the needle between wanting to represent the gaming world correctly and accurately. I spoke with a lot of game publishers, coders, game designers, um, and played and watched a lot of games in pre-production. Getting that right was really important. But it was also important to make a movie that required no gaming fluency from a viewer who wasn’t a gamer. Trying to tick both boxes was always part of the goal, um, and-and something we worked really hard to achieve.”

They have ideas for a sequel. But naturally they were hesitant to share what those would be, let alone start putting the cart before the horse. Said Levy, “I’ve made things that launched franchises and I’ve made enough things to know that you just don’t know the outcome. We have bandied about and flirted with some ideas.” Reynolds, who initially brought up the topic, stated, “We all hope that we get to do this again, either in this form as a sequel, or something else.”

FREE GUY opens in theaters on August 13.

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Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.