Read this in a movie trailer narrator voice: This December, one man will save us from no new tentpole boredom. One movie will give us the romance and spectacle we’ve been missing. That man…is Ryan Reynolds. That movie…is Free Guy.
Free Guy follows the life of Guy (Reynolds), a bank teller who lives a mundane life in an anything-but-mundane world where explosions, carjackings, murder and mayhem are the norm. As Guy goes through the monotonous motions of his days, he’s suddenly shaken out of his stupor when he passes the beautiful, strong Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer) on the street and a crush blossoms. Determined to change his life, Guy learns that he’s actually an NPC in a video game – and because of his unpredictable actions causing in-game chaos, the game developer led by the egomaniacal Antoine (Taika Waititi) wants to shut it down. Can Guy go from an ordinary dude to a hero who saves the world?
Disney/20th Century’s action-comedy video game romance hits theaters on December 11. A new trailer dropped today and it’s delightful:
While the movie isn’t hitting theaters for another few months, Disney held an early virtual press conference for the film moderated by IGN’s Terri Schwartz. Save for Waititi, who is busy in Australia shooting Thor: Love and Thunder, the whole cast was there (Reynolds, Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery and Utkarsh Ambudkar) as well as director Shawn Levy. It was a joyful press conference full of excellent cast chemistry even over Zoom, lots of laughter, and plenty of off-the-cuff banter. Here are X interesting things we learned.
1. It Has A Central Idea That Is More Relevant Now Than Ever
When asked how he came on board and what the inspiration was, Levy explained the original script had been written by Matt Lieberman and both he and Reynolds were attracted to the fun of the gaming plot, but also that it had bigger ideas behind it that felt important. “[I]t had this central idea about a background character realizing that maybe he could have agency and empowerment in his world,” explained Levy.
Levy went on to say that idea feels even more timely today. “That was in 2018, and then we made it to 2019, and now in 2020, we really relate to the idea that, oh, wait, maybe the world doesn’t need to remain as you find it. Maybe you can have an impact on the circumstances around you,” he continued.
2. Ryan Reynolds Thinks It’s The Best Movie He’s Ever Done
No, really. A member of the press reminded him that at last year’s Brazil Comic Con, he said it was the best experience he’s ever had. After joking that he hopes his kids don’t see him calling it the best experience, Reynolds got serious saying
“I do think it’s the best moviemaking experience that I’ve ever had easily but also I think the best movie I’ve ever done. You know, it’s the most pertinent to our times, in that sense. I mean, you know, where I feel Deadpool was like a movie that was pertinent to the comic book culture when it came out, this really to me speaks to a broader kind of spectrum of where we are in the world, and not only that, but how we are in the world. So that’s one of the reasons I think it’s my favorite movie.”
3. The Movie Changed As They Filmed Because Of The Talent Of The Cast
Levy explained that as they progressed in the shoot, they let the movie “tell [them] what it wanted.” This was down to the incredibly talented cast, all of whom were cast for a specific reason but soon ended up showing other facets of themselves they ended up leaning into more fully. For example, Howery, who plays Guy’s best friend, Buddy, ended up surprising them with his warmth and so they leaned into the Guy/Buddy relationship further than they’d intended at the start. “We realized, oh my God, the guy has, like, the biggest heart, and the warmth that he can express is so special,” explained Levy.
Likewise, the comedic timing of Ambudkar led to his scenes being expanded (“The comedic genius of Utkarsh led fleshing out those gamer programmer characters”), but the biggest comedic revelation, said Levy, were Keery and Comer together. Said Levy
“We realized if you have Joe Keery and Jodie Comer in the same movie, man, someone just get out of the way. Write for that, set them up to do their thing, and get out of the way. And so Ryan and I would commute back and forth from our shoot in Boston to New York, and we would sit side by side on a train and we would rewrite all of the Jodie/Joe scenes so that the kind of friendship story of these two young game designers and code writers could really move to center stage in the film as well.”
4. They Each Gave A One-Line Pitch For The Movie
Schwartz asked the cast and Levy to sum up the movie and give their pitch to someone who might not be familiar with it and they had a hard time sticking to just one line.
Comer: “I just dare them to come away from this without feeling completely elated and wanting to skip out of the theater.”
Keery: “It’s kind of like if The Truman Show and, like, Ready Player One had a baby and was raised by someone who loved Back to the Future a bunch.”
Howery: “It’s such a-it’s just such a perfect blend of so many different genres in one movie, and I think fans
are gonna love it.”
Ambudkar: “This is a movie I would be at the theater to watch on day one.”
Levy: “When you look at the call sheet and you look at who you get to work with every day, you kind of bounce to work. And now it’s on-screen and the results are kind of magical.”
Reynolds: “This movie is just a fastball of joy.”
5. Lil Rel Howery Is A Sucker For Rom-Coms
The cast had a hard time not gushing about how much they love the movie, and while the talk mostly centered on the action and fun, one cast member had a different thing he loved about it. Howery said he was a big fan of the romance storyline between Reynolds and Comer and admitted he’s a sucker for rom-coms. “I like romance, so it’s like, you know, some romantic things happen that make me really… I’m such a weirdo with romance…People shouldn’t know that about me, but I love
romcoms,” he laughed.
6. There Could Be A Movie Of Outtakes For Taika Waititi Alone
Unsurprisingly, Taika was a ball of energy on set and kept the cast in stitches the entire time they were filming. While the cast was talking about each other, Ambudkar brought up the one cast member not there. “We didn’t even talk about Taika, who is a mad scientist in his own right,” said Ambudkar. “There could be an entire movie just on Taika outtakes.”
“There might be,” quipped Reynolds.
Levy piped up, “I’m currently editing the longest bonus featurette in the history of cinema, and it’s only of Taika alt takes. Improvisations, riffs, 19 versions for every joke…” he revealed. “He’s such a huge part of the movie and really rounds out a cast that I would agree with Ryan.”
“I can’t wait to see this blooper reel of Taika, because there were at least 24 hours of just nonstop going off,” said Keery later in the press conference.
7. It Was Blake Lively Who Suggested Taika Waititi For The Role
Speaking of Waititi, Levy revealed it was Reynolds – but really his wife, actress Blake Lively – who suggested Waititi for the role of Antoine.
“I think Ryan and Blake, were the first ones to be like, what about Taika Waititi as Antoine?” explained Levy.
Reynolds rolled his eyes with good humor. “Blake suggests Taika for everything. She’s like, what about Taika for my husband?” he joked.
Nice to see that friendship has lasted between the three of them since they all worked together in 2011’s Green Lantern.
8. Jodie Comer Absolutely Nailed Her Audition
Comer explained that she’d just wrapped up filming Season 2 of her hit show, Killing Eve, when she flew to NYC the next morning to audition and felt like “a bit of a zombie.” But Levy and Reynolds assured everyone she absolutely crushed her audition. Levy explained that they were looking for a very specific actress who had Swiss army knife of skills to play both mousy, awkward computer programmer Milly in the real world and the suave, deadly Molotov girl in-game. Comer had everything they were looking for:
“Ryan and I saw a lot of actresses for that part, but I think three lines into Jodie’s audition, Ryan and I kind of looked at each other. We were like what are we seeing? We just knew it was a revelation. This was really a very, very important new actor whose range, which had wowed us in Killing Eve, but we didn’t have any sense, oh wait, she also does comedy. She also can do this American accent – I mean, just her ability is so impressive.”
9. They Were Allowed To Play Around And Improv
Some directors are authoritarians on set, but not Levy, who is known for a collaborative approach with his talent. According to the cast, Levy encouraged playfulness and pushed them to experiment and just have fun, creating a space where they felt comfortable.
Ambudkar explained this isn’t always the case. “A lot of us improvise, and sometimes you get to a set and you’re like, hey, I got hired because of my improv, and then you show up on set and everyone’s like, ‘Whoa, whoa, what-what are you doing, bro?'”
Howery agreed, saying he appreciates how emotive Levy is and open to reacting. “Some directors, you don’t know [how they feel about a scene],” he explained.
“I’ve never mastered the tough to read poker face,” agreed Levy with a wry smile.
10. There Are A Bunch Of Pop Culture References And Video Game Easter Eggs
Nerdy Easter eggs abound in Free Guy. Ambudkar, who is a comic book reader and gamer, revealed those on the nerdier side will recognize a number of references and be delighted by the hidden nods squirreled throughout the movie, especially for gaming:
“I play Fortnite every night with my friends across the world, on headsets so that we can stay connected. This movie was made for this nerd right here. Throughout the film, oh, I can’t say any of the best stuff. I will say as somebody who loves this stuff, I was tickled pink. There are a lot of wonderful cameos from people within the gaming community, which is cool as well. You’ll see LazarBeam, you’ll see Ninja, you’ll see people that we know and have gotten to know for many, many years, uh, be a part of this movie.”
Reynolds agreed, adding, “The movie is riddled with Easter eggs everywhere. I mean, there’s little presents around every corner, and we all sort of searched for items that I think are really interesting and I’m really happy are in and populated throughout the world of Free City.”
11. ‘Free Guy’ Is The Opposite Of Dark And Cynical
It’s been a really, really tough year for all of us and Levy hopes Free Guy is the antidote to that. The entire movie, he explained, is about background characters rising above. First, for us to stop feeling as though we’re background characters in someone else’s story and to go out and live our own story. And two, to empathize with the people we see around us every day, the background characters of our lives we might never give two seconds’ thought to. That empathy is something that runs through the entire movie and if you’re not interested in being empathetic or compassionate, Free Guy is not for you, explained Levy:
“Hopefully the warmth and the humanism and the belief in people and empathy and connection that – I mean, look, anyone who’s looking for a dark nihilistic, like, cynical kind of the movie, Free Guy ain’t for you. If you’re looking for joy, if you’re looking for hope and, you know, just kind of a belief in human connection and the possibilities of stepping up and living bigger and having more of a footprint in your world, that’s really where we came from when we made this.”
I don’t know about you, but to me, all of that sounds absolutely delightful.
Free Guy is in theaters on Friday, December 11.
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