'Free Guy' Director Shawn Levy and Star Ryan Reynolds Hope Their Silly, Hopeful Comedy Will be the Antidote for 2020

The upcoming action comedy Free Guy is built around a wild high-concept premise: what if an ordinary person living in a chaotic world learned that their reality was a video game and they were simply a background character within it? And what if that outrageous concept was really a metaphor about taking control of your existence and learning to connect with others?

That was the key takeaway during an online press conference for the film, where director Shawn Levy, stars Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer, and several others all assembled over Zoom to talk about the movie. Here are the key takeaways.

Free Guy Has Accidentally Become a Movie About 2020

Like all major film productions, Free Guy has taken several years to create. However, Shawn Levy noted during the press conference that a movie about someone realizing they can have agency and change their dire circumstances feels especially right coming during a year as dire as 2020:

The movie was a screenplay that got sent to Ryan and I. Matt Lieberman, the screenwriter, wrote the original screenplay, and it was immediately clear to Ryan and I that this was a very good script with a phenomenal idea and that it had this kind of, this central idea about a background character realizing that maybe he could have agency and empowerment in his world. That that idea was both a big idea conceptually as far as gaming and plot, but also a big idea, and maybe this was more important to Ryan and I in those early days, it was a big idea thematically because it felt like something that it  scratched at ideas that matter and that we can all relate to. And 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 circumstances around you.

Ryan Reynolds agreed, describing the movie as a “fastball of joy” and the exact kind of thing this year has not given us:

Well, you know, when I first saw the script and the log line [it] spoke to me, which was just, you know, simple action comedy. Bank teller discovers he’s a background player in an open world video game. I just thought, that’s provocative, that’s amazing. But really, discovering later and as, you know, certainly as we marched through 2018, 2019, and 2020, you know, just seeing how this movie is just a fastball of joy. And I feel like we’re missing some of that right now in our world, and in our culture and in the entertainment we imbibe. So this movie could not come along sooner for me, just as a movie watcher and somebody who enjoys entertainment and culture. I’m really excited about that, and I think it’s pretty damn timely.

Ryan Reynolds Says It’s the Best Movie He’s Made

Reynolds has been in his fair share of terrific movies – as well as movies that have shaken up the box office something fierce – so when he says Free Guy is the best movie he’s been a part of, you take notice. He also praised his director and co-stars for making the actual production of the film such a wonderful experience:

I do think it’s the best moviemaking experience that I’ve ever had easily, but also I think [it’s] the best movie I’ve ever done. You know, it’s the most pertinent to our times, in that sense. 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. I think that’s one of the reasons I think it’s my favorite movie. The experience certainly plays into that, but also this incredible cast. I mean, it’s not every day you work with a group of people, and they’re all on this press conference via Zoom right now, where each one brings something unexpected and stronger than, you know, you’ve ever sort of had before. Each one has authorship of their role. It’s just so nice to have a cast that you can absolutely 100 percent count on to blow you away every single day, and that to me was what made the experience so special.

It Sounds Like Taika Waititi is Going to Steal the Show

Although he could not attend the press conference, it sounds like Taika Waititi may be one of the highlights of Free Guy. The Oscar-winning director and actor behind Jojo Rabbit and Thor: Ragnarok gave his director so much strong material and improvisations that Levy noted he’s currently editing them all into a featurette:

I’m currently editing the longest bonus featurette in the history of cinema, and it is only of Taika alt takes. Improvisations, riffs, 19 versions for every joke. He couldn’t be here today, but such a huge part of the movie and really rounds out [the cast].

Jodie Comer Auditioned Right After Finishing Killing Eve Season 2

Although already an acclaimed performer thanks to her work on Killing Eve, Free Guy marks the first major big screen role for actress Jodie Comer. In fact, she auditioned for the film right after filming wrapped on season 2 of the hit television series:

I had wrapped on Killing Eve season two the night before, and I flew to New York the morning after to do my audition with Ryan. [LAUGHS] So it was like the end of a six month shoot, kind of like a bit of a zombie, but flew to New York to hopefully begin the next opportunity and work with Shawn and Ryan in the audition room, which was just so much fun. And I think what I really gauged from that experience was the amount of playfulness within the both of them, and they also create an atmosphere that is like nothing you do is wrong. To be kind of fearless and be silly and try things and think on your toes and improvise. And it was such a joyful experience that I left feeling like I’d done like a day’s filming.

Levy had nothing but kind things to say about his leading lady, noting that the film taps into a side of her we have not yet seen:

I felt like, 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 [character]. Her ability is impressive.

Free Guy is a Movie About Empathy

The high concept premise of Free Guy at first sounds outrageous, but if you dwell on it for a moment, it’s quickly clear how relatable the entire thing is. After all, haven’t we all felt like background characters in someone else’s life before? It’s less about video games, Levy says, and more about finding human connections:

It’s like all of us have felt stuck in a loop, and all of us have felt like a background character in someone else’s story. And this idea of, like, stop living in the background, or notice the person in the background. Empathize with the person in the background. That’s a big part of the themes that play in this movie, and while they’re called NPCs, non-player characters and it’s set in a video game, the movie is really not about video games as much as it is about being a person in the world and how you choose to live. And hopefully the warmth and the humanism, and the belief in people and empathy and connection… Look, these are the movie.

Levy doubled down on this, waving away anyone hoping for a dark and cynical film:

Anyone who’s looking for a dark nihilistic, 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 kind of stepping up and living bigger and having more of a footprint in your world […] That’s where we came from when we made this.

And naturally, Reynolds was ready with a quip:

Yeah, the movie does not start with a voice saying, “In these unprecedented times.”

Free Guy is currently set to open in theaters on December 11, 2020.

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