‘Free Guy’ stars Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, & Lil Rel Howery join director Shawn Levy to talk about the movie
The cast and director talk about some of the themes in the movie, and that audiences might need multiple viewings to catch all the Easter eggs.
‘Free Guy’ is a story about an NPC (non-player character) in a video game that starts thinking beyond his programming. Guy is played by Ryan Reynolds, and the movie is directed by Shawn Levy, which means that the movie is a comic adventure, and not (necessarily) a warning story about the potential dangers of technology. Jodie Comer and Lil Rel Howery co-star in the movie, and all three actors and the director sat down with us to talk about the movie.
First, Ryan Reynolds talks about how much he enjoyed working with director Shawn Levy.
Moviefone: What were your thoughts when you first read this script?
Reynolds: Well, my first thoughts when I read the script were this requires a filmmaker who can really be a world builder, and that's Shawn Levy. Weirdly, Sean and I had a couple of close calls over the years to work together. We'd always wanted to, and just never quite found the thing. And Sean and I had a meeting several weeks before I'd read Free Guy about a different movie, which was based on an IP kind of thing. And then I read Free Guy, and I just fell in love with its premise. It just offered so much possibility. And also it was just the idea that we could do a totally original non IP, non-comic book, non sequel, blockbuster scale movie in this day and age, which is a unicorn. They're so rare to be able to do that. And so we just dove in head first. I was pumped from the second he said, "I'm in." We just became the fastest of friends, and we were locked at the hip and just working on every aspect of the movie. And it's just been a dream.
MF: Even though the movie is so big and it's so fun and there's so many visual effects at the end of the day, there are so many themes as well. What are some of your favorite?
Reynolds: I think the movie is a bit of a response to just these overwhelming news cycles we've had for the last many years. And I wanted to be a part of a movie that when you leave the theater, you're grinning ear to ear. And you're thinking that was such a fun and unexpected event. And that's really what I wanted. But some of the themes are really stepping out of the shadows are that together, when people really unite together, they can be agents of change. People, especially people in the background, people who have historically been kind of ignored, can step out of that shadow and light it up. And that's what I loved about this movie.
And again, I can't stress enough how much I love working with Shawn. He and I just finished our second movie together. We're still actually in post on it, and we have a third we're going to start next year, which I'm really excited about as well. And each one is just so different. Like they're all completely different than the last, which is also a privilege and a lot of fun to be able to do.
MF: I wish that we could talk about all of the Easter eggs and the nods to some other pop culture moments that enhanced the entire experience.
Reynolds: Yeah. I have a lot of respect for audiences already because those Easter eggs haven't been revealed. And I know that people are blown away by them. And I know that the movie has been screened a lot already in advance of its release, and audiences these days are pretty savvy about it. There hasn't been a ton of spoilers. So I'm excited about that.
Jodie Comer plays two roles in the movie.
Moviefone: You got to play Millie and Molotov Girl. Can you describe both of them? I'm assuming you had more fun playing the latter?
Comer: Gosh. Yeah. Well, they were both fun. I mean, I'm clearly the greediest member of the cast with my two characters. But yeah, it was wonderful. I mean, it was definitely a challenge.
Millie is a person within the real world who is a games programmer, and Molotov is an avatar in which she has created. It's through Molotov that she meets Guy, who she believes to be another gamer around the world who she's kind of communicating with, but she soon realizes that he's a background character. He's an NPC. What was really kind of crucial was that we always had an essence of Millie and the two felt connected, but they're visually and physically very, very different. So. I think for me, I really honed in on the kind of physical aspect of her to make sure there was a kind of separation between the two.
MF: Right, because at the end of the day, it is you, and you are supposed to be playing just a video game character of yourself.
Comer: Yeah. Yeah, and I think that comes through her personality and the way she speaks and when she sounds funny. It was great that there was always that connection with the dialogue and that always kind of kept it running through, hopefully.
MF: Sometimes in the movie you can have a really hilarious scene where, for example, it could be you and Ryan having a conversation, but behind you are like six catastrophes happening. Did it really feel like that on set, or was all of that added post?
Comer: No, there really was so much going round on set. I remember one day there was like a guy on fire. One I did love that had been put in post was there was always players running against a wall, which I feel like is always something that always happens in video games and it's so annoying, but all those kinds of little nuances that I feel like sometimes you don't necessarily see the first time you watch the movie. It's not until you watch it again that you really start to kind of notice all the little surprises. But yeah, they have had such an incredible attention to detail when making it.
MF: The movie is so huge and there are so many visual effects, but at the end of the day, there are some really great messages from the film. Can you tell me about the themes and some of your favorites?
Comer: Yeah, I think, for me, what I always admired and really loved about the script, and also having watched the movie kind of in its final form, was just how much heart it had. You really connect to these characters, into this world. I think it's all about really realizing our sense of agency, because I feel like, especially within the past couple of years, it's like it's so easy to feel like nothing is within our grasp, or we have no control. We have to kind of surrender and this is the way it is.
I think what's beautiful is that each individual character goes on their own journey and then comes together as a collective. I feel like this film does have a big message, but it was kind of never intended in a very obvious way, but I feel like with the experiences that a lot of people have likely had over the past year, it's just created a new layer to the film that is quite profound and a little bit emotional actually. But then you still somehow come out of the movie feeling lighter and happier. At least I did, anyway.
I watched the first cut. Sean sent me it and I watched it on my laptop in bed and like my cheeks were so sore from smiling because I was like, "Oh my gosh, it's so lovely. It's so happy."
Lil Rel Howery shares that he's already watched the movie multiple times.
Moviefone: What did you think of this script when you first read it? And then also, what were your thoughts when you finally saw the film finished?
Lil Rel Howery: Well, the script was really good, as most scripts are once you say yes to it. I love the heart of the movie, this and that. It's not until you see it, because I didn't see all the other stuff filmed. You could read stuff on paper fine, but when I saw Jodie jumping back and forth into those worlds and how funny Joe is, and then once all the special effects came together, some of the stuff we did see, it was a dude with a flamethrower walking around, it was like, okay, this is crazy. But once I saw everything with him doing the glasses like this and going back, it's dope. This is a dope movie. If I wasn't in it, I would be buying a ticket to go see it.
MF: I feel like if I were an actor, I feel like watching it, I would feel like I wasn't even in the movie, I think I would really just watch it as a normal audience member.
Howery: No, that's how I actually watch it. It's funny you say that. I tend to do that with a lot of the things that I watch, things where it doesn't feel like I'm actually in it. You know what I'm saying? Dang, is he really in it? I'm in it. I hate to say how many times I've watched this movie because then they're like, why did you keep watching It? Well, y'all never got rid of the link, you know what I mean? So I kept watching it.
MF: How many times did you watch it?
Howery: Me and my son has probably watched this movie, I'm not going to say the exact number, but it's probably over 10 times.
MF: Do you see new things every single time? Because I'm trying to watch it again, so I can find all these Easter eggs.
Howery: It's Easter eggs in it, it's jokes you might've missed, it's stuff you might appreciate again, because that's what it is too, you know? I think they key for people to keep watching things is the pace of it. So as long as it's moving, you'll stay in tune with something.
MF: I like the fact that it's this huge big action film with so many visual effects, but at the end of the day, there are also so many messages to take away from the film. There are so many themes. Can you talk about some of your favorite from the film?
Howery: There's quite a few. I mean, the innocence of Buddy and Guy is very interesting, which I think it helps creates their friendship. When Guy is going through the thing of just seeing, realizing, what his world is, and Buddy's like, dude, I don't care about all that. You're my friend. That beautiful friendship message is really dope.
I'm a rom-com guy, so the love story that brews in this is unexpected. Everybody thinks it's going to be that love story, it's like, nah, it's a whole other love story. That love story is going to be one of the messages. Honestly, if I could be honest, that's what I even said in the other the interviews, that's one of my favorite moments is watching the real love realized, and it's like, aww.
Director Shawn Levy discusses his attraction to the project.
MF: Why did you want to get involved with 'Free Guy?'
Shawn Levy: I wanted to do ‘Free Guy' because first of all, it's so rare that studios will even make a new movie, a new, big budget, original movie. That is not a sequel. That is not based on a comic book or something that exists in the world. So just the opportunity to tell a new original story, a rare opportunity, and one I don't take lightly. Ryan Reynolds and I, we have been friends and almost worked together a number of times over the years, and our mutual friend, Hugh Jackman, had told us both, if you work together once, you're going to fall in love, and you're never going to stop.
That's basically what happened. Ryan and I, we had wanted to work together. We both wanted to make a movie with 'Free Guy' that was authentic to the gamer world, but not just for the gamer world. So we were very much united in crafting every aspect of it. Indeed, we've since made another movie together, and we have many more in development now. So I think those reasons and always looking to make a movie that gives audiences delight. I want moviegoing to be fun and filled with warmth and escapism and laughter, and I felt like 'Free Guy' gave us a real shot at doing that.
But what I liked here is, okay, I'm going to make something that is its own thing. That is taking this kind of really hooky video game based premise, but wanted to be a movie that was about all of us. We can live in the background, and we can be passengers to our lives and to the world around us, or we can find our voice, and we can step forward and maybe have an impact on others and our world. That's the theme of Free Guy, and I think it's something that all of us can relate to. Frankly, as our reality continues to be so challenging and sometimes so bleak, I think those themes and that hopefulness, that fundamental optimism, is something that really matters.