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The One Video Game Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy Was Most Inspired By

Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy may be an original concept in an industry dominated by adaptations and sequels, but part of the film’s charm is the constant references to a slew of video game properties. The special effects team essentially had a blank canvas when constructing Free Guy’s Free City, but there was one popular video game franchise that ended up heavily inspiring them. 

CinemaBlend recently sat down with Free Guy’s VFX team, and when asked about their inspirations for the game within the 20th Century Studios film, VFX supervisor Nikos Kalaitzidis said this:

I mean, I think, what I was inspired by was just Grand Theft Auto in general. We set the tone even on the badass opener in the first shot. It's the same, like, the violence needs to be so over the top that it needs to kind of feel like Grand Theft Auto without being Grand Theft Auto… So we're like, OK, what else can we throw in there now? Let’s have helicopters, bank robbers, a motorcycle crash, we just threw more stuff in there to make it more amusing. But then it just came into the spirit of that Grand Theft Auto kind of feel.

Video game fans who saw Free Guy likely won’t be shocked to learn that Grand Theft Auto inspired the film, but what is rather surprising is that it was something of an accident. Nikos Kalaitzidis is saying that his team went so over-the-top with video game elements like car crashes and violence that, in the end, the Free City world ended up looking more like Grand Theft Auto than they had initially intended. This is just due to the fact that Grand Theft Auto is so wildly over-the-top itself. 

Whatever led them to the final product, it worked. The film has been praised by fans and critics alike, and perhaps most importantly, Ryan Reynolds himself even said it was his favorite movie he’s ever made. The flick was such a resounding success that shortly after its release, Reynolds confirmed that Disney already wants a sequel

Although Free Guy is heavy with video game references, you do not need to be a gamer to enjoy them. These references are more like Easter Eggs than necessary plot points, and the majority of them aren’t lifted directly from games at all. It turns out that the VFX team watched an insane amount of video game footage, without the intention of matching anything that they saw. As VFX Supervisor Swen Gillberg explained:

We watched a billion hours of video gameplay and looked at a ton of different video games, and we didn't really match any of them. Actually, we kind of just went over the top on all of them.

Free Guy is available on home media now, and people with a Disney+ subscription will be able to stream it on that platform starting February 23. As for the sequel, we’ll certainly keep you updated as more information comes to light, likely after Ryan Reynolds returns from his his well-earned sabbatical.

Jeff McCobb
Jeff McCobb

Jeff is a film buff who is ridden with gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he enjoys feeding his addiction to buying furniture on Amazon.