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When it comes to the world of making movies, it’s more often than not that the ideas on the screen came from another source. Adapting, remaking and spinning stories told in other media is quite common, especially if it comes to a comic universe like those seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then there are movies like Free Guy that aren’t based on anything in particular, creating a new narrative that, while taking a familiar flavor, don’t take their story cues from any specific source. It’s this fact that not only attracted director Shawn Levy to the project, but also ensured that star Ryan Reynolds got excited enough to really 'latch' onto the idea, not unlike what he did with the Deadpool franchise.
Ryan Reynolds had a chat with Cinemablend and other journalists at the Free Guy set visit last year when the film had set up production right in the bustling town of Boston. With part of one of the film’s running gags on the call sheet, Reynolds and Shawn Levy were at work creating a comedy that ties into gaming fandom, but also creates a brand new world for viewers investing in the big screen experience. This originality was attractive and was one of the major reasons -- along with the sheer scale of the film -- that Reynolds says he signed on. In the actor's words:
I love the world. I love marketing. So I also love the idea that you get to introduce people to a new world and a new sort of what we talked about, not only when we sat down here, but for a while, Shawn and I have been talking about it, that it's just so fun to do something new, something that is quite literally based on absolutely nothing. So I love the process of acquainting an audience with this new property or this new idea. And it's big. The scale is big. And I think it's appealing to a huge audience. And it's something that... just the good, old-fashioned reason that I want to do it is it's something I want to see something I just am dying to see. I read the script and we all did a ton of work on the script, but there was such a promise there of something new and something really special. It's not unlike how I grabbed onto Deadpool. I just felt like there was a reason that this needed to exist. And I felt the same way about Free City.
What you’re reading here is the serious version of the big pitch that Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy are delivering with Free Guy, a concept that Ryan Reynolds candidly noted he was "dying to see" and really pulled at him in the way championing and becoming Wade Wilson did. But they also had a little fun with the original concept, doing something you see a lot in Hollywood: they acted. Playing out a small gag where Reynolds questioned Levy on the source of the film’s story, Levy reassured him that Free Guy is an "original concept," and the Deadpool actor’s shocked air slowly rose in his trademark brand of comedic exaggeration. When he was finally assured that it was, indeed, a truly original movie, Ryan Reynolds only had one word to say: “Gross.”
Knowing full well that Ryan Reynolds was onboard with the energy and message that Free Guy wanted to put out into the world, Shawn Levy wasn’t shy about expressing a very similar viewpoint when it came to the charms that this fresh script had to offer the world. Strangely enough, it was Ryan Reynolds that approached him to direct the project, making Free Guy the first film Levy has directed since Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb was released at the end of 2014. He filled us all in on why this was the project to bring him back to the director’s chair with the following statement:
I, for one have said no to directing movies for four and a half years. For me, it was the fact that it was Ryan called and he was like, 'I think that this thing is something that we would combine really well on.' And it felt like it had a combination of a big, funny, action packed premise, with themes that I could get my arms around. Themes that aren't just unique to gaming culture, but to living, as a human. So for me, it was the mixture of entertainment potential is massive, visually filled with spectacle, but also that warm humanist center that frankly, I only do movies that I feel can give me that.
Humanistic messages meeting big blockbuster spectacle is something that already makes Free Guy sound like a huge step off the usual path at the box office. But Disney and 20th Century Studios were ready to go all-in on pushing Free Guy to the masses, as the film was planned to be a big, splashy release in July of this past summer. Though as we already know, world events pushed those plans to change, and December is now the new home of this particular adventure. It might be unusual and a little bit different, but that’s exactly what seems to be the bread and butter of Free Guy. It’s pretty much how Ryan Reynolds’ choice to approach Shawn Levy to direct the film succeeded, as Levy told the room how the project snared his attention with its sweetly offbeat idea. As Levy put it:
Just as I started prepping the movie with previs artists and storyboard artists and the stunt team, what came clear to me is, oh my God, you can do the most massive set pieces. In a world that's a video game, there's no rules of reality. So this movie has two or three times more action stunts and spectacle than any movie I've done, including the Night at the Museums, including Real Steel. This has a diversity of set pieces because it's not just boxing or it's not just historical creatures. It's everything I could dream up. When I fell in love with a visual idea, we worked it into the script.
The result of the scripting and dreaming process that made Free Guy into the movie that it is today is something that the world felt ready for prior to 2020’s major events. The first trailer, which debuted at last year’s New York Comic Con and then dropped to the public last December, sold this new concept as a story with a heart as big as its explosions. And with the new reel of footage we saw today, you can see that hasn’t changed, and that Shawn Levy wasn’t kidding when he was discussing how visually stunning and intricate Free Guy actually is. Take a look.
Original movies need a hero, and with the combined powers of Ryan Reynolds, Shawn Levy and the cast and crew that joined them, Free Guy is aiming to be the great guy at the box office. With its current December 11 release date still on the books, we'll be able to watch those efforts unfold in a couple of short months. But if you’re curious about which movies have stayed in 2020 and which ones have jumped to 2021, our ever-handy release schedules are available for you to browse at your leisure.