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After a public battle against pancreatic cancer, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek died at the age of 80 over the course of this past weekend. A fixture of game shows and pop culture, the man hosted the legendary game show for almost half of his life-- and has been known to pop up in a couple of cameos here and there in the world of movies. His latest, and quite possibly his last, will come in the form of the Ryan Reynolds film Free Guy, which the star himself had recently confirmed when paying tribute to his fellow Canadian.
The reaction to Mr. Trebek's passing has understandably seen people far and wide mourning his legendary career in television. In fact, when you look at the fact that the man hosted Jeopardy for 35 years into account, Alex Trebek held the hosting duties for that show for almost half of his life. So upon hearing the news, Ryan Reynolds went to Twitter to memorialize the memory of this topical titan with the following heartfelt message:
We’d previously seen confirmation that Free Guy was enhanced with the presence of Alex Trebek, as the recent second trailer for the film showed off the moment where a Jeopardy contestant engaged in answering a specific, movie appropriate question. Tackling the moment with his usual stoicism and style, Trebek confirmed that the contestant was correct-- along with a quick disclaimer stating that we might not know the gender of whomever Blue Shirt Guy was supposed to be. It’s the type of moment that not only made the Canadian entertainer a pleasure to watch on a regular basis, but also ensured he would be playing himself for almost as long as he’d been hosting the show that made him famous.
Since 1987, Alex Trebek has either guested as his own person, or fictionalized versions of himself, for everything from Mama’s Family to Rugrats. That’s just the kind of thing you’d expect from a man who made a name appearing in people’s homes every week night, asking for answers in the form of a question. But of course, as seen in the various tributes by celebrities and contestants that were made honoring his legacy this weekend, becoming a Jeopardy question is a true sign that a person has made it into the history books.
That very phenomenon inspired Ryan Reynolds, and his Free Guy director/collaborator Shawn Levy, to try and get Alex Trebek into their film. As I had an opportunity to speak with Levy while he was promoting a film he’d produced, Love and Monsters, I brought up the fact that Guy’s inclusion as a clue in Jeopardy was a pretty big deal. Excited to discuss that moment, Shawn Levy unspooled the story about how that moment came to be, thanks to some clever thinking:
This is the beauty of the kind of chemistry that Ryan and I stumbled into. Literally, we would sit in the editing room together, tweaking the cut, and we would come up with ideas, literally just sitting in the couch in my editing room. ‘What if this happened? Hey, what if Blue Shirt Guy was a Jeopardy answer?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, how are we gonna do that?’ He’s like, ‘Let’s call Trebek!’ And literally, the Jeopardy scene in Free Guy was one of literally 15 cameos and ideas that came about in post-production, that we would literally just brainstorm in the room, pick up the phone, call someone to make it happen, go shoot it with a splinter, guerilla crew, and drop it in the movie. … That Jeopardy idea literally came about that in way in post-production, and we just went and shot it.
With the character of Guy becoming a global phenomenon in the cinematic landscape of Free Guy, it only seems fitting to make him the answer to a question on Jeopardy. So with some luck, and the right phone calls, this big Free Guy moment became one of a series that audiences will be able to see once the film launches. While the eventual experience of Alex Trebek’s cameo will be bittersweet, this scene will serve as the big capstone to the man’s legacy of both hosting one of the greatest game shows to have ever aired, and being able to poke a little fictional fun at his very real job. It’s something you can get a small taste of when watching the most recent Free Guy trailer, provided below:
Free Guy is currently in a holding pattern for release, as the film was undated this past weekend. But as soon as we have any updates as to when you’ll be able to see that film, they’ll most likely come in the form of an update to our 2021 release schedule. And once again, we here at CinemaBlend would like to extend our deepest condolences to Alex Trebek’s family and friends, as well as thank him for the memories and entertainment he brought to the world for so long.