At this point, audiences pretty much wander into any movie and expect there to be easter eggs. Maybe it’s because lots of superhero movies started making the practice popular again, and as a result, even original IP movies like the Ryan Reynolds/Shawn Levy comedy Free Guy have taken a dive into that particular well. However, if you’re someone who likes to hunt such treasures down on the big screen, you may need a couple viewings to catch ‘em all, as Reynolds and Levy both have promised that their big collaboration will be “riddled with” such delights.
Let’s jump back to the before times, specifically July 2019. Free Guy was filming in Boston, Massachusetts for its intended 2020 release date, and I was one of a handful of journalists invited to visit the set and see the magic happening firsthand. As you’ve undoubtedly seen in the trailers, the setting of Free City uses Boston’s unique geography to paint the picture of a city both familiar and fantastic. And part of the latter half of that combination comes from easter eggs that were both physically present on the day, as well as others that are still waiting to be discovered in Free Guy’s finished product.
Seeing products like “Human Sized Boxes” at a local shipping store, or hearing about a gym promising “Better Bodies Through Muggings,” provided the sort of details that got us all excited as we walked the set of Free Guy. And as if that wasn’t enough, both Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy discussed those bite-sized delights that will be hidden in plain sight. More specifically, here’s what both of them had to say about how easter eggs played a part in Free Guy:
Reynolds: The movie's got a lot of, like we said, soft focus background. There's always something pretty amazing happening. I think the movie, for those that do love easter eggs, I don't think easter eggs are a storytelling pillar, but I do think that easter eggs, especially in 2019 or in this case 2020 when it comes out, are something that audiences love, and I love and appreciate. So the movie will be riddled with Easter eggs.
Levy: When you have the producer, writer, star of Deadpool and the producer of Stranger Things, there is a high quotient of cultural literacy as far as we love popular culture. We like alluding to it and contributing to it. So I will just say that there are some pop-ups and some Easter eggs in Free Guy that are as juicy as anything I've ever done in anything.
On the surface level, Shawn Levy points out an almost business-like reason why Free Guy would carry so many easter eggs. Again, the MCU, and even Stranger Things, are properties that very much weave cultural easter eggs into their products, and with good reason. Be it another chance to sell New Coke to the masses once more like Stranger Things did, or making way for an almost assured reference to a Ryan Reynolds-owned brand like Aviation Gin, Free Guy is a crazy opportunity not to take advantage of when it comes to hiding references of all shapes and sizes.
What makes this particular exercise in easter eggs different is the fact that, as pointed out by both Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds above, those gems hidden throughout Free Guy are not only product placements. Thanks to the lean and mean process that saw references filmed as quickly as they were created, pop culture fixtures ranging from Jeopardy host Alex Trebek to YouTube gamers like Jacksepticeye found themselves included in this story of digital lunacy. But, of course, there was a pretty big question looming on set pertaining to the possibility of referencing a legendary Disney franchise adjacent to Free Guy’s subject matter.
It wasn’t at all surprising when, in light of discussing Free Guy easter eggs, the subject of the Tron series came up in passing. There’s even a pair of sneakers that Ryan Reynolds’ Guy is promising he’ll buy himself that, at a quick glance, look like they themselves could be a tip of the hat to Jeff Bridges’ adventures on The Grid. While Shawn Levy wouldn’t outright confirm or deny the presence of such a reference, he did mention one influence that Tron: Legacy definitely did have on the film as it was shooting:
I'm going to say no with an asterisk, other than the fact that I frequently play score on set to put us all in the mood and Daft Punk’s Tron score has been in heavy rotation. I would say this, there's a lot of Easter eggs in this movie, alluding to a number of games and movies and movies about games, but I'm going to stay a little cagey on whether there's a Tron specific one.
Mr. Levy, as always, knows how to tease the audience in such a way that while they don’t know what it is that they want, they’re left wanting it nonetheless. And that’s not even the largest tease as to the delights that Free Guy may or may not have scored with its cameos. Also on hand the same day as this big set visit was Killing Eve star Jodie Comer, who plays the roles of real world programmer Milly and her Free City avatar Molotov Girl; and her contribution to the easter egg conversation was the most enticing:
I think there’s huge one, that’s like top secret, that everybody’s like excited about.
What in the world could this “huge” easter egg be? Could the Master Control Program secretly appear in 20th Century Studios' Free Guy? Or is this linked to one of the many cameos that are hiding in plain sight in the film’s official cast listing? Maybe something we’d never see coming will be dropped into our laps at a crucial moment in the story. Whatever this surprise is, you can bet that fans will be excited to finally unwrap it with their eyes when Free Guy opens in theaters on August 13. And if you need any further selling on the matter, check out the most recent trailer for the film, which recently found its way into everyone’s eager hands.