After three delays, a pandemic, and a decidedly changed movie distribution landscape, Free Guy is finally coming to theatres. Its cast and director all sat down for a press conference to discuss their excitement over the film debuting and audiences finally being able to see it. Director Shawn Levy, Ryan Reynolds (Guy), Jodie Comer (Molotov Girl/Millie), Lil Rel Howery (Buddy), Joe Keery (Keys), Utkarsh Ambudkar (Mouse), and Taika Waititi (Antwan) were all in attendance to discuss the film.

On finally seeing the film and the characters on the big screen

Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy talk on the FREE GUY set
Ryan Reynolds and director Shawn Levy on the set of 20th Century Studios’ FREE GUY. Photo by Alan Markfield. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Levy kicked things off by talking about what a relief it was to finally see the film on the big screen: “Well, it has been a ride, and it has definitely been a longer wait than we expected. But you know what, this movie was such a delight to make, and the making of the movie was pretty joyous and fun.  And we’re just really excited to finally get to share a movie that hopefully has that same fun and that delight and warmth that was on set.”

Reynolds agreed, joking that his default is just “pure trash in the inside,” so playing the innocent Guy was a new experience for him: “There’s something really wonderful about playing a character who’s kind of naive and innocent, and I mean, it’s even said in the movie, he’s, in a sense, he’s kind of like, he’s a four-year-old adult.” Without giving away too much, Guy’s evolution is a core part of the film: he literally levels up.

Comer found working with the team on the film was the most joyous part of making the film for her, as well as the deeper themes found in this action flick: “You know, you see a lot we see it written down like it’s an action comedy. But I just feel like there was so much more to that. There is actually, like you said, there’s so much emotion and you know, it provokes so much emotion in you.” Millie’s struggles, in a lot of ways, are the heart of the film, as she presses forward to save a world she’s had a hand in creating.

Howery talked about Buddy’s friendship with Guy; the two share a special, long-term bond. He said, “…his innocence came with how comfortable he was with his friendship.” He continued about the heart in the film, “You see all the action stuff when you see the trailers and stuff like that.  I think it’s shocking people, like, oh, I didn’t know I was going to tear up. Yeah, you’re going to,” he laughed. He also joked that Reynolds has been his friend in his head for a while now.

The antagonists speak to their role in Free Guy‘s world

Taika Waititi is villainous in FREE GUY
Taika Waititi and director Shawn Levy on the set of 20th Century Studios’ FREE GUY. Photo by Alan Markfield. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Waititi was asked whether or not there’s a supercut out there of him improving a lot of Antwan’s more peculiar lines, and Levy admitted that there is, in fact, a supercut of at least 39 minutes out there, somewhere. Waititi said of Antwan and his other characters: “I just play versions of my mom in all my characters. There’s a version of my mom, who I think that had not grown up, I suppose.” He also joked that the colorful and extremely unethical Antwan is based on a lot of people he’s met in America.

Ambudkar spoke to the dynamic between Antwan and Mouse and the cast as a whole, saying, “I think it [the relationship between Antwan and Mouse] made for a funny chemistry between us.  All of us, we got really lucky.  This whole cast works really well together.” The cast definitely makes the movie even more enjoyable than it could have been; the cast is just this delightful mish-mash of personalities and comedic styles.

Getting video games right, and a possible sequel?

Levy talked about how it was important to get video games right in the movie: “This movie was about threading the needle between wanting to represent the gaming world correctly and accurately.  And for that I spoke with a lot of game publishers, coders, game designers, and played and watched a lot of games, in preproduction.” Free Guy does get a lot about video games right, and it’s good to know that actual effort was put into ensuring an accurate world.

The possibility of a sequel came up, and Levy said that yes, he had thought about a sequel, or even a franchise, but that one of the best things was that the film is truly original in a world full of adaptations. “It’s so rare that a studio lets you make a big budget, new movie,” Levy said. As to how both Levy and Reynolds found this original story, Reynolds said, “And then I sent it [the script] to Shawn, and the next thing I know, Shawn was in my living room in New York.  And we were talking about this world and how we could build it, and how we can make changes that would make it kind of relevant and speak to the world that we’re living in now.” Free Guy has a social relevance that veers into spoiler territory, so we’ll leave that be, but it is uniquely tailored to our point in time.

Free Guy also features many cameos from big names, and Keery said that both Levy and Reynolds had given a lot of space to video game creators, commentators, and memes: “You see this character in the background, and it’s played by a real-life person.  And in those first-person shooter games where people crouch, there’s this very specific funny motion, and it means something.” There’s a lot of in-references to video game culture in the movie, but not so much that those who are not into video games won’t follow the thread.

On being a gamer, or gamer-adjacent

Joe Keery, Shawn Levy, and Utkarsh Ambudkar have fun on the FREE GUY set
Joe Keery, director Shawn Levy and Utkarsh Ambudkar on the set of 20th Century Studios’ FREE GUY. Photo by Alan Markfield. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

The cast decided Ambudkar is the biggest gamer among them, and he told the group that he plays Fortnite with his friends to stay in touch.

Keery, not a gamer per se, or a coder, found a new appreciation for coding and games through the enthusiasm by Keys for the world: “And that’s really kind of important that we feel his passion for this world that he’s created, and for coding in general. There’s something I feel like I kind of got a newfound appreciation for, actually…getting to just put your headspace somewhere where you never expected it and learn different skills.  And, yeah, it made showing up to work so fun every day.”

They all said what video game they would live in. Comer picked Harry Potter, which isn’t really a video game, but we’ll allow it. Keery tried to find the least dangerous game and settled upon The Sims, which is actually pretty dangerous, as Comer pointed out. So instead, he settled upon Star Fox. Howery wants to be in Charles Barkley: Shut Up and Jam due to memories of his childhood when he and his friends would make the Barkley character yell “Go get the damn ball,” over and over again. Ambudkar, clearly a basketball fan, picked NBA 2k. Reynolds wanted to be in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out for nostalgic reasons, but then he decided upon Free City itself, the game from Free Guy.

“Collective delight” in the dark

As for the film’s exclusive debut in theatres, Levy said he made the film with “collective delight” in mind, which makes it essential to be in theatres. He said, “That’s what we were going for, and that is an experience that you can feel on your couch at home.  But it feels really different among other humans in the dark.” Having seen the movie in theatres, I feel like I can confirm that.

Of the film, Levy said on a closing note: “This cast come to life in a movie that feels in some ways like an antidote to much of what we’ve been living through, in that the movie is about hopefulness, and the preservation of some innocence in the midst of a very cynical world.  And championing that hopefulness and that optimism.  So, I’m excited to finally share it with the world.” Free Guy is indeed one of those hopeful films, determined to make a better world.

Free Guy debuts exclusively in theatres on August 13, 2021.