Behind-The-Scenes Facts About "Free Guy"

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·15 min read
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1.The first draft of Free Guy was written in 2016 by screenwriter Matt Lieberman.

A man standing

“I was definitely feeling a little stuck in a place. It is more an autobiography than I’d be willing to admit,” Lieberman revealed in an interview.

Arturo Holmes / WireImage / Getty Images

2.As for the initial idea that jumpstarted this, Lieberman said, “What if you have the cheat codes to life? What if you could walk around and see power-ups? Oh, then you would be in Grand Theft Auto.”

Scene from a video game
Rockstar Games / Via

3.Lieberman framed the game company and its executives on The Cabin in the Woods.

A forest cabin in the first and a control room in the second pic
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4.The draft was written in around three weeks in 2016 and generated lots of interest in Hollywood. After remaining in cold storage for some time, Fox ended up buying it.

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5.Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential elections was responsible for putting the script in cold storage.

Election graphics

In Lieberman's own words, "When I first went out with it, it was the screenwriter’s dream. It went out on a Friday and it had all this buzz. I can’t say their names, but I had filmmakers and actors and pieces of talent calling me and being like, “Let us bring this in to the studio.” I was pinching myself. That was Monday. And then on Tuesday, Donald Trump was elected. On Wednesday, the town cooled off. It got very chilly."

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6.Once Ryan Reynolds got on board, he breathed new life into the script. Lieberman says, "The script went from just being in development to 100 miles per hour."

A man sitting
Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

7.Guy was a cynical character in the original script. Reynolds changed him into a satisfied-with-his-life character. According to him, “Why do we put up with this? Guy should be happy where he is.”

A man walking in a street
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8.The second major change that Reynolds made to the script was the addition of Dude (Guy 2.0) to the movie.

Two men sitting on a beach

Lieberman added, "It was still a Guy facing off against Antwan (Taika Waititi) and the programmers, but it was his idea to drop in this hilarious character."

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9.Around 80% of the lines of Antwan (Taika Waititi) didn't make it to the screen. He improvised most of his lines.

A man talks to his employee

Antwan was supposed to reflect the toxic "bro culture of gaming."

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10.In the original script, Guy and Millie/Molotov Girl stay together till the end. It was here that Zak Penn stepped in and changed the ending, which finally made it to the big screen.

A man standing
Arturo Holmes / WireImage / Getty Images

11.This is Zak Penn's second movie that is centered on a video game. The first was Ready Player One.

Title card of a movie

Penn said, "I wrote Ready Player One as well which is very much about the same thing but in this movie, it’s much more about people collectively coming together. There’s whole subplots about people streaming it and people watching it, and starting to root for Guy.”

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12.The movie also saw a final cameo from the beloved and late host of Jeopardy, Alex Trebek.

An old man standing

Shawn Levy expressed his awe in these words: "In retrospect, to have this legendary gentlemen be a part of our movie forever and for our movie to, in any way, be connected to this icon and the legacy that he leaves behind, it's a privilege."

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13.Trebek's cameo was born in the editing room after the shooting was over. Levy asked himself how he could "make it clear that Blue Shirt Guy has gone viral and is now known in the culture.”

A woman participant on a TV quiz show

They thought that if someone/something is popular enough to be the answer to a question on Jeopardy, it means they have become a part of culture. That cameo was shot on the set of Jeopardy.

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14.Most of the action taking place in the background while Reynolds and/or Comer are walking and talking is totally real and not CGI.

A man rappelling into a window and a man on fire falls out

Levy elaborated, "Those are real explosions, real flamethrowers, real people rappelling from building to building; it’s all real. And it all had to be timed perfectly in sync with the dialogue and the action in the foreground."

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15.Shawn Levy was first offered the movie in 2016 but refused to direct it, as he felt that someone with a gaming background would be more suited for the job.

A man standing

According to Levy, “I think I read about a third of the script and said, ‘You know what? This should probably be some hardcore gamer that you get to direct it.’”

Michael Kovac / Getty Images for Netflix

16.It was Hugh Jackman who introduced Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy to each other, which resulted in this collaboration.

Two men standing.

Levy said in an interview, “Hugh had always told both of us, ‘If you guys ever work together, you’ll never stop.’” Seems the Wolverine clawed these two together.

Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Disney

17.Years later Ryan Reynolds approached Levy with the script, completely unaware that Levy had previously passed on the same movie.

Two men sitting

Reynolds suggested to him, "What about making a movie that’s about this theme of living in the background and having a more empowered sense of agency and potential impact on a world that is not to your liking and where maybe you can effect change?"

Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images for Twentieth Century Fox

18.The experience of watching Back to the Future was what motivated both Reynolds and Levy to make this movie.

“We made this movie for our younger Back to the Future-obsessed selves. We wanted that feeling of wish fulfillment, aspiration, a huge ‘what if’ at the center, but we wanted it to be as warm as it is funny,

“We made this movie for our younger Back to the Future-obsessed selves. We wanted that feeling of wish fulfillment, aspiration, a huge ‘what if’ at the center, but we wanted it to be as warm as it is funny," Levy told Deadline.

Reynolds also said something similar: “I remember as a kid getting to see Back to the Future for the first time, and I’m not comparing our movie to Back to the Future, but I kind of wanted it to have a bit of that magic."

Universal / ©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

19.Ryan Reynolds and Jodie Comer had never met each other before this movie. The first time they met each other was when Comer came for the audition.

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20.This is the first non-IP, non-sequel movie that Disney has released in a very long time.

  Noam Galai / Getty Images
Noam Galai / Getty Images

21.In an interview, Ryan Reynolds revealed that "Molotov Girl's silhouette and look was based on Bonnie Parker," the female half of the murderous duo Bonnie and Clyde.

A woman standing in a room full of guns and motorcycles.
Alan Markfield / © 20th Century Studios / courtesy Everett Collection

22.Molotov Girl's character was initially written as a "kind of punk rock, nondescript sort of goth character." It was changed later because it felt dated.

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23.Comer went for the audition right after she finished shooting for Killing Eve Season 3. "I'd just wrapped Killing Eve Season 3 the night before. Flew to New York in the morning," Comer said in an interview.

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24.It was the Disney-Fox merger that made it possible for the movie to pack oodles of surprises and cameos. The production team literally wrote a letter addressed to Disney stating, "Dear Sir and Madams, would you give us the privilege of using this or this or this?"

screenshot image of the walt disney logo and a post regarding disneys acquisition

Disney, too, gave a written reply: "Yes." Levy recalled his glee: "The merger gave us an opportunity to literally exploit $40 billion of IP in about 17 seconds, and I can’t imagine Disney would’ve said yes if they didn’t own the studio that was making the movie.”

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25.The whole movie was shot in Boston — especially in the Financial District.

view of downtown boston

The movie's production designer, Ethan Tobman, explained, “I think we were really careful about using Boston for its famous Brutalist architecture for the outside world and its more provincial, bucolic, Federalist architecture for the world inside the game.”

Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images

26.Both Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds stay in New York and would commute on an Amtrak train between Boston and New York. A lot of rewrite happened on this commute.

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Reynolds shed more light on this: “[Levy and I] were always trying to figure out how to crack this code of a love story where one of the lovers in the story isn’t real. Shawn and I both cracking that code while sitting on a train commuting back and forth from New York to Boston to shoot the movie is my favorite moment that he and I have ever had together. And I think the most gripping emotional moment in the movie is as a result of that.”

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27.Comer was given a PlayStation 4 before the shooting started to prepare for her role. She did play some games on it but found it very stressful, as she "would take it way too seriously."

A video game console
T3 Magazine / Future Publishing via Getty Images

28.On her PlayStation 4, Comer played Spider-Man, GTA, and Red Dead Redemption 2. She didn't like GTA but absolutely loved Red Dead Redemption 2, which she would play with her dad.

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29.Comer was obsessed with The Sims while growing up. The Sims is one of the games that directly influenced Free Guy.

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30.Not only Comer but the crew, too, played lots of video game for research for Free City. Levy used to watch video game videos on YouTube and Twitch. Reynolds played lots of Super Mario for the movie.

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Nintendo / Via

31.The stunt for the scene where Guy smashes through the window on a motorbike and then slides along with the bike was performed by Reynolds himself. And he did it thrice!

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32.The scene where Taika Waititi's character makes fun of exploit-the-IP culture was written by Levy and was a deliberate commentary on Hollywood's "addiction to IP."

33.In order to make it easier to differentiate between the game world and the real world, they were shot with different types of cameras and lenses.

The virtual world of the game was shot with a large-format camera fitted with spherical lenses, while the real world was shot with multiple camera types and anamorphic lenses. Even the color scheme was markedly different, with the game world being richly colored while the real world was "five different shades of grey and very murky."

34.Guy's apartment has lots of minute details that make it clear that it is a virtual, inside-the-game construct.

A man eating in his kitchen

Tobman explained, "Guy’s apartment is purposefully half-developed because he’s a half-developed character. So his front door has five deadbolts and no knob. His calendar is missing a full day of the week. His fridge has cereal in it, and his pantry has only spoons — no forks or knives because he only eats cereal in the morning. Millie’s apartment is messy, has been renovated multiple times, has tons of inconsistencies because that’s what life is like outside of video games.”

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35.Tobman, in an interview with Vulture, revealed the names of the video games that inspired him in designing the game world. They are Anno, Fortnite (“in terms of the design of the world”), Grand Theft Auto (for its “palette of violence and texture”), Minecraft, and Shadow of the Colossus (for its “lonely” quality). And the ultimate inspirer of all, Red Dead Redemption 2.

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Rockstar Games / Via

36.Levy and Reynolds called and texted their famous contacts for the voice cameos. The text would read, "Hey, do you want to do this part? It’s voice only. You can literally send it in as a voice memo from your iPhone, and I’ll put it in my movie. It will go to theaters like that.”

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Han Myung-gu / WireImage / Getty Images

37.Tina Fey, John Krasinski, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, and Hugh Jackman have voice-only cameos. Did you catch any of them?

A woman
Jim Spellman / Getty Images, Michael Kovac / Getty Images for Paramount Pictures, James Devaney / GC Images

38.Aaron Reed, the actor who plays Dude, was discovered in an interesting manner. The VFX supervisor Swen Gillberg revealed, “We found the actor who plays Dude in a Google search and I recognized him from the gym where I go in L.A."

39.Originally, Ryan Reynolds was supposed to play Dude as well, but the plan was dropped as the director wanted to hasten things up.

A hulked up man

Gillberg said, "In the original script, Dude was meant to be a mirror image of Guy. And so the original idea was that Ryan Reynolds would play Dude and Guy. But we didn’t want to have to go through the time that it takes to shoot one actor twice. So Shawn really wanted to find a way to shoot it simultaneously so that Ryan could play against Dude.”

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40.Molotov Girl’s stash house took three months of construction.

A hall of full of expensive cars and some people fighting with each other

Tobman revealed, “It has 3,000 sheets of glass, it has 40 tons of steel to create a spiral staircase that stands on its own that a motorcycle can drive down. Three hundred people were required to build it. We were able to fit a helicopter, a Humvee and an Army tank in it just to get a sense of scale.”

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41.While shooting in Boston, Reynolds texted his buddy Chris Evans (who was also in Boston shooting for Defending Jacob) to visit the set and shoot a scene. Evans obliged.

A man

Reynolds revealed, “I told him exactly what was happening and we were 100% ready for him before he ever even got close to set. He was in and out in about seven minutes.”

Amanda Edwards / WireImage / Getty Images

42.The actual shield from Captain America movies wasn't used for Chris Evans' cameo.

A round shield made of metal

Reynolds wasn't sure if Disney, “would say 100% yes until after we shot it. So we were leaving room to make that shield something else if we had to.”

Marvel Studios

43.Jodie Comer met her boyfriend while shooting for the movie.

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She was invited to a party when she was in Boston for the movie shoot and met a man whom she started dating. She has been quite secretive about her boyfriend, and she received lots of hate on social media because of a rumor that said her boyfriend is a Republican.

Mike Marsland / Mike Marsland / WireImage

44.Before filming this movie, Comer didn't know what an Easter egg is (other than the usual literal meaning).

A woman talking to a man

She said, "It was so embarrassing because doing this film was the first time I’ve ever heard the term Easter egg. In one of my first interviews, someone asked me about the Easter eggs, and all I could think of was a round chocolate egg that you get. I was like, 'I don’t think there’s any Easter eggs.'"

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45.This is the second project when Joe Keery and Shawn Levy have worked together. The first one is of course Stranger Things, where Levy serves as an executive producer as well as a director.

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46.The movie is also a statement against guns. Nowhere in the movie does Guy use guns. Levy explained, "I liked the idea that Guy never uses a gun in the entire movie. In fact, he's literally taking guns off the street as part of his leveling up."

A man wearing a gas mask shooting a rifle
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47.The gun used by Josh Brolin's Cable in Deadpool 2 was also supposed to make a cameo. The production team even got the gun from the props warehouse of 20th Century Studios and shot a scene with it.

A man holding a very large gun

But it was decided to keep the scene in the final cut, as it didn't look as cool as the lightsaber and Captain America's shield. Plus, it went against the subliminal theme of gun control of the movie.

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48.This is only the second time that Utkarsh Ambudkar and Lil Rel Howery have been in the same film. The first one was the 2019 movie Brittany Runs a Marathon.

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49.And yes, it is Jodie Comer singing Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" in the movie. She was excited to record the cover in a recording studio where the Beatles had once recorded their song.

50.It was Ryan Reynolds' idea to use Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" as the main theme song of the movie.

51.Reynolds had initially put a song called "Your Love" by the Outfield in the script. But Carey's "Fantasy" came up on his playlist, and he felt that this is the song that embodies the movie's message.