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Free Guy, the upcoming comedy where Ryan Reynolds plays a video game NPC that one day becomes self-aware of his own open-world plight, sounds like a perfect fit for an actor whose snarky chops have extended beyond the world of cinema to social media, advertising, and more. But the film, from Stranger Things' Shawn Levy, looks to be a lot more than a Reynolds showcase.
As co-star and Stranger Things alum Joe Keery told SYFY WIRE at a recent press conference, "It's kind of like if The Truman Show and Ready Player One had a baby and it was raised by someone who loved Back to the Future a bunch." Cast and crew recently broke down what fans can expect from the odd gaming genre crossover.
First, there's not just action, but emotion at the film's core — specifically thanks to Jodie Comer's character. "I meet Guy, played by Ryan, through the video game, but in the real world, I play a girl called Milly who's created this avatar [Molotov Girl]," the Killing Eve actress explained.
"They meet in the game and she thinks he is a real person and lives in the outside world like her," she said. "And they form this relationship and as the story unfolds, they realize that they actually both need each other's help as much as the other. There is a danger of something happening to the game and they both need each other to bring out a self-realization in one another, which is really beautiful. And, yeah, their relationship really evolves throughout the film."
Not an easy task for an actor to pull off, working with someone who's supposed to just be code, but Comer literally just came off of her most acclaimed project yet. "I remember so distinctly, I had wrapped on Killing Eve Season 2 the night before, and I flew to New York the morning after to do my audition with Ryan," the actress said.
As for multi-hyphenate Taika Waititi, who also appears in the movie (reuniting with his Green Lantern co-star Reynolds), actor Utkarsh Ambudkar said that, "There could be an entire movie just on Taika outtakes." Levy agreed, joking that he's "currently editing the longest bonus featurette in the history of cinema, and it is only of Taika alt-takes. Improvisations, riffs, 19 versions for every joke." Keery, whose role involves working with Ambudkar and Waititi (two "comedy Jedis," as Levy desscribes them) at the gaming company Tsunami, also chimed in: "I can't wait to see this blooper reel of Taika, because there was at least 24 hours of just nonstop just going off."
Waititi's casting came straight from Reynolds and his wife, Blake Lively. "That's credit to Ryan and Blake, who were the first ones to be like, what about Taika Waititi as Antoine?" said Levy. Reynolds then joked that "Blake suggests Taika for everything. She's like, 'What about Taika for my husband?'"
As for what gamers can expect from the film, Ambudkar explained that the film is certainly one for the hardcore nerds. "I will say as somebody who loves this stuff, I was tickled pink and there's a lot of wonderful cameos from people within the gaming community, which is cool as well. You'll see LazarBeam, you'll see Ninja, you'll see people that we know and have gotten to know for many, many years be a part of this movie."
"The Easter eggs are very important to me, they're very important to Shawn, and Easter eggs are detail, and detail is also important to us," Reynolds agreed. "The movie is riddled with Easter eggs everywhere. I mean, there's little presents around every corner, and we all sort of searched for items that I think are really interesting and I'm really happy are in and populated throughout the world of Free City."
Fans can start hunting for those video game shoutouts when Free Guy, written by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, hits theaters on Dec. 11.