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Why 'Free Guy' director Shawn Levy says Taika Waititi's over-the-top baddie is a 'villain for the ages'

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Jul 30, 2021, 11:31 AM EDT

It's been almost two decades since director Shawn Levy made his feature-length debut with 2002's Big Fat Liar. Since that time, the filmmaker has go on to become a super-star producer, overseeing massive hits like Stranger ThingsI Am Not Okay with This, and Shadow & Bone.

While Levy's Hollywood star may have risen, his keen eye for sleazy and over-the-top villains that we love to hate has not. In a brand-new featurette for the director's latest project, Free Guy, the spotlight shines brightly on Taika Waititi's Antoine — a baddie who feels like a worthy spiritual successor to Big Fat Liar's Marty Wolf (an unscrupulous movie producer played to perfection by Paul Giamatti).

Antwan is the egotistical mogul behind Soonami, the studio that makes Free City, the open-world video game in which Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a happy-go-lucky NPC bank teller, resides. When Guy gains sentience through a pair of special glasses reserved for human players, Antwan sets out to wreck the hero's entire existence.

“Antwan is the villain who effectively co-opted and stole the game code of Millie [Jodie Comer] and Keys [Joe Keery], and he’s reaped tremendous wealth, royalties and fame, but without giving them any credit or money,” Levy remarks in the film's production notes. "He’s just a bad dude, and kind of deliciously so, but he’s played by Taika, who, in addition to being an amazing director, is one of the most gifted comedic performers I’ve ever worked with."

Watch the featurette now:

“Taika takes an already funny script and is riffing on a level that is frickin’ sublime," Levy continues. "His mind is so fast, and so Antwan is, I think, a villain for the ages. Someone that you delight in but also hate to death, and the fact that Taika is able to walk that razor’s edge and make him both loathsome and hilarious, is a testament to that guy’s talent."

Sounds like Antwan could give Marty and Mr. Funnybones a run for their money!

Disney, which is releasing the long-delayed film under the 20th Century Studios banner, also debuted a first look clip in which the main protagonist is confronted by two of Free City's developers: Keys and Mouser (played by Keery and Utkarsh Ambudkar, respectively).

This scene clearly takes place after Guy breaks free of his video game constraints and as you'll see, the developers mistake him for a player that has hacked one of the NPC avatars. The whole exchange is taken to a whole new level of absurdity due to the fact that Keery and Ambudkar are dressed in customized skins of a mustachioed cop and flamboyant pink rabbit.

Check out the clip below:

 

"Free Guy is very much the journey of a man who has only ever existed in this very kind of curated, fake world and who has the innocence and the goodness of spirit of an innocent,” Levy adds in the production notes. “As a result, you get the humor that we all love in characters like that, but we also have an incredibly root-able protagonist, a hero who we champion and whose struggles we feel viscerally, and whose ultimate triumphs we celebrate very passionately."

Get Out's Lil Rel Howery rounds out the cast as Buddy, a security guard at the Free City bank that gets robbed on a regular basis.

Free Guy signs into theaters everywhere Friday, Aug. 12. Click here to check out some early buzz.