Shawn Levy turned down “Free Guy” the primary time he was approached to direct it. The film, which stars Ryan Reynolds as Guy, a nonplayable computer game character who discovers a replacement zest for all times after falling for a gamer named Molotov Girl (“Killing Eve” star Jodie Comer), takes place mostly in Free City, an area not unlike the lawless, hyper-violent San Andreas of the “Grand Theft Auto” games. “I think I examine a 3rd of the script and said, ‘You know what? this could probably be some hardcore gamer that you simply get to direct it,'” Levy told the l. a. Times over Zoom. “And I moved on.”
Years later, Ryan Reynolds reached bent the “Night at the Museum” director after he received the script, without knowing Levy had previously been considered to helm it. “I didn’t tell Ryan that I had already read it,” Levy said. “I said, ‘Why are you calling me? I’m not a hardcore gamer.’ Ryan says ‘[Let’s] take a computer game premise but make a movie that’s not only for gamers. Let’s make a replacement ‘Truman Show,’ a movie about personal awareness and empowerment and therefore the very relatable notion that you simply can sleep in the background otherwise you can breakthrough to be seen and effect change.'”
Levy agreed, and enlisted production designer Ethan Tobman and VFX supervisor Swen Gillberg to assist fill within the gaps in his knowledge. “Literally i used to be getting ideas for jokes, Easter eggs, camera moves, story ideas, VFX ideas and stunt ideas from everybody,” Levy said. “This was considerably a the-best-idea-wins culture.” “Shawn’s really curious and that i think that is what makes him an excellent storyteller,” said Tobman. “He wants to surround himself with people that pitch ideas and he’ll take ideas from a PA, intern or his designer, DP or studio head and provides them rules
One of the earliest decisions the crew made was to delineate the design of the three worlds explored within the film: Free City, the important world and therefore the gameplay. “I knew early that I needed to make these very distinct worlds which I needed rigorous aesthetic parameters for every,” said Levy. “So early we chose that Free City would look clean, deep-focused [and] compositionally very symmetrical.”
Every scene that happened in Free City was shot with a large-format camera and spherical lenses with a color palette that was bright, poppy and almost animated to make a way of heightened reality. “We were trying to reinforce one versus the opposite,” said Tobman. “So we did plenty of branding and developed two stories of entire blocks with signage that you’d never see within the world .”
On the opposite hand, the important world was depicted with a more restricted palette and different camera formats, lenses and operating styles. “We wanted to make really specific rules in order that you knew from the primary frame of 1 that you simply were not within the other,” said Tobman. therefore the world was shot using frame obfuscation, anamorphic lenses, messier compositions, awkward reflections and perpetual rain. “There are five different reminders gray and it’s extremely murky,” Tobman explained. “And life there’s a touch bit confusing and depressing.”
The gameplay “was the toughest,” said Levy. “We did tons of variations. Whereas the movie could be more ‘GTA’-inspired, the design of the gameplay hews closer to ‘Fortnite’ in its aesthetic and level of stylization than the other computer game reference.” “We initially began very photoreal and that we found that you simply couldn’t separate what was on the monitor from the live-action,” said Gillberg. “So we went in a very different direction and made the gameplay very cartoony sometimes. But we found that the audience did not have empathy for Guy so we then scaled it back to a more realistic but stylistic look, almost like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ or ‘Call of Duty.'”
“Those were quite the most components of what we might call the design bible,” Levy said. “And I’m pretty pleased that regardless of what percentage times you screen the movie, there’s never any confusion what world you’re watching. i feel that’s our visual rules doing the work for us.” Calling within the experts During preproduction, the crew formed a think factory shooting out ideas, playing “tons” of video games, and referencing several movies before coming to a choice on the design of Free City.
“I’m a gamer anyway, but I ended up playing video games really differently in prep,” said Tobman. “I wanted to ascertain what was happening within the deep background, following nonplayable characters for the entire game. I’d avoid the most plot and go right for the subplot. But I also started going crazy on YouTube, watching mistakes and video bloopers.” Levy hung out watching video games on YouTube and Twitch, including more obscure experiential games, with computer game designer and code writer Mike Mika, who had been a consultant on “Ready Player One.” “They’re what’s called fishbowl games where the goal isn’t to kill, level up or acquire vehicles and weaponry but to observe the digital world evolve,” he said.
He also leaned heavily on Charlie Lehmer, a “big adorable gaming nerd” on the visual effects team. “I’ve made 12 movies and Swen’s done ‘Avengers’ so we’re very experienced grownups,” said Levy. “And [yet] whenever i might check out a sequence, i might go ‘Charlie, what does one think?’ Charlie became just like the intern who had a megaphone. it had been one thing if me, Ethan, Swen, or our cinematographer George Richmond felt good about something, but unless I had Charlie, the voice of the particular gaming community, giving his blessing or calling bull—, I didn’t feel completely confident that we had nailed it.”
Location, location The film was shot almost entirely in Boston with some reshoots happening in LA. The interiors were built either on airport hangars or soundstages with the capacity to deal with enormous sets. “I think we were really careful about using Boston for its famous Brutalist architecture for the surface world and its more provincial, bucolic, Federalist architecture for the planet inside the sport ,” Tobman said.
But other cities like Seattle, Seoul, Tokyo, Pittsburgh, and even Christopher Nolan’s rendering of Gotham City in “The Dark Knight” served as inspiration for the important world look of the film. Other influences included the film “Brazil” (1985) and therefore the Hal Ashby satire “Being There” (1979).
“I’ve noticed a trend where video games have really been informed by movies and films are now being informed by video games,” Tobman said. “When you play ‘Red Dead Redemption or ‘Shadow of the Colossus,’ you’re seeing a number of the good Western film noirs or Ridley Scott sci-fis. There’s enormous creativity and world-building that goes into these. They’re using an equivalent technology and software and even a number of an equivalent people [to make them].” “There’s this fascinating strand of game design that’s so clearly cinematic in its inspiration,” said Levy. “As a result, there’s not really a oneupmanship between the 2 mediums but a cross-pollination of ideas that have made both better.”
Feats of engineering Tobman says his favorite set is Molotov Girl’s house , a group made entirely out of cloth , which was also the foremost technically difficult to realize . “How does one light that? How does one film that?” said Tobman. “There’s no wood, metal, or structure.” Instead, the assembly design team built model renderings out of paper and laser cut 300 pieces of paneling in slightly different shapes to resemble stalagmites. “We essentially built a cave out of cloth,” Tobman explained.
The set, which was made employing a parachute-like material, took three months to form. It features a white plexiglass floor that mirrored everything “so you cannot have one blemish” and required an “army” of individuals to stretch, steam, tighten and lightweight it with a white lightbox. “So the entire thing seems like it’s breathing,” said Tobman. “It seems like you’re inside the belly of a whale.”
Levy says he’s most pleased with a scene within the film’s third act when Guy faces off against Dude, a way dimmer and stronger version of himself. “We found the actor who plays Dude during a Google search and that I recognized him from the gym where I’m going in LA,” said Gillberg.
“In the first script, Dude was meant to be a reflection of Guy,” he added. “And therefore the original idea was that Ryan Reynolds would play Dude and Guy. But we didn’t want to possess to travel through the time that it takes to shoot one actor twice. So Shawn really wanted to seek out how to shoot it simultaneously in order that Ryan could play against Dude.” Aaron Reed, the actor who portrayed Dude, was shot using motion capture and in post-production, the crew stitched Reynold’s face onto Reed’s body using an equivalent technology. Easter eggs The filmmakers were careful to bury many Easter eggs for eagle-eyed fans.
“These are people that are trapped during a city and do not realize it so there are travel agencies advertising trips to nowhere where you do not get off the plane, for prices that you simply can’t afford,” said Tobman. “There are sales on emporium windows that say ‘Sale tomorrow, and therefore the day after that and that they appear a day. There are nutriment restaurants with happy meals that include grenades and nunchucks and machine rifles. We’re twiddling with the thought of a satire where we’re commenting on the planet we all know today: It’s hyper-violent, hypersexual, and excessive.”
Guy’s apartment is another space that’s laden with Easter eggs. Because he’s a computer game character, his apartment is intentionally half-developed. “The [game designers] literally economized the quantity of gigabytes they need to offer to his house,” said Tobman. “So his front entrance has five deadbolts and no knob, his calendar is missing each day and his cabinet features a bowl and a spoon but no fork or knife because he only eats cereal. in order that was an incredibly fun set to bury Easter eggs in. That apartment is basically Guy’s predicament personified and externalized.”