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Shane A Bassett interviews director Shawn Levy

Article image for Shane A Bassett interviews director Shawn Levy

by Shane A. Bassett @Movie_Analyst

Purposely delaying release of fantastic FREE GUY, with versatile lead Ryan Reynolds (also producer) in order to be screened at cinemas as opposed to debuting on streaming platforms, sought after Hollywood director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum trilogy) is now proudly unleashing this original, non-sequel-reboot and it’s worth the wait. I was lucky enough to discuss the video game inspired romance, action-comedy, discovering secrets and fun facts while enthralling Shawn with my questions.

Big fan of Date Night (2010) well done on its longevity, it’s a classic comedy.
SL – thank you mate, It’s amazing, I made that movie when I was forty, and I had no idea how many truths of marriage it was capturing. I certainly have a better sense of it a decade or so later.

Well done holding Free Guy back for release the way you intended it to be seen, at the cinema. I found it a fusion of The Truman Show (1998) with a little Inception (2010) and your unique vision. Was it harder to pitch the movie to a studio that wasn’t a sequel or reboot, but an original.
SL – without question it’s increasingly rare to make new non-sequel non-franchise movies, rarer still at this kind of blockbuster budget scale. It helped that they trusted Ryan (Reynolds) and I to use money wisely whilst make movies for the broadest audience possible.

Because games have become so advanced is it harder to get gamers into the cinema.
SL – no question video games became more cinematic and more and more of an enticement to draw audiences out of homes into cinemas. That said, my hope unlike a video game, Free Guy is offering spectacle, action through a healthy serving of warmth, relationships and character story building that we love about or unique to movies.

How many blue shirts were ruined in the making of the movie.
SL – so many, so many Shane (laughs) I’m not exaggerating, we spent at least a couple of months with just the right shade of blue and just the right amount of, boring!

He still looks good.
SL – very hard to dress Ryan in a way to look ordinary, he’s got that movie star physique that tends to make everything look amazing. We wanted Guy to be a relatable, everyday background guy. We dressed him in a most generic oxford short-sleeve shirt possible.

So no body suits or CGI shirts involved.
SL – there was eventually slimmer fit Henelys definitely utilised as Guy levels up, shifts up from an oxford button down to a tighter fitting Henley. There were some debates between Ryan and I trying to get him into a size medium. He kept saying to me, Shawn I’m a large, give me a large. I had to avert that by saying, Ryan on behalf of fans around the world, thank you for wearing the medium, they want to see what’s happening there you don’t work out for nothing!
If you watch the movie carefully, you’ll notice the shirt a little extra tight because I smuggled a medium size shirt into his dressing room (laughs).

Set decorators must have worked overtime piling up the backgrounds.
SL – yes, in fact one the central aspirations was there would be the frame what you see in the foreground, but I wanted a real density composition and design to reward repeat viewings with little inside jokes and easter eggs around details you might not notice at first. Layers of visual humour.

Has there been something to look for in the background that nobody has mentioned yet but you could tell me.
SL – when we were making the movie Ryan was still busy at work on, Aviation Gin, which he has since sold and done just fine….. thank you very much. There is a scene where we have a little, holographic, Aviation Gin bottle floating and above it, it says repeatedly; Subtle Product Placement.

Jodie Comer’s character briefly sings, do you think there might be an eventual Free Guy spin-off musical.
SL – actually, here’s a spoiler I don’t mind spoiling. In the third act of movie when we, on the soundtrack, do a cover of Mariah Carey song, Fantasy. It’s a kind of a sadder more poetic version, that is Jodie Comer singing lead vocals.
It turns out she’s not just a brilliant actress also a talented singer which is not fair to the rest of us.

How did you cast Jodie, or was she always in the picture.
SL – my idea initially having seen, Killing Eve, I was auditioning many for Molotov Girl / Millie. Most were more famous than Jodie, but Jodie auditioned then flew to New York and read in the round of final call-backs alongside five others. It was in the room with Ryan and I it became very clear she is on another level of skill. In fact, I know that someday I’ll proudly say I gave multi-oscar winner Jodie Comer, her first movie.

Interviewers note; Jodie has appeared a couple of smaller movies and one really, really big one, Star Wars episode 9‚Äč. I didn’t want to correct Shawn.

Is the romance more important than the action, or action more important than the romance…. How do you balance it out.
SL – really good question. I kind of went to work each day balancing both. If it was only an action-packed video game movie, it would not interest me. Free Guy, needed the heart, the romantic comedy element that is really of equal importance and if I did my job right, be satisfying on both levels.

Keeping spoiler free, there’s great cameos here, how did they come about.
SL – cameos came about by Ryan and or I, literally calling or texting friends to ask. What is lesser known (at the time of our conversation) is that there are many voice cameos. So, when you watch movie again, listen closely as there is around four or five very famous actors who appear as voices of certain characters either covered in their face or off camera.

Who lit up the set whenever they walked in front of the camera.
SL – hate to be predictable, you know it’s Taika (Waititi) I’ve been luck in my career to work with really inspired, agile comedic minds. Steve Martin, Robin Williams and more, but Taika, who is a phenomenal filmmaker, he came with such energy and plethora of ideas. Every day we would shoot the script, then I’m not kidding, fifteen jokes for every joke written. Taika, is a fountain of ideas, his creativity is very fast, adding flavour, a delightful absurd madness to the villain, Antwan.

I’d like to see a showreel of Taika, maybe on a BluRay.
SL – hoping that make BluRay’s make a huge comeback so I could do a supercut of Taika out-takes in special features.

What is happening to Free Guy, in the future, will it evolve or expand.
SL – boy I just think that Guy is a delightful protagonist, his innocence in the face of a cynical world is a pleasure, I’d love to see him maybe navigate through different video game worlds, different environments but that depends on all the audiences that come out to cinemas to enjoy big screen theatrical experience.

As a surfer, I’d really like to see some surfing in the next instalment.
SL – alright, you know what if you can motivate an extra million or two people to buy tickets to see, Free Guy; I feel like there’s a really good chance of some surfing in the sequel and you’ll know that you did that Shane (laughs).

FREE GUY. Rated M. 115 min
Ryan Reynolds, Joe Keery, Jodie Comer, Brine Oldford, Taika Waititi
Check guides. Now Showing in cinemas (currently open) various locations.

Luke Grant