Anyone who’s seen Free Guy so far is aware of the major Marvel and Star Wars references in the Ryan Reynolds film. The references are lightly sprinkled throughout the story, mostly in dialogue, leading to a major climax that had many audiences cheering. The references are not just part of the film, they’re often marked as the best part of the story by many in the audience. Recently, Shawn Levy, the director of Free Guy, talked to Collider about how those references and cameos came together to bring Marvel and Star Wars into Free Guy.
It all started when Disney bought Fox. When Free Guy was originally coming together, the movie wasn’t in the Disney sphere, but once it was, Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy wondered aloud how they could take advantage of this opportunity. Originally, the idea was simply a question. Is there a way for us to put something from either Marvel or Lucasfilm into Free Guy? Both Marvel and Lucasfilm are owned by Disney, just like Fox.
So we wrote a letter to Bob Iger, Kevin Feige, and Kathleen Kennedy. And the letter basically was like, ‘Dear sirs and madam, would you possibly consider giving us permission to use cap’s shield or Hulk’s fist or a lightsaber? Sincerely yours, Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy.’ To our astonishment. They came back and said yes. And we said ‘Which one?’ and they said all of them. So once that happened, Ryan’s like, wait a second. Chris Evans is in Boston. He calls Chris and says, ‘If we have a camera set up and waiting for you, can you come by for 10 minutes just to pay off a joke?’ And Chris was like, sure. And that’s how we did that. He came by, we had a camera waiting in a restaurant and we shot that joke.”Shawn Levy
While Shawn Levy reported that both he and Ryan Reynolds were shocked when their polite letter-writing campaign worked out for the pair, this is a strategy that Ryan Reynolds has employed before. Deadpool 2 had some major cameos from Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Both actors had roles that were easy to miss. Most of the audience likely learned of their appearances online. Matt Damon was barely recognizable as a redneck ranting about the best bathroom hygiene practices. Brad Pitt played an invisible character who appeared on screen too quickly for most to recognize him, despite how recognizable his face is. So how were they convinced to appear on screen?
Similar to the experience with Free Guy, Ryan Reynolds reached out. With Brad Pitt, the Deadpool 2 star wrote a letter. The letter explained what they were doing in the Marvel movie. It included the premise of the idea, which was a very Ryan Reynolds idea. Basically, they wondered if they could get one of the world’s biggest movie stars on board and then “waste” them in the most ridiculous role possible. Apparently, Brad Pitt thought that was funny. He took the role without asking for payment beyond a single cup of coffee. Similarly, they reached out to Matt Damon and got him in the cast for a small part. In both instances, they promised the A-list actors that they would make the filming process as easy and fast as possible.
That reputation may have helped Ryan Reynolds when he reached out to Chris Evans. Still, it’s unlikely that the Captain America actor had any idea that ten minutes sitting in front of a camera would turn into the kind of appearance that had audiences cheering, but that’s what’s been happening in movie theaters for Free Guy over its opening weekend. Shawn Levy expressed a lot of happiness about that, and the fact that somehow, those appearances managed to stay quiet until the film’s debut. With all the delays Free Guy faced due to the pandemic, those seemed like things that would have leaked. He said that really, in the end, it all came down to people just being good about it.
Does this mean that we can expect more appearances in Deadpool 3? Or will Ryan Reynolds need to find a new way to surprise audiences this time around? We’ll have to wait and see, but if the actor starts a letter-writing campaign soon, it won’t be too surprising.