It took a bodybuilder, VFX specialists and a lot of rehearsal to create the “Guy vs. Dude” scene.
Free Guy released today on DVD and blu-ray (but also on VOD, especially on Première Max), and unsurprisingly, many bonuses are devoted to its special effects. To create an entire video game universe, Shawn Levy’s team (Night at the Museum, Real Steel…) has obviously had a lot of work, and the director talks about it with a lot of enthusiasm. He dwells in detail on one scene in particular, nicknamed “Guy vs. Dude “, which is entitled to its own making-of.
Without spoiler (no more than what was shown during the promotion of the film this summer, anyway), this key footage from the film sees Guy, the NPC played by Ryan Reynolds, taking on an upgraded version of himself. The hero of the film has gradually realized his own identity and wants to act more freely, but the creator of the game Free City, Antwan (Taika Waititi) is afraid that he will destroy his plans, so he makes Dude, a character more powerful than him, to attack him.
Seeing two characters played by the same actor facing each other in the same scene is quite common in cinema, but this confrontation nevertheless required a lot of work from the visual effects team. Accompanied by director and stunt coordinator Chris O’Hara, VFX supervisor Swen Gillberg details all of his stages.
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First, the team had to find someone taller than Ryan Reynolds, who is still six feet tall. They say they thought of a stuntman (it would have made it easier to learn the fight choreography), but the one they had in mind was only 3 cm longer than the star of the film, the gap would have been too small for be noticed on the screen. They thought of a bodybuilder, and when they cast professional Aaron Reed, 2m05 and 140kg, they were thrilled. Him too, since it is his first experience in the cinema. “I was going to have the chance to show all my physicality, he exclaims, before admitting that this scene was more complicated to shoot than he thought. I didn’t imagine it was so much work, I thought we relied more on digital effects, but there are plenty of things to put in place to be able to give that impression of truth. “
Indeed, even before he arrived on the set, a preview was planned with stuntmen in a training room, then a very precise storyboard was drawn in order to have all the plans in mind. When the set was validated (Revere Beach in Boston), the stuntmen rehearsed the scene again, to make sure that everything would perform as expected once in real space. Advised throughout his filming by Shawn Levy, Aaron Reed then played his role, with sensors on the face in order to then replace it digitally with that of Ryan Reynolds. A performance-capture technique that is very common these days, but one that gave Gillberg a hard time, as the character keeps talking, and “synchronizing lip movement to match cues is one of the most complicated things to render perfectly on human figures, he explains. It is more fluid with creatures or animals, but the more realistic it is, the more precise you have to be. “
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Three months after the shooting of “Guy vs. Dude”, Ryan Reynolds was therefore invited to the Lola company, where the VFX were created, to record the movements of his face. Arobing in turn sensors, he entered “the egg”, made especially for this kind of effect. Surrounded by very bright white spots, all his movements are recorded there, to be retransmitted by computer in the most realistic way possible, while having exactly the right angle in relation to the scene already shot. For this to work, the actor must follow the director’s instructions, but also the rhythm and movement of red, blue and green lights that light up when he has to turn his head and / or speak. A tedious job, which requires several takes before being perfectly synchronized. “Usually, we do sessions of about twenty takes, explains Gillberg, but Ryan, he’s a machine. He did 39 in a row. “ Obviously very involved, the actor was also able to improvise lines, which required reversing the process, to stick what he said to the scenes already in the box.
Result, if we see little Dude in the film, each appearance of this “improved version” by Ryan Reynolds is a success. Here’s a promotional video dedicated to the character that was shared upon its theatrical release:
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