In Shawn Levy’s Free Guy, Ryan Reynolds plays a secondary character in a video game between GTA and Fortnite, who one day fulfills his condition as a puppet. Meeting with an actor not all alone in his head.
From the first images shown to me, Free Guy sounds very “Ryan Reynolds compatible”, if you know what I mean.
I can see very well. (Laughs.)
Which brings me to this question: what is a Ryan Reynolds movie?
Wow, so there, I wouldn’t be able to define it. Well, I’m going to try anyway: I’m a lot of irony and self-mockery, maybe that’s my, uh … “style”? And that surely influences the films in which I play. Um, not a very convincing answer, right?
Let’s put it another way then: does a movie become a “Reynoldsian” object the second you agree to play in it?
Ah! Maybe, yeah. Yet it is not something conscious. Like any artist, I am able to take a number of creative directions depending on the project and what I feel comfortable with. But whether I choose to branch off or stay perfectly aligned with my original idea, I’m always going to end up in more or less the same place. Whatever I do, I’m a big kid and I can never really walk away from it. (Laughs.)
When did you decide to laugh at yourself and invent that very ironic persona, which you also use outside of your movies? After the flop of Green Lantern ?
Yeah, around that time. After Green Lantern [de Martin Campbell], I think I realized that I had more fun and that I felt creatively more satisfied when I made fun of myself. Like most Canadians, I grew up learning to be able to laugh at my flaws and flaws, play with my ego and my arrogance. After a number of years in Hollywood, I decided to go back to those roots, because I needed to hold on to some form of authenticity.
Was that a way of protecting yourself from the system, of taking a step back?
As well. But at the same time it touches on something else. My inner monologues go all the way and most of the time it’s to make fun of me. I go to bed at night and think about my day: ” My God, why did I say that? Why did I behave like this? »I have some gear for a long time! So why not use that as an ingredient to build a character when I’m playing in a movie, or a persona when it’s fun? It’s a very rewarding internal process.
So this Ryan Reynolds “double” is more than a joke, it’s also a space for creation?
You know – and this is especially true in the world of marketing – not many people are able to shed light on their own pitfalls. Careers have their ups and downs, but few actors recognize that some of their films were bad. Even if it wasn’t necessarily their fault and there are a thousand reasons why a movie can crash: it’s still great to listen to them! I think I’m going beyond self-mockery actually, in the sense that I don’t care about my own contribution to failure. In Dead Pool, I criticized Green Lantern through a valve. And that did me a lot of good. I grabbed hold of negative energy, something that should have pulled me down, and knocked her down doing a sort of judo grip on her. It allowed me to get something positive out of it.
In Free Guy, the character of Taika Waititi says this thing that made me laugh: ” Franchises and sequels are what people love. “
(He smiles.) We can say that in the film, Taika represents almost all the studios with which Shawn Levy and I have been able to interact during our respective careers. It’s obviously a spade and we have fun with the fact that Free Guy is not an adaptation. This is what we call “a new movie”. (Laughs.)
Is it always so hard to sign a film with an original idea?
Let’s say it didn’t get any easier when it comes to a feature film that needs a certain budget to exist. Anyway, I don’t believe that Free Guy has been greenlit because the studio was desperately looking for a new idea. It was because it is a film designed to please the viewer, a pure concentrate of joy. The kind of thing that is sorely lacking in our entertainment arsenal right now … The folks at the studio noticed it and they knew Shawn and I had wanted to work together for years. They felt that our collaboration was going to be fruitful. And then, I never gave up on them.
In Free Guy, you play a guy who is unaware that he is a video game character, and whose life is programmed down to the minute. How is an empty shell embodied?
Let’s calm down, it’s not like I’m playing a 19th century French impressionist painter! I think my job is to step into the character’s skin and feel what he has to say to me. But at the time, once on the set. Over time, I realized that if I prepare too much, if I make too many decisions in advance without discussing them with a creative partner like Shawn, it doesn’t necessarily serve the film.
So there is a part of improvisation?
Yes, you have to be listening to the film. And then, the more I grow as an actor, the more I don’t care if I’m right or wrong. I’m more interested in the health of the film and its ecosystem. How to make the best possible film with the cards in hand? That is the only question that matters. And the best films of my career are those where I managed to bounce back from situations. It sometimes means taking a step back, sometimes asserting yourself. But especially not to come up with a preconceived idea of the character or the film, especially on a project high concept like Free Guy. Afterwards, it forces you to make decisive choices very quickly. And you just have to hope that you haven’t messed up.
Free Guy, by Shawn Levy, with Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery … In theaters August 11.