Shawn Levy, director of “Free Guy,” worries it’s Hollywood’s latest original idea

  • Levy told Insider he’s worried that he’ll never see a studio release a movie like “Free Guy” again.
  • Levy said the studios “bet primarily, if not exclusively, the jackpot on franchise titles.”
  • His next film with Ryan Reynolds, “The Adam Project”, is released on Netflix.

If you look at the Hollywood movie landscape, Shawn Levy’s “Free Guy” was unlikely to become the success it has been.

An original idea launched by a major studio that has become a box office sensation is extremely rare these days. Most executives are focusing on the IP-powered blockbusters that grossed billions of dollars before the pandemic, and therefore are the most likely to keep the lights on.

And Levy is well aware of his good fortune.

“It’s so gratifying for all of us to have proof that it can still work,” the director recently told Insider over the phone, as the film is currently on demand and available on Blu-ray after earning over $ 328 million globally. box office.

“It’s not only personally exciting, but I think it’s good for our company to remind those who hold the purse strings that sometimes you have to bet on the new,” he continued. “Because when you win on these kinds of bets, it’s deeply satisfying.”

Levy knows a thing or two about winning big on original ideas. The director / producer has made it his entire career with films like “Cheaper by the Dozen” in 2003, “Night at the Museum” in 2006 and as a producer on “Arrival” in 2016 (which led to a nomination at the Oscars for best film), and the

sensation “Stranger Things” (of which he also directs episodes).

Ryan Reynolds in "Free guy."

Ryan Reynolds realizes he’s a background character in a video game in “Free Guy.”

20th century workshops

“Free Guy” was a big bet. Although he played Ryan Reynolds, a film focused on a non-player character in a “Fortnite” type game could have been a box office disaster. Instead, the film proved to Hollywood that original ideas can still pay off.

“It’s the other thing that’s deeply gratifying – having a blockbuster movie in theaters around the world,” Levy said. “This is different from a statistic on the number of hundreds of millions of people who have streamed your title for at least three minutes.”

This begs the question, can a movie like “Free Guy” – which has become a sensation in theaters – ever happen again? Levy admits the odds are diminishing.

“I go through a mental Rolodex of the studios – Sony, Warners, Paramount, Disney, Lionsgate – the truth is, these studios mostly if not exclusively bet the jackpot on franchise titles,” said Levy, who budgeted for “Free Guy” at around $ 100 million. “Someone referred to ‘Free Guy’ as the last helicopter in Saigon, and I think about it. I hope it isn’t.”

Jodie Comer and Ryan Reynolds in "Free guy."

Jodie Comer and Ryan Reynolds in “Free Guy”.

20th century workshops

One of the main reasons Levy’s lack of confidence in what the future holds for original releases is what happened in Hollywood before “Free Guy” even made it to theaters.

The film was made at 20th Century Fox before Disney bought the studio in 2019. Now known as 20th Century Studios, it is highly unlikely that “Free Guy” will be shown there today that Disney would support. on the trigger of a non-IP title.

But that doesn’t mean Levy is making original movies – there are always the other streamers.

Levy teamed up with Reynolds again for the fantasy drama “The Adam Project”, which was produced for Netflix (to be released later this year). While the director knows that even more people will see “The Adam Project” than “Free Guy” because it will be on the streaming giant, he still feels a bit depressed.

“I’m going to be honest when I say that a part of me is scowling at the reality that this next movie will be mostly experienced on smaller screens,” he said.

However, Levy pointed out that due to the success of “Free Guy,” Netflix is ​​committed to giving “The Adam Project” a theatrical release as well as launching it globally on their site.

Walker Scobell in a waistcoat, Ryan Reynolds in a cream jacket

“The Adam Project.”


Currently, Levy is working with Reynolds and “Free Guy” writers Matt Lieberman and Zack Penn on ideas for sequels, picking up on Reynolds’ tweet in August that Disney has given the green light for a sequel (“This is far from a green light, “said Levy).

But whether or not “Free Guy” becomes Disney’s next blockbuster franchise, Levy hopes the film’s success will bring studios a reality that the original films shouldn’t be forgotten.

“There was truly a real gratitude among the players in our industry that the film served as a reminder of the viability of cinema at a time when it was called into question, and of the viability of an original title,” said he declared. “I don’t know if the money-keepers are going to place these bets often as we move forward in the future, but I think they will place them on occasion because ‘Free Guy’ is hard evidence to prove that it can work. “

“Free Guy” is available now on demand and on Blu-ray.

About Michael Sauers


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