Ryan Reynolds and director Shawn Levy reflect on Canada's role in guiding them through life and comedy
The Vancouver-born actor and Montreal-born director spoke to Q’s Tom Power about their new movie, Free Guy
The very first directing note Shawn Levy gave Ryan Reynolds while filming their new action-comedy blockbuster, Free Guy, was to be more Canadian.
"I need your most Canadian self," he recalled telling Reynolds on set. "I need you in this movie to be your most fundamental, civil, you know, well-intentioned Canadian — the boys we were raised to be in Canada."
The Vancouver-born actor and Montreal-born director may be Canada's latest power duo, having just wrapped shooting a second movie together earlier this year. In a joint interview with Q host Tom Power, they explained how their Canadian roots have influenced their lives, values and work.
WATCH | Official trailer for Free Guy:
In the case of Free Guy, it was about bringing a certain warmth and sensitivity to the story of an optimistic NPC (non-playable character) named Guy who becomes aware that his world is a violent video game. At the heart of the movie is a message about the importance of extending empathy to all the background characters of our lives.
"I was super excited to be making a movie like this," said Reynolds. "Obviously, it has pretty strong themes and morals that have been smuggled into this like, you know, summer blockbuster fare. But making the movie was a non-stop delight…. It's probably my favourite movie I've ever done."
Hollywood hitters with Canadian values
Growing up in Montreal, Levy said he was introduced to arts and culture at a young age. Not only did the city awaken a creative passion in him that's followed him throughout his life, but it provided him with a code to live by.
"[It gave me] a value system," he said. "You know, I've lived in Hollywood for decades, I have four kids and my dad once said, he goes, 'I like that you still live a Montreal life. You're this big Hollywood director, but you live a Montreal life.' And I was like, 'What do you mean by that?' He's like, 'It's just solid values: family first, grounded.'"
I look at Canada and British Columbia and Vancouver as like another parent that I had- Ryan Reynolds
In response, Reynolds joked that B.C. has the same values, but with "a little bit more weed."
"I look at Canada and British Columbia and Vancouver as like another parent that I had," Reynolds said earnestly. "I mean, I feel like it taught me really to laugh at myself — gave me permission to laugh at myself — [and] it taught me self-awareness."
Like Levy, Reynolds said growing up in Canada instilled certain values in him that are even more important now that he's a father.
"I always look at, like, things that we value in our kids," the actor told Power. "We want our kids to be happy and all these things that I was raised with, and it's like, as I become a grown-ass adult, I've realized that happiness is kind of like a weird bait to an unsatisfying life. You really want self-awareness…. So I feel like I've learned a lot of that stuff, the building blocks of those foundations, in Canada and Vancouver."
"It's been a pretty great — no pun intended — North Star for me," he added wryly.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FreeGuy?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FreeGuy</a>'s <a href="https://twitter.com/VancityReynolds?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@VancityReynolds</a> credits Vancouver for his self-awareness in life and comedy. <a href="https://t.co/fChEvaVg2A">https://t.co/fChEvaVg2A</a> <a href="https://t.co/5tAbNVWyix">pic.twitter.com/5tAbNVWyix</a>—@cbcradioq
A cameo from an iconic Canadian nice guy
With a Canadian at the helm of Free Guy, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the movie includes a few nods to Canada, including a memorable cameo from the late Alex Trebek, who died last November following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Reynolds got in contact with the longtime Jeopardy! host and convinced him to come on board the project after the film had already been completed.
"Without sounding like a doorknob, I think I've been a bit of a friend to [Jeopardy!] over the years," said Reynolds. "We reached out and they said yes — and it's really as simple as that."
Alex Trebek was kind enough to film a cameo for our film Free Guy last year despite his battle. He was gracious and funny. In addition to being curious, stalwart, generous, reassuring and of course, Canadian. We love you, Alex. And always will.—@VancityReynolds
The actor spoke highly of Trebek, referring to him as "a real engine of goodness."
"I along with so many people — not just in Canada but all over the world — miss him very much," said Reynolds. "And I'm so happy that he said yes and ... took part in Free Guy."
Free Guy hits theatres across Canada and the U.S. on Friday, Aug. 13.
Listen to the full conversation with Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy near the top of this page.
Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview produced by Catherine Stockhausen.