Warning: Some “Free Guy” spoilers ahead.
Game show legend Alex Trebek is one of many faces that appear in the upcoming Disney sci-fi action flick “Free Guy,” and although is cameo is short, it’s sure to leave a lasting impression on many viewers — including star Ryan Reynolds.
Reynolds revealed after Trebek’s passing last November that the iconic “Jeopardy!” host filmed his scenes in the Shawn Levy-directed film while actively battling his cancer diagnosis.
“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,” Reynolds tweeted at the time.
“Free Guy” is, in its own way, a uniquely Canadian film. Reynolds, of course, is from Vancouver and director Levy is from Montreal. Levy told Reynolds to channel “earnest Canadian optimism” when playing Guy, and told The Canadian Press, “my earliest direction to Ryan was, ‘You need to play this like your most Canadian self. This is not Wade Wilson in ‘Deadpool.’ This is ‘Ryan, the Canadian.’ Just friendly, open, civil.”
Trebek, too, was Canadian, and Reynolds said he was “so blown away” by Trebek’s willingness to film a cameo for the film even though he was sick.
“We shot that separately, actually after the film had been completely done and dusted and completed,” Reynolds told E!’s Daily Pop. “Alex was kind enough to jump in and do this little cameo for us. I was just so blown away by how sweet he was to do that.”
Reynolds told E! that Trebek was a class act, and was actually trying to get a charity project going before he died.
“Even right up shortly before he passed away, I talked to him on the phone about a charity initiative he was trying to launch,” Reynolds said about Trebek. “This guy was really made of good stuff right until the end. Having him in the movie is certainly bittersweet, that’s for sure.”
“Free Guy” sees Reynolds playing Guy, an NPC (non-player character) banker who realizes he’s living inside a merciless video game called “Free City” where everyone he knows, including himself, is beat up day after day for the pleasure and progress of random players. After he stumbles across a pair of sunglasses that lets him access the player’s interface, Guy’s whole world changes — literally.
Guy then starts trying to find a way to escape his digital loop with the help of an unlikely ally named Millie (Jodie Comer of “Killing Eve” fame), who plays the game under the alias MolotovGirl and tells him he can level up quicker if he helps people instead of brutalizing them. Guy later links up with developer Keys (Joe Keery) who tries to help him get free by changing the game’s program from the real world, much to the ire of his boss Antoine (Taika Waititi).
In the film, Reynold’s exploits in the game attract worldwide fame and there’s a montage that shows him getting buzz on TV and online from actual video game streamers. For a lot of the movie the protagonist is just called “Blue Shirt Guy” since no one knows who he is and it takes people a minute to realize he’s an NPC and not an actual person using the game.
One of these clips is a fake “Jeopardy!” episode. It’s quick but definitely memorable, as Trebek appears about a quarter of the way through the film and asks three contestants a question where the answer is Guy.
Trebek reads the answer, “This ‘Free City’ player has been turning heads by playing the hero’s game,” and then a contestant responds, “Who is blue shirt guy?”
“You’re absolutely right,” Trebek replies, before turning directly to the camera and saying, “Who is he or she indeed?”
While brief, the few seconds where Trebek stares warmly into the camera feels like he’s looking directly into your soul. It’s a quick somber moment in the otherwise lighthearted film, especially because we now know it was one of Trebek’s last on-screen appearances ever — he died in November 2020 at age 80 after a lengthy battle with stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Reynolds told Today “Free Guy” is “probably my favorite movie I’ve ever done, mostly because I grew up watching Amblin movies about wish fulfillment.” He added, “I just feel like the last few years have been so hard on so many people, not just in this country but all over the world. It’s great working on and being a part of a movie that is just this unabashed ball of joy.”
“Free Guy” is out in theaters Friday, Aug. 13.