Ryan Reynolds scored lots of famous cameos in his new movie, “Free Guy,” but none were as touching as late “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek’s.
The movie was supposed to come out last July, so Trebek filmed the cameo before his death on Nov. 8, 2020. He died of stage 4 pancreatic cancer, a battle he fought for nearly two years.
They filmed the cameo on the show’s stage, using mostly the show’s equipment. Director Shawn Levy said he was “disappointed” that he couldn’t direct Trebek himself, but it was a distinct honor for the “Jeopardy!” host to appear in the video-game-based film.
“In retrospect, to have this legendary gentleman be a part of our movie forever and for our movie to, in any way, be connected to this icon and the legacy that he leaves behind, it’s a privilege,” Levy told EW. “It’s really an honor, and we are grateful that circumstance made that possible.”
“Free Guy” follows Reynolds’ character, Guy, who doesn’t know he’s part of a video game. Guy eventually realizes he’s stuck in the same old routine every day as a background character and breaks free of his programming.
So where does “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek come in? Essentially, Guy’s “nice guy actions” make him a cultural icon. One important enough to be referenced on the world’s most popular quiz show as “Who is Blue Shirt Guy?”
“We were literally sitting in the editing room and we were talking about, ‘We need to convey to the audience that Blue Shirt Guy has become a cultural phenomenon. How can we do that concisely?'” Levy said. “One answer that came to us is, if you become an answer on Jeopardy, you’re a cultural reality. You have achieved a certain level of cultural embed.”
Ryan Reynolds’ and Late ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Alex Trebek’s History
Director Shawn Levy told EW that Ryan Reynolds and Alex Trebek had worked together in the past. Reynolds volunteered in some of Trebek’s charity organizations and events during the last few years of his life. So, when Reynolds approached him about doing the movie, “To our thrill, Alex and the show said yes,” Levy said.
Reynolds roped in lots of celebrities for cameos aside from the late “Jeopardy!” host. Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson, Tina Fey, and John Krasinski all voiced cameo characters in the film. EW also referenced a redacted celebrity who made a surprise, spoiler-y appearance in the movie.
But Levy said Trebek fit into the “nice guy vibe” of “Free Guy” better than almost anyone. “There is a positivity and a fairly profound rejection of cynicism that informs the character of Guy and the entire movie that we’ve made.” And no one embodies that better than Alex Trebek.
You can catch “Free Guy” in theaters now.