Ryan Reynolds’ new movie, “Free Guy,” features an extraordinary cameo from the late and great “Jeopardy!” host, Alex Trebek. But how did this video-game-inspired film become a part of Trebek’s legendary legacy?
“Free Guy” debuted at the box office this weekend, and it quickly became the weekend’s biggest opener. The story follows Ryan Reynolds’ character Guy, who’s a nonplayable character in a popular video game. Eventually, Guy breaks free of his programming and starts acting heroically around Free City. His actions capture the attention of people out in the real world, starting the “Blue Shirt Guy” phenomenon.
Director Shawn Levy talked to EW about their struggles in conveying Guy’s trending popularity in the real world. After a while, they realized that there’s no better way to prove that something’s relevant and noteworthy than to have it appear as a clue on “Jeopardy!”.
“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.”
Enter “Jeoaprdy!” host Alex Trebek. Ryan Reynolds supposedly worked for different charity organizations and events for Trebek, so he asked the host about making a cameo in Reynolds’ upcoming film. “To our thrill, Alex and the show said yes,” Levy said.
‘Jeopardy!’ Host Alex Trebek’s Role In ‘Free Guy’
Since the cameo features an actual clip of a “real” “Jeopardy!” game, Levy sent a camera crew over to Sony Studios to tape the shot. According to EW, they primarily used the game show’s equipment, making it as authentic as possible.
While Levy was “disappointed” to not be able to direct Trebek himself, it was still an “honor” for him to feature the “Jeopardy!” legend in the 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 said. “It’s really an honor, and we are grateful that circumstance made that possible.”
The film was originally supposed to air in July 2020, so Trebek filmed the scene long before his death on Nov. 8, 2020. He died of stage four pancreatic cancer at his home in Burbank, California.
Reynolds and Levy managed to secure a number of cameos for the film aside from Trebek. They enlisted Channing Tatum, Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson, Tina Fey, and John Krasinski for voice cameos. But none quite fit the “nice guy vibe” of “Free Guy” like Alex Trebek.
“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,” Levy said.
You can see “Free Guy” — and Trebek — in theaters now.