Free Guy director explains how Alex Trebek's posthumous cameo came about: 'It's a privilege'
Of all the cameos in Free Guy, Alex Trebek's is the most affecting. The late Jeopardy host, who died at the age of 80 last November after a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, filmed an appearance for the video game-inspired movie starring Ryan Reynolds on his show's stage.
"In retrospect, to have this legendary gentlemen 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," Free Guy director Shawn Levy tells EW. "It's really an honor, and we are grateful that circumstance made that possible."
Free Guy stars Reynolds as Guy, who realizes he has the same old routine day after day because he's really a background character inside a popular open-world video game. After meeting and falling for Molotov Girl, the avatar used by a game code named Millie (Jodie Comer) in this virtual space, he breaks free of his programming.
His nice guy actions become so popular for those watching in the real world that he becomes a question on Jeopardy. "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 recalls. "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."
Levy and Reynolds had a lot of success asking their celebrity friends if they would cameo in Free Guy. It worked for Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson, Tina Fey, and John Krasinski, who all have voice cameos. It also worked for [REDACTED]. (You can read about that spoiler here.) So, Reynolds asked Trebek if he would do it. According to Levy, Reynolds became involved in a few charitable organizations and events as a favor to Trebek over the years. "To our thrill, Alex and the show said yes," Levy says.
The filmmaker didn't get to direct Trebek, which he says was "disappointing." But he sent a small crew over to the Jeopardy stage, and they primarily used the show's equipment.
Trebek also fit perfectly into the "nice guy" vibe that Free Guy brings. Says Levy, "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."
Free Guy is now playing in theaters.