'Free Guy' VFX Team on How the Movie Almost Ended Up Looking Like 'Fortnite'

The movie Free Guy is set partly inside a video game. Ryan Reynolds stars as Guy, a non-player character in the game, but some of his castmates have dual roles. Jodie Comer plays a woman called Millie as well as Molotov Girl, the avatar that Millie controls.

If that sounds confusing for a viewer, imagine being part of the video effects team that had to build the game's world. Not only did the VFX team create gameplay characters using a method called digidoubling, they also created much of the video game city, working out whether it would look like Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto or something else entirely.

Newsweek spoke to VFX supervisor Nikos Kalaitzidis, of Oscar-winning studio Digital Domain, about the team's work on Free Guy and how it developed the perfect look for the game.

Ahead are some minor spoilers for Free Guy.

Initially, the game was set to be "photo-real," meaning the characters would look incredibly close to real, similar to games such as Death Stranding or Ghost of Tsushima.

In the end, this approach was abandoned because of the "Russian doll" nature of the film.

Kalaitzidis told Newsweek: "The director and the filmmakers realized that the audience might get confused if that's real gameplay, or if that's live action, you can't really tell the difference anymore.

"So, it was a creative and aesthetic decision on their part to say, 'Let's make it look more like a game.' So, the audience could have a distinction between the two styles of what they're looking at, and making sure that there is a gameplay look, versus a live-action."

A production still of Free Guy
A production still of Free Guy
A production still of Free Guy
A production still of Free Guy
A production still of Free Guy
Production stills from "Free Guy"

Finding a new aesthetic was not simple, of course, as the team had to consider different styles to base the new look on. In the end, the decision boiled down to two classic games: Grand Theft Auto or Fortnite.

The first game in the Grand Theft Auto series was released in 1997, so its original graphics were far more basic than those in Free Guy.

However, the game's visuals have evolved over the years and the Free Guy team was ultimately inspired by the classic, most iconic look of the game.

Kalaitzidis added: "I think there were a lot of inspirations because Fortnite was a really, really popular game when we were working on this.

"But the thing is, I felt personally that the movie is like Grand Theft Auto, you know, and maybe that was an influence for the filmmakers."

The GTA vibe is also apparent in the film's opening scene, which shows players wreaking havoc on the city.

"The opening sequence is the shot where Badass [Channing Tatum] comes flying down, steals a vehicle, drives around through the city," he said.

This sequence is just "a few minutes long" but it "really sets a tone of what the city really is. And it's nothing but violence. It's stealing, it's car crashes, the cops just don't have any control because these criminals are taking over the city. And it really set the tone of what this world is. And it's very similar to Grand Theft Auto in that aspect."

There's another echo too. Where GTA had Liberty City, the movie's game is called Free City.

Other games cited as potential influences for Free City include Sim City and Red Dead Redemption 2, but Fortnite does appear in one moment in the movie.

Near the end of the film, Guy must fight another character, the Dude (played by Reynolds along with Aaron Reed), and uses all the weapons in his arsenal to do it. These include a portal gun from Portal, the gravity gun from Half-Life, the Mega Buster from the Mega Man series—and a pickaxe from Fortnite.