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In her first lead role in a major studio movie, Free Guy star Jodie Comer learned far more than she ever expected to from Shawn Levy‘s energetic romantic comedy. Comer plays a video game designer named Millie, as well as her in-game avatar “Molotov Girl,” who joins forces with Ryan Reynolds’ non-player character, Guy, in the open-world video game Free City to prove that gaming mogul Antwan (Taika Waititi) stole her work. So whether it was American humor, gaming or how to sell a movie, the English actor gained a wealth of knowledge from Reynolds, Levy and the real and fantasy worlds of Free Guy. The Emmy winner also received a key lesson in pop culture that she won’t soon forget.
“It was so embarrassing because doing [Free Guy] was the first time I’ve ever heard the term Easter egg,” Comer tells The Hollywood Reporter. “In one of my first interviews, someone asked me about the Easter eggs, and all I could think of was a round chocolate egg that you get. I was like, ‘I don’t think there’s any Easter eggs.’ So it’s been very educational for me.”
Comer also had the daunting task of covering Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy,” and to do so, she recorded at Capitol Studios inside the world-renowned Capitol Records building.
“Ryan texted me months after we finished filming, and he was like, ‘There’s this part in the movie, and we want to do this different version of the song. Would you be up for it?'” Comer recalls. “So he sent me a template of it, and I thought it was so beautiful. It doesn’t sound anything like the original, but I was like, ‘Yeah, sure. Why not?’ So I was in L.A. and I went to Capitol Records. And then I stood in a booth where The Beatles had recorded, so it was pretty cool. It’s such a beautiful part of the movie; I think it’s actually my favorite part of the movie, not because of my singing but because of Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) and Guy.”
Like Free Guy, Comer has another 20th Century Studios film being released in 2021 by way of Disney — Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel. Co-starring Adam Driver, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Comer plays Marguerite de Carrouges, who accuses Driver’s Jacques Le Gris of rape, resulting in 14th-century France’s last duel between Damon’s Jean de Carrouges, Marguerite’s husband, and Le Gris. The film also marks Damon and Affleck’s return to screenwriting, as the Oscar-winning duo wrote the male perspective while screenwriter Nicole Holofcener wrote the female point of view.
“Nicole [Holofcener] is phenomenal, and we got on like a house on fire. So it was so lovely to have her around and really kind of delve into the woman’s perspective,” Comer shares. “That’s ultimately what the film explores and how there can be an experience between two people where they come away with two very different sides to a story. But there’s ultimately only ever one truth. So it was really great that Nicole was there to really delve into Marguerite’s [de Carrouges] psyche and really try to understand what that would’ve been like for a woman in that time and in any time.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Comer also discusses the final season of Killing Eve and why she’s not yet ready to get emotional over the end of her Emmy-winning role as Villanelle. Then she discusses her role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and what her future might be in a galaxy far, far away.
I’m sure 35 people have made this joke already, but thank you for leaving your accent filter on for this interview.
(Laughs.) I love that. It was funny because when Ryan and Shawn mentioned the accent filter to me, I was like, “Oh, really?” (Comer expresses disappointment.) And it was purely because Killing Eve also has a lot of chopping and changing. My brother also played video games our whole lives, and nine times out of ten, his avatar is American. So once I delved into the script and into the world, then I was like, “Oh, the accent filter makes sense for the film.”
So what’s your opinion of bubblegum ice cream?
(Laughs.) I’m more of a mint chocolate chip girl, if I’m gonna be honest. We filmed that bubblegum ice cream scene on a night shoot, and it was like 2 a.m. So I probably would’ve enjoyed the bubblegum ice cream a lot more if it had been midday, not 2 a.m.
When you auditioned for Free Guy, did you read for both characters?
Ooh, I actually think we just did Molotov Girl. When I went to the audition, my audition was in New York with Ryan, and that was actually the day after I finished season two of Killing Eve. And we did a lot of scenes together, which makes me believe and think that it was just Molotov scenes.
Ryan said that you were incredible in the audition, but he also mentioned that you were somewhat disappointed in your own performance. With that in mind, do you tend to be your own worst critic?
I probably am my own worst critic at times. That was kind of a unique experience for me because I had just come off of a huge job; Killing Eve was five or six months long. And then I got on a six-hour flight to New York, slept a little bit, got up and I was like, “Whoa, OK. This is a big thing. This is a big opportunity.” So there was a lot of time to think about all the things that I could’ve done wrong. (Laughs.) But I definitely felt like the audition went well. I think that’s down to the kind of atmosphere that Ryan and Shawn created for me, but there’s just something about auditions where as soon as you leave the door, you go, “Ah, why did I say the line that way? I could’ve said it like this.” It’s like all of your ideas suddenly float to your brain. But I think I probably am my own worst critic.
You have one of my favorite line readings in recent memory: “Oh, he found the button.” I would’ve bet money that it was an audition scene, but you just mentioned that you only auditioned as Molotov Girl.
But it was one of the scenes at the very end of the shoot, when I really felt like I’d found my confidence with it. British and American humor are quite different, whether it be tone or rhythm. So that was something that Shawn was educating me on and working with me on while we were shooting. So that was a scene that was very near the end of the shoot so I was getting my mojo a little bit. Joe [Keery] is also so incredible, and there’s quite a fast pace to that scene. I remember Shawn being in the other room, just shouting ideas at us and different kinds of direction. So that’s where that moment came from. I was also so hot in that jumper so that’s where all the emotion came from.
Did they save most of Millie’s scenes for a block at the end of production?
No, it was all kind of intertwined, really. They were very kind in that when I was filling Molotov, they never mixed the two characters on one day, which was nice. I think that was purely for time reasons. You’re very, very lucky if you get to shoot something in order.
So did you ever expect to sing a Mariah Carey song in a major studio movie?
(Laughs.) No! But I didn’t take much persuasion to be honest. Ryan texted me months after we finished filming, and he was like, “There’s this part in the movie, and we want to do this different version of the song. Would you be up for it?” So he sent me a template of it, and I thought it was so beautiful. It doesn’t sound anything like the original, but I was like, “Yeah, sure. Why not?” So I was in L.A. and I went to Capitol Records. And then I stood in a booth where The Beatles had recorded, so it was pretty cool. It’s such a beautiful part of the movie; I think it’s actually my favorite part of the movie, not because of my singing but because of Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) and Guy.
Were you aware of all the cameos in advance, or did some eventually surprise you?
Some of them surprised me, and some of them were put in afterwards. It was so embarrassing because doing this film was the first time I’ve ever heard the term Easter egg. In one of my first interviews, someone asked me about the Easter eggs, and all I could think of was a round chocolate egg that you get. I was like, “I don’t think there’s any Easter eggs.” (Laughs.) So it’s been very educational for me. But a lot of the cameos have been surprises, to be honest, and the beauty of the film is that the more people watch the movie, the more they’ll come across.
There are numerous scenes where you and/or Ryan are walking and talking in the foreground while craziness ensues in the background. Because Shawn wanted to capture a lot of those stunts in-camera, did you feel a lot more pressure in those moments since so much effort was being put into the background?
Yeah, I think so, but there’s something amazing about that energy that enables you to really switch yourself on and do it. When everyone is coming from that place, it’s really infectious, and it’s really good to use. And honestly, sometimes I’m so unaware of what’s going on around me. I remember there was a guy on fire, and I remember Lil Rel spoke about someone with a flamethrower. Sometimes, half of it was put in during post, but it’s so great how they’ve got all those little nuances and details of the gaming world.
Free Guy can be classified as many things: an action comedy, video game movie, gaming movie, etc. But I walked away feeling like I watched a romantic comedy. Does that ring true to you as well?
Yeah! I think this film can be whatever you want it to be, in all honesty. For that reason, there is something in it for everybody. It could be a film where people think, “Oh, I know what that’s going to be,” but there’s so much more to it. There’s so much heart, and I think that’s why it’s the perfect family film. You can all get something out of it.
Ryan Reynolds is a marketing genius, and you guys filmed a bunch of unique promos together for this movie, such as the Green Lantern spot or the “Emmy Winner” bit. The process of promoting a movie or show is mostly the same from project to project, but not if Ryan is involved.
Yeah, he’s so smart, and what I love about him is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. When we shot the Green Lantern one, we hadn’t even started filming yet. Me and Joe sat next to each other, and then it was Ryan and Taika. So we were just trying our hardest not to laugh because they’re so good at keeping a straight face and saying really fun things. So we were going along for the ride. Ryan makes it so much fun, and it should be fun.
In regard to Killing Eve, have your final days as Villanelle been pretty emotional?
We’ve got half still to do, so I can’t let myself get too emotional yet. There’s still a lot to get through, but it’s definitely going to be bittersweet. I’ve spent four years of my life with her, and there’s been so much in between. Hopefully, we can really give these characters the kind of ending they deserve, and hopefully the audience can enjoy and appreciate that as well.
You have another “Disney movie” coming out this year called The Last Duel, and it looks incredibly compelling. How was each phase of your experience on a Ridley Scott set?
Incredible. Getting to be a part of that film was such a huge pinch-me moment. The first time I met my agent, I was probably about 17. I went to her office, and she was like, “What is it that you want to do?” And I was like, “I really want to do period films, period dramas.” And to be standing on that set last year, I thought, “Wow, okay. This is happening.” It was incredible to work with someone like Ridley, who knows exactly what he’s doing and to feel that level of expertise and confidence. And to work with such a beautiful script and actors who I really, really admire is something that I’m really, really proud of. Of course, it’s the complete flip side to Free Guy. That’s what I love and what I really want to try and continue to do for myself and within my work. I want to challenge myself and try to experience different things.
It’s really cool how Nicole Holofcener wrote the female perspective in The Last Duel, while Affleck and Damon wrote the male perspective.
Yeah, Nicole is phenomenal, and we got on like a house on fire. So it was so lovely to have her around and really kind of delve into the woman’s perspective. That’s ultimately what the film explores and how there can be an experience between two people where they come away with two very different sides to a story. But there’s ultimately only ever one truth. So it was really great that Nicole was there to really delve into Marguerite’s [de Carrouges] psyche and really try to understand what that would’ve been like for a woman in that time and in any time.
Was it difficult to get back into Marguerite’s headspace after the long interruption, or has TV trained you for that?
I don’t remember it being too difficult. The biggest thing was trying to remember what I had created previously in regards to accent and mannerisms. I was thinking, “Oh gosh, I hope I haven’t completely taken off in a different direction.” But it was great. What was really beautiful about that was everybody was so eager, desperate and excited to be back on a set. So that really was such a wonderful place to go back to, as everyone really brought that with them. And I was just really grateful that we got to finish it. I know very little about the film industry, budgets and money, et cetera. So I thought, “Maybe they won’t pick this back up. It isn’t finished, so who knows? Everything was so uncertain.” So to have it finished and now be coming out is a really good feeling.
You were in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and you got to play the mother of an amazing character [Daisy Ridley’s Rey]. However, I still want to see more of you in the Star Wars universe. So when you joined Episode IX, did they reassure you that you’d still be eligible to play another character someday? Sometimes, this type of language is included in contracts with regard to cameos or small roles.
No, they didn’t! To be honest, that’s what I loved about coming in and getting to do that part. I knew how big it was for the story, but how small it was in regards to filming and being a part of it. But that’s what I loved. Those films are wonderful, but they are definitely a huge, huge commitment. So it was cool to come in in a significant way like that and still be able to step away from it.
Free Guy is now playing in theaters.
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