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The Adam Project Director Shawn Levy On Working With Ryan Reynolds, 80s Movies Sci-Fi Inspirations & More

In The Adam Project, after accidentally crash-landing in 2022, time-travelling fighter pilot Adam Reed teams up with his 12-year-old self on a mission to save the future. This science-fiction time travelling movie reunites director Shawn Levy and actor Ryan Reynolds after 2021’s Free Guy.

Courtesy of Netflix Malaysia, we were lucky enough to interview The Adam Project director Shawn Levy about working with Ryan Reynolds, the movie’s 80s sci-fi inspirations and more. This interview has been edited for clarity.

The Adam Project is slated to premiere exclusively on Netflix on 11 March 2022.

What was it like to work together again with Ryan Reynolds again after Free Guy?

Shawn Levy: Ryan and I stumbled into a fantastic brotherhood when we met on Free Guy. Our mutual friend, Hugh Jackman, had told us for years, that if we ever made a movie together, Ryan and I would make 20 together. And we did find that we had very simpatico (compatible) personalities, work ethic, work attitude; we like to work really, really hard, but we also like it to be fun and we like to go home to our wives and our daughters.

So, we don’t believe that work needs to be torturous and hard for it to be great. So, we just found that we had a lot of similar attitudes and he makes me better at my job, I try to make him better at his job. Even when we’re not working, we love each other. We spend a lot of time together and it’s become a really nice friendship and a nice collaboration and one that we hope will result in many more movies together for the next many years.

How much input did Ryan Reynolds have for the jokes and script?

Shawn Levy: I think that when you collaborate with someone like Ryan, it would be crazy to ask him to just stand there and say the script. That would be like asking Deadpool not to use his blades. You want to let the person use their superpowers, and for me, that means letting Ryan Reynolds collaborate and contribute as a screenwriter and as a comedic voice.

So, on Free Guy and The Adam Project, Ryan and I did rewrites of the script for months before we started filming and then, when we were filming, we would collaborate and improvise new ideas every day. Certainly, there was already a huge idea and a great screenplay with The Adam Project, but every day in pre-production and every day in production, and every day in editorial, I would collaborate with Ryan to write new jokes, add new ideas, and it’s really why he’s more than just a performer.

He’s a true producer, alongside me, producing these movies.

How did you find Walker Scobell (The Adam Project is his debut feature film role)?

Shawn Levy: Walker is a revelation. The first thing I did, which I think is the smartest thing I did, was I called Carmen Cuba. Carmen is the casting director who cast Stranger Things for The Duffer Brothers and I. So, I knew from experience that she had an incredible instinct for young talent. She was able to find new, young actors in places that not everyone looked. So, I hired Carmen and we saw hundreds of boys, and Walker was among those boys.

When we hired him, we knew that he was very talented. We knew he was a good, authentic sweet kid, but we didn’t know that he was a Deadpool fanboy. An extreme Deadpool fanboy. So, Walker, even though he was only 11 or 12 when we met, had watched both Deadpool movies 25 times. So, he came to The Adam Project as an expert in Ryan Reynolds’ sarcasm and humour.

So, we were able to direct him, but he didn’t need to be taught from the ground up. He came with an encyclopedic knowledge of Ryan Reynolds’ rhythm, delivery style and mannerisms.

There were a lot of references and easter eggs in the movie. Can you tell us more about your 1980s movie inspirations?

Shawn Levy: So many of us were inspired by movies of the 80s. Those of us who were either pre-teens or teenagers in the 80s, I feel like the film culture of that decade permeated our soul and sticks with us. For me as a filmmaker, those films are part of my DNA. So, certainly, the ones that you mentioned, but also Back To The Future and E.T. Those emblem movies from my youth, my adolescence, they were escapist and joyous. But they were also very often about themes that felt bigger.

E.T. was about an alien, but it was really about the loss of the father and abandonment, and the way connection can save your life. A great emblem movie was always about popcorn fun, but it was always about something more human. The Adam Project, similarly, aspires to be an escapist adventure but also soulful and hopefully, emotionally resonant as well.

What was your vision for the film and what message are you trying to get across to viewers?

Shawn Levy: My vision for The Adam Project was two-fold. I wanted a populist piece of entertainment, I wanted it to be fun. I wanted it to be a joyous experience for the audience but I also had this idea, I knew there was a deeper idea here that could make the movie very emotional, the idea of reconsidering your past. All of us have ideas about our past, and we get locked into an idea of our history.

But that’s not necessarily accurate. And so I thought that a movie might be really profound and emotional if it could literally examine, a re-examination, of one’s personal history. So, I guess my vision of the movie is entertainment but also emotional warmth. And based on early reactions to the movie, it’s very gratifying that it seems to be providing both for viewers.

What’s unique about the time travel in The Adam Project compared to other sci-fi movies?

Shawn Levy: There’s been, of course, many time travel movies. Time travel movies are a subgenre of science fiction. My goal was to make a time travel movie that is not very sci-fi. I wanted it to look real, sound real, feel real. I didn’t want to make a conceptual, intellectual, piece of science fiction. I want to make emotional sci-fi, so I tried to simplify the rules of time travel and simplify the plot so that we could connect with the characters and the emotions and experience the movie in our hearts and not just our heads.


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