Unlike many classic movie guest appearances, Hugh Jackman‘s Free Guy cameo is surprisingly difficult to spot. The X-Men star and Greatest Showman singing sensation is no stranger to the occasional walk-on (see his memorable turn in 2011’s X-Men: First Class). However, the nature of the new Ryan Reynolds vehicle means that there’s much more occurring on-screen than meets the eye.
The movie Free Guy, which has opened to glowing reviews and a strong box office performance, takes place in the digital video game world of Free City. In this artificial setting, all characters are in fact avatars. This allows “real” people to disguise themselves, potentially allowing anyone – no matter how famous – to hide in plain sight. This understandably makes the task of spotting famous guest stars frustratingly difficult. As a result, the movie features several high-profile cameo appearances from Hollywood A-listers who look nothing like their true selves. The usually instantly identifiable Jackman is no exception. However, once one knows where to look, the inimitable Australian becomes impossible to ignore.
In a performance that flies in the face of his usual heroics, Jackman’s character in Free Guy is seen skulking in a darkened alley, offering to sell protagonist Molotovgirl, played by Jodie Comer, evidence that could aid her on her mission to save the Free City world from destruction. After an intense exchange, Jackman, voicing the ignominious Masked Player in Alley, attempts to ratchet up the price of his crucial information. This prompts a disgruntled Molotovgirl to shoot him after he starts asking too many questions about her mission. Needless to say, things don’t pan out for Jackman as well as they would if he still had his Adamantium claws and regenerative powers.
To many, Jackman’s appearance in any Reynolds movie might come as a shock. The two actors have been involved in a war of words for over a decade, spanning several film appearances and social media campaigns. Famously, Reynolds has used Jackman as the punchline in several prominent Deadpool promotions, going so far as to call their collaboration on X-Men Origins: Wolverine as a “career low for me” in a viral 2016 YouTube clip.
However, behind the false feud, the two men are actually incredibly close off-screen. In fact, Jackman played a crucial role in bringing the entire Free Guy project to fruition. In a recent interview with Forbes, director Shawn Levy confirmed Jackman acted as a conduit between himself and Reynolds, prompting the discussions that led to the movie being made. Jackman himself has a pre-existing relationship with the filmmaker, having previously starred in Levy’s 2011 science fiction sports drama Real Steel. Given this history, as well as Jackman’s association with Reynolds, it would almost be more surprising if the Australian actor didn’t feature in Free Guy.