Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling novel Ready Player One is his first foray into the realms of science fiction since War of the Worlds (2005)
and the first Steven Spielberg-directed film project for Warner Bros. since A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001).
Set in the year 2044, the dystopian Ready Player One unfolds in a massive multiplayer online role-playing game called The OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), a fake utopia that human beings come to prefer to the harsh reality of their lives. Young Wade Watts (or Parzival as he is known in The OASIS),
is devoted to the game, and manages to unlock the first clue to a
contest that promises the winner control of The OASIS and the massive
fortune of the games’ creator, James Donovan Halliday. Parzival has to compete against an armada of egghunters (”gunters”) who try to find Halliday’s “easter eggs”.
The story is
filled with references to
the 1980s – including films produced or directed by Steven Spielberg. However, Spielberg decides to remove most of those film references from the script:
I love the ‘80s, and I
think one of the reasons I decided to make the movie was that it brought
me back to the 1980s and let me do anything I want – except for my own
movies. I’ve cut most of my movies out of Ernie [Cline]’s book, except
for the Delorean and a couple of other things that I had something to do
with. I’ve cut a lot of my own references out. I was very happy to see
that there was enough without me! The ’80s was a great time to grow up.
Mark Rylance plays
James Donovan Halliday (for this part, actors such as Gene Wilder and Michael Keaton were originally considered). Incidentally, James Donovan was the name of Tom Hanks’s character in Bridge of Spies (2015) which marked the first collaboration between Rylance and Steven Spielberg.
The cast includes
Olivia Cooke as Samantha Evelyn Cook / Art3mis, Ben Mendelsohn as the villain Nolan Sorrento, and Simon Pegg as Ogden Morrow, co-creator of The OASIS. T.J. Miller plays i-R0k and Win Morisaki portrays one of the top “gunters”, Daito. His pal Shoto is played by Philip Zhao. Another “gunter” called F’Nale Zandor is played by Hannah John-Kamen.
Wade’s mother Loretta is portrayed by Simone Kirby.
Following an open casting call, 19-year-old Tye Sheridan is selected for the lead part Wade Watts. For his debut in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011), Sheridan was chosen from a field of 10,000 boys to play the youngest son
of Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt.
During pre-production, Tye Sheridan tells Variety:
“It’s a new spin on cinema. A good third of the film takes place in a
virtual realm inside a video game. What I love about the film is that it
plays with some metaphorically bigger themes. I think it’s going to be a
milestone for cinema in its advancements and exploration of virtual
reality. I couldn’t be more excited and grateful to be a part of it.”
In a high six-figure upfront deal, the film rights to Ready Player One are purchased by Warner Bros. the same day Ernest Cline finalizes his publishing deal with Random House, one year prior to his debut novel’s publication.
Ernest Cline adapts his own novel into a screenplay, with Eric Eason and Zak Penn sharing screenplay credits. Zak Penn‘s story credits include The Avengers (2012). Eric Eason has written the screenplay for A Better Life (2011).
Adam Stockhausen who worked for Bridge of Spies (2015) returns as Production Designer. Other regular Spielberg-collaborators include Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger, Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, Editor Michael Kahn, and Composer John Williams.
Principal photography is scheduled to start in London in June 2016.
Avoiding a box office battle with Star Wars: Episode VIII, the release date of Ready Player One is moved from December 2017 to March 30, 2018.
Spielberg’s name above a film’s title usually guarantees mass audience appeal, but after Star Wars: The Force Awakens has earned more than $2 billion and becomes the third highest grossing movie in history – behind only Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) – Warner Bros.is wise enough to evade direct confrontation with the next Star Wars chapter.
Warner Bros. reacts after Disney shifted Star Wars VIII from May 2017 to Dec. 15. According to Variety, Warner Bros. is not running scared: The new date coincides with Easter, and there are no major competitors scheduled to open in April 2018, giving Ready Player One a comfortable slot.
Cover Art: © 2012 Random House