2018
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

2016
Steven Spielberg
collaborates with Virtual Reality Company (VRC) on a project that employs immersive multimedia reality. In 2015, Steven Spielberg signed on as one of VRC’s advisors. And now, Spielberg is once again pushing the boundaries of storytelling.

The news breaks at the Technicolor Panel of the Sundance Film Festival. In his reply to a question on how to take VR filmmaking to the next level, VRC co-founder Robert Stromberg says “it is about getting other filmmakers interested of course, from the independent level to getting major players involved as well… I can say here, my company – VRC – we’re working with, for instance, Steven Spielberg on a project that’s solely for VR.

With Steven Spielberg directing Ready Player One (2018), a film that takes us into OASIS, a computer-simulated utopia, it is obvious for him to get involved in projects related to virtual reality. A tie-in experience similar to The Martian VR Experience (inspired by Ridley Scott’s film) is just one of several options.

Spielberg’s film is based on Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One, a love letter to 1980s pop culture, from Atari video games to the films of Steven Spielberg. By the 1980s, the term “virtual reality” was popularized by Jaron Lanier, one of the modern VR pioneers. Lanier’s company VPL Research  developed several VR devices like the Data Glove, the Eye Phone, and the Audio Sphere.

Illustration: © 2016 Virtual Reality Company

2016
Amblin Partners
Executive Kristie Macosko Krieger is the new “Kathleen Kennedy” in Steven Spielberg’s inner circle of creative collaborators.

Krieger served
as head of worldwide publicity at the USC Shoah Foundation, before she joined DreamWorks in 1997, starting a stellar career.

Back in 2012, when George Lucas pondered about making Kathleen Kennedy co-chair of Lucasfilm he felt obliged to first call Spielberg. “He wasn’t technically her boss—it was just
about friendship.
It was kind of like, ‘Oh, by the way,
Steven, I’m going to marry your wife.’ ”

After Disney acquired the company and Kennedy became president of Lucasfilm in 2012, there was no denying: Spielberg had to find a replacement for his trusted long-time producer and co-founder of Amblin Entertainment. The Disney production The BFG (2016) has probably been the last Spielberg-directed film, with Kennedy attached as producer – unless Spielberg is hired by her to direct Indiana Jones 5 for Disney.

Spielberg must have seen it coming: Fifteen years ago, he made Kristie Macosko Krieger his assistant on A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001). For Catch Me If You Can (2002), she became Spielberg’s associate and continued to prove her skills and trustworthiness on projects such as The Terminal (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), and Munich (2005).

Meanwhile, Kathleen Kennedy showed extraordinary commitment to mentoring
the next generation of female executives. Macosko Krieger must have been among them. Asked about Kathleen Kennedy, she says:

“If I’m stuck in a Turkish prison, she is my first phone call.”

When preparing Lincoln (2012), Spielberg made Macosko Krieger his co-producer, before she was assigned as producer of Bridge of Spies (2015) and executive producer of The BFG (2016).

She is currently producing Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018) and a film adaptation of the New York Times best-seller “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” written by Maya Van Wagenen.

Photo:

© 2016 Amblin Partners

Steven Spielberg returns to Universal Pictures

2015
Newly formed company Amblin Partners co-produces Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One with Warner Bros.

Spielberg returns to Universal Pictures – where his professional career began in 1969. Universal signs a five-year deal to market and distribute films produced by Amblin Partners.

The LA Times reports Amblin Partners has more than $300 million in financing lined up and is expected to produce four to seven films a year.

Amblin Partners – a film, television and digital content creation company – is formed by DreamWorks Studios, Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment and Entertainment One.

For the first time since the foundation of DreamWorks in 1994, Spielberg decides to invest some of his own money: $50 million.

According to the company’s press releaseAmblin Partners “develops and produces films using the Amblin, DreamWorks
Pictures
and Participant banners and includes Amblin Television, a
longtime leader in quality programming.”

The company will release family friendly movies with the Amblin brand, adult fare under the DreamWorks label and films with a social-justice element under the Participant label.

Upcoming film projects include: Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans, Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train, and Lasse Hallström’s A Dog’s
Purpose
.

Steven Spielberg returns to Universal Pictures

1999
The Matrix
, written and directed by The Wachowskis, hits theatres. The groundbreaking and highly influential science fiction film stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving.

It is inspired by cyberpunk literature such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) and by Mamoru Oshii’s animated Ghost in the Shell (1995), which counts James Cameron and Steven Spielberg among its most famous fans – their films Avatar (2009) and A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001) being influenced by it.

In The Matrix, we are taken to a dystopian future in which mankind’s perceived reality is actually a simulation called “the Matrix”. Computer programmer “Neo” is  made aware of it by swallowing a red pill and is drawn into a rebellion against Earth dominating machines that created the matrix. In the simulated world, human (as well as machine-based) protagonists are represented by human-looking avatars. The filmmakers call into question: What is reality and what is only perceived reality?

Beyond this, the film contains numerous references to philosophical and religious
ideas
as expressed in the works of Karl Marx, Franz Kafka, Zen and Homer’s Odyssey. It pays a huge homage to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and to Simulacra and Simulation by the French
philosopher Jean Baudrillard. The impressive fight sequences are influenced by Hong Kong action
cinema
.

A visual effect called “bullet time” is just one example for the innovative look and feel of the film: The heightened perception of a character is visualized by combining slow-motion shots of the action with camera movements at normal speed (watch the video clip). The downward-flowing green characters of the title sequence are another trademark of the film.

In order to subtly distinguish the “real world” and the Matrix, the
production design team applies the Matrix code’s green color in
scenes set within the simulation
, while putting an emphasis on the color
blue during sequences of the “real world”

Neo and his companions wear slick black leather trenchcoats, whereas machines are typified by sterile FBI-style suits straight from the 50s. Dialing into the matrix is done via old-fashioned phone booths and modem hook up.

The Matrix is generally well-received by critics, and grosses over $460 million worldwide, at a budget of $63 million. It receives Academy Awards for film editing, sound effects editing, visual effects, and sound. The success of the film leads to the release of two (mediocre) sequels.

Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018) will also take us into an artificially created world, featuring avatars and a hero chased by corporate henchmen.