From filmmaker Steven Spielberg and adapted from the book by Ernest Cline, the sci-fi action adventure epic Ready Player One is set in the year 2045 and follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), as he escapes real life inside of the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days, living as any avatar they so choose and with only your own imagination as a limitation. When the OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), he embedded a three-part contest into it to find a worthy heir for his immense fortune and total control of this virtual world, and as Wade and his friends, called the High Five, take on the challenge, they put themselves directly into the path of danger.
At the film’s Los Angeles press day, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with Ernest Cline, who also co-wrote the screenplay, to chat 1-on-1 about creating his own avatar, that he was always planning on writing two more parts of this story (and calling them Ready Player Two and Ready Player Three), whether he’s talked to Spielberg about doing a sequel movie, how much better this experience was from what he went through with Fanboys, what it’s like to have one of your favorite directors bring a world you created to life, and what he learned about Spielberg from working with him.
Collider: This movie is just so delightful and fun! You created this whole world, but if you got to create your own avatar for a virtual world, what would you want it to look like? Would it be something human-like, or would you want something totally not human?
ERNEST CLINE: It would be interesting to be something inhuman. That was a design change that Steven [Spielberg] made in the movie. He, at some point, decided that all the characters would look slightly inhuman. Art3mis has almost catlike features, Aech is half-human, half-machine, and Parzival is almost anime, stylized with snake-like bands on his skin. I don’t know, I think I would want to change a lot. I think I would try out different things. I explore this in the book, but it would be interesting to walk around as a person of a different gender or a different race, and see how people respond to you differently, or to be something completely inhuman and see people would react to that. It would be interesting. But, I’m not sure what I would be.
Were you always planning to write a sequel to this book?
CLINE: Yeah! And I had actually mapped out, with outlines, what I thought Parts 2 and 3 would be. When I first wrote Ready Player One and I registered the domain name online, I also registered Ready Player Two and Ready Player Three because I knew that someday I might want to tell more stories. I did so much work creating the OASIS and setting up in the first story, and it seemed to have so much potential to tell so many other stories, beyond just this contest, that I knew I would want to return to it someday. Luckily, I ended up being involved in making the movie, and going and visiting the set, and helping collaborate on the screenplay. That was while I was starting to work on Ready Player Two, which was good because it was returning to that universe, so I was switching back and forth between the Ready Player One movie and Ready Player Two. I worked very hard. I wanted to have a first draft of the story, before I saw the movie, so that the movie wouldn’t influence me too much. Even though I worked on it and I knew what was happening in the movie, I wanted to write a sequel that would please fans of the book, who would feel like it was a sequel to the book, but also have the story be something that could also be a film sequel. It was a tricky process.
Has Steven Spielberg given you any notes on the sequel?
CLINE: You know, he has. We talked about it, a little bit. I told him what I had planned and bounced that idea off of him. When that was happening, he was still focused on this movie and he more wanted to know what I had planned, as it relates to the ending of this film, but what I have planned is set up very nicely, by the end of this movie. I’m really happy.
Have you talked about possibly doing a sequel with him?
CLINE: No, not directly. He was like, “I want to finish this movie first.” But I think there’s a good chance that, if this one does well, Warner Bros. will want to make a sequel. I don’t know if Steven would want to dive back in, because he would know what he is getting into. He’s said that it’s the third hardest film he’s made, out of dozens and dozens of movies. He said Jaws will always be the worst. Saving Private Ryan was just brutal ‘cause he was recreating D-Day, day by day. And with this, it was like making two different movies at once – making a completely CGI movie, which ILM did all the special effects for, and then making this movie in the real world, and having them be parallel and cut back and forth. That was why it was astounding to me that he stopped, while we were doing post-production, and went off and made The Post. He was like, “Oh, that was so much easier. There were no special effects. I was just working with actors and setting up shots. That was a cake walk, compared to Ready Player One.” So, I don’t know if he would want to dive right back in, but maybe in a couple years, he might have recovered enough. I really hope that, if we do make another one, that he would do it. Michael Crichton, the novelist, is the only one to get that lucky and have two of his books made into movies by Steven, but maybe I’ll get lucky, too.