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 in 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 a conference at the film’s Los Angeles press junket, director Steven Spielberg talked about why he wanted to make Ready Player One into a movie, the challenges of telling this story, feeding off the passion of the cast, working in such an abstract way that they wore virtual reality goggles on set to fully understand what the world would look like, why this movie was such a great escape, the enormous task of getting all of the pop culture rights, why he’d never go back and rework any of his own movies (after that E.T. disaster), and the role nostalgia plays in his own life.
STEVEN SPIELBERG: I think anybody who read the book, who was connected, at all, with the movie industry, would have loved to have made this into a movie. The book had seven movies in it, maybe twelve. It was just a matter of trying to figure out how to tell the story about this competition, in both of these worlds, and to make it an express train, racing toward the third act and, at the same time, make it a cautionary tale about leaving us the choice of where we want to exist. Do we want to exist in reality, or do we want to exist in an escapist universe? Those themes were so profound for me. That theme is consistent throughout the whole book, but there are so many places we could have taken the book.
Why was this a film you were so passionate about making?
SPIELBERG: I had a passionate and amazing cast, and I fed off that energy. I’d come to work into work and Olivia [Cooke] would be, “Okay, what do we do now? I can’t wait!” And Lena [Waithe] would say, ‘”Throw anything at me. I’m ready for it!” Every cast member was like that. Ernie [Cline] gave us a playground to basically become kids again, and we did. We made the movie on an abstract set. The only way the cast could understand where they were is that we all had virtual reality Oculus goggles. Inside the goggles was a complete build of the set that you see when you see the movie, but when you took the goggles off, it was a big white space. It was a 4,000 square foot, white, empty space called a Volume. When you put the goggles on, it was Aech’s basement or Aech’s workshop or the Distracted Globe. The actors had a chance to say, “Okay, if I walk over there, there’s the door and there’s the DJ.” It was really an out of body experience to make this movie, and it’s very hard to express what that was like.