Back in 2010, a screenwriter by the name of Ernest Cline sold his first novel in a bidding war to Crown Publishing Group. The very next day Warner Bros. snapped up the film rights with Cline attached to write the screenplay. The story is Ready Player One, a dystopian tale set in the near future where most of the population spend their lives in a virtual world called the OASIS: a digital universe made up of 10,000 planets. When billionaire founder James Halliday dies, he leaves a digital will to his fortune – one up for grabs to anyone willing to take on the quest before them. Somewhere in the OASIS is an Easter Egg which is the key to his legacy and ultimate control of the OASIS. The story focuses in on Wade Watts, a 1980s pop culture and video game obsessive as he sets off to win the prize of a lifetime.
Since the book’s release and worldwide success, there’s been much anticipation about the Ready Player One movie – with some claiming it to be unfilmable due to the complex nature of the OASIS as described in the novel, as well as securing the rights to all the ’80s film, tv and video game references. In 2014, Warner Bros. reportedly approached Christopher Nolan to direct, but it was later announced that a deal for Steven Spielberg to direct had been secured, with a release slated in for 2018.
Since these announcements, some of the main characters in Ready Player One have been cast. The protagonist Wade Watts is to be played by Tye Sheridan (Mud) and his love interest/quest competitor, Art3mis, will be portrayed by Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel). In addition, Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises, Bloodline) is in talks to play the villainous Nolan Sorrento. Meanwhile, according to the latest casting update from THR, Simon Pegg is involved in talks to play Ogden Morrow in the film.
Morrow, for those unfamiliar with the Ready Player One narrative, is the co-creator of the OASIS, and best friend of the deceased Halliday. He is the public face of their virtual world and is better known by his ‘in-game’ avatar: The Great and Powerful Og. A more extroverted character than the reclusive Halliday was, yet he is very respectful of his former colleague’s Easter Egg challenge for his billion dollar fortune.
Simon Pegg, a self-professed pop culture geek himself, has already been living out his childhood dreams playing Scotty in the rebooted Star Trek trilogy (of which he co-wrote the latest installment – this summer’s Star Trek Beyond), and his cameo role, thanks to his buddy JJ Abrams, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens – where he played Unkar Plutt, a junkboss on Jakku. And let’s not forget his three-time turn as techy Benji Dunn in the Mission: Impossible movies. Not to mention, Pegg and Spielberg have collaborated before too, as Pegg and his frequent costar/real-life pal Nick Frost voiced the bumbling inspectors Thompson and Thompson in Spielberg’s motion-capture The Adventures of Tintin movie.
Taking all this into account, Pegg is not a stranger to playing up to his geekiness, so it would seem only natural for him to take on the part of Ogden Morrow – who comes across as something of a nerdy, eccentric Gandalf in the Ready Player One source material. Let’s just hope he doesn’t rely too much on what he’s done in other roles, including his time as Tim in the cult classic British sitcom Spaced. Perhaps he’ll bring something fresh to this wealthy older geek of a character – though, we’ll have to wait another two years to find out.
Ready Player One will hit U.S. theaters on March 30, 2018.