Director Steven Spielberg’s big screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved fantasy story The BFG, just opened in theaters. However, the legendary filmmaker already has plans to direct three more films over the next three years: The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, a true story-based historical drama penned by Munich and Lincoln screenwriter, Tony Kushner; Indiana Jones 5 (official title TBA), once again featuring Harrison Ford as the bullwhip-swinging archaeologist Dr. Jones; and Ready Player One, an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling 2011 sci-fi novel.
Ready Player One takes place in a dystopian version of the year 2044, where many people spend their days playing in OASIS: a virtual world that is something of a cross between a MMORPG (that is, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and a virtual utopia, where players can solve puzzles inspired by the creator of OASIS’ obsession with pop culture from decades past – the 1980s, in particular. Cline’s source material was adapted for the big screen by screenwriter Zak Penn (creator of the TV show Alphas and writer of The Incredible Hulk film).
It’s Penn who has now confirmed that production on Spielberg’s movie is underway. Penn revealed the news on his verified Twitter account that Ready Player One has just wrapped its first week of production, in the process thanking Cline for his “assist in Oology.”
For those who haven’t read Cline’s original book: Oology is a branch of ornithology that focuses on the study of bird nesting and breeding habits; in the world of OASIS and Ready Player One in particular, Oology is a term used to refer to the players who participate in the Halliday’s Hidden Egg Hunt: a search to solve the last puzzle designed by OASIS creator James Halliday before his death. It’s the hunt for Halliday’s last “Easter Egg” that drives the plot of Ready Player One, as whoever finds it will become the heir to the OASIS creator’s accumulated fortune (and gain ownership of OASIS in the process).
Tye Sheridan (Mud, X-Men: Apocalypse) is playing Ready Player One‘s teenage protagonist Wade Watts, while Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) costars as Wade’s fellow OASIS player (and secret crush), Samantha Cook. The role of OASIS creator James Halliday is being played by Mark Rylance: the celebrated stage actor who won an Oscar for his role in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies and plays The BFG‘s namesake.
Rylance, who’s also lined up to play a role in Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, noted during an interview with LA Daily News that “[Spielberg] was challenged on ‘BFG,’ I would say, by the technological frontline that he wanted to do, and is doing again with ‘Ready Player One’ now.”
Ready Player One does read as being a technological challenge from a filmmaking perspective, seeing as it’s a TRON-like adventure story that takes place largely in a virtual world that certainly parallels the modern digital realm known as the Internet. The film’s virtual setting is also heavily informed by ’80s pop culture in particular – an idea that, admittedly, doesn’t sound as fresh now as it did when Cline’s novel released in 2011, following the wave of ’80s reboots/remakes that have flooded the market since then (see RoboCop, TMNT, Ghostbusters, and so forth).
Nevertheless, Spielberg’s days as an imaginative (and innovative) storyteller are far from over; and with a talented cast at his disposal that also includes Simon Pegg (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley), and Hannah John-Kamen (Killjoys), Spielberg’s Ready Player One may yet find new life in pop culture nostalgia.
Ready Player One opens in U.S. theaters on March 30th, 2018.