The Ready Player One movie took over eight years to make from the time the rights were acquired to the moment the film hit screens worldwide. Ernest Cline's novel of the same name was first published in 2011, but the story's journey onto the big screen began before that. Most of the time, Hollywood likes to adapt classic novels that have a built-in readership and fan base, but sometimes, certain properties get caught up in a bidding war prior to being published. One particular novel that comes to mind for most people is Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park.
With regards to Ready Player One, Warner Bros. Pictures acquired the movie rights to the novel in 2010 for Farah Films and De Line Pictures to produce, and that's when work on the inevitable film adaptation began. What's interesting, Cline says he had finished his draft of the script before the book even released. While the project went through several years of development before finally moving into pre-production in 2015 and principal photography in 2016, the film didn't end up hitting theaters in March 2018 - just about eight years after the book's rights had first been acquired.
In the special features on Ready Player One's Blu-ray, producer Dan Farah discusses the nascent stages of development on the film adaptation, from the moment he boarded the project, in helping Cline seek out a publisher, to getting the movie on the big screen:
"In early 2010, Ernie gave me a draft of Ready Player One, the novel that he'd been working on and he'd been telling me about, and it was fantastic. And we went in search of a book agent, a partner-in-crime on the book side. We took the book out to publishers in June of 2010, and we found ourselves in a giant publishing bidding war. ...And then, as a producer, I took the book into all the movie studios and Warner Bros. absolutely loved the book. And it was in that process that I partnered up with Donald De Line to produce the movie and develop the adaptation."
It was an eight-year journey getting the book adapted onto the big screen, but the actual process of making the movie appears to have been about six years, according to Farah, with half of that time dedicated to drafting the screenplay - between Cline and screenwriter Zak Penn - and finding the right creative team to bring the story to life; in this case, that was Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment. The other half was spent in pre-production, production, and post-production, respectively. Farah said:
"Steven came on spring of 2015 not only to direct but also to be our lead producing partner. His partner at Amblin, Kristie Macosko Krieger, also came on board as a producer and it's been a pretty amazing six-year journey."
Filmmaking takes time, that much everyone knows. But what general audiences don't see is all the time that goes into developing a movie long before the public even hears of its existence. Sure, many people are aware of all the different stages of development for a blockbuster superhero movie, but that's not always the case for smaller projects or even tent-pole productions like Ready Player One. In the end, everyone involved with Spielberg's film walked away happy with what they created - and for them, that six-year journey (eight years for Cline and Farah) was well worth it.
Ready Player One is out now on Blu-ray and digital HD.
Update: This article has been updated with clarified language on the early stages of development.