“Ready Player One” is one of those movies that rewards close attention and repeated viewings. Steven Spielberg’s ode to all things the '80s is positively stuffed with references, Easter eggs, and hidden gems -- with many of them not entirely noticeable until you’ve looked everywhere else in the scene. (Also, it helps if you’re an aficionado of the same pop culture miscellanea as the characters in the film.)
In keeping with the film’s themes of discovery and self-reliance, here are five things you probably don’t know about “Ready Player One,” now available on digital HD, DVD, and Blu-ray.
1. At One Point, Halliday Really Was Willy Wonka
There is definitely a “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” vibe to “Ready Player One.” Novelist and co-screenwriter Ernie Cline said that he was inspired by Roald Dahl when crafting the storyline and early marketing materials borrowed music from the original film. But at one point there was an even greater Wonka element to “Ready Player One.”
Supposedly when Spielberg signed onto the film, way back in 2015, he first went to Gene Wilder and asked if he’d like to essay the role of James Halliday, the benevolent creator of the OASIS whose treasure hunt the movie hinges around. Wilder declined Spielberg’s invitation and ended up passing away in 2016 at the age of 83. Hopefully, now he’s in a world of pure imagination.
2. “The Shining” Sequence Required Multiple Disciplines
For all of its pop culture illusions and meticulous recreations, there’s nothing quite like the centerpiece sequence where the High Five enters the world of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” (Both times we saw the movie theatrically, the audience went absolutely nuts.)
To create this unforgettable moment, a number of disciplines were utilized. There was the obvious motion capture elements, which required the actors to go through the “volume” just like they would any other scene set in the OASIS. But there were also, more practical elements, including fully constructed sections of the hotel that required new, live action photography (including that infamous bathtub and those elevator doors). What’s more, a pair of young actresses were cast as the movie’s eerie twins. At one point, the sequence went even further -- there’s an image in “The Art of Ready Player One” book that features Wendy Torrance (as played by Shelley Duvall) wandering the hedge maze, and a moment when Art3mis and Parzival dodge a giant tricycle, with another double-homage with them trapped in a bathroom that starts to spin like the cylindrical space station subterfuge from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett says in the book that even the overall feeling of “Ready Player One” changes when that scene begins. “The look of the movie itself changes. It becomes grainy. It has the look of a film that was shot in 1980.” Incredible.
Also incredible: Kubrick’s widow, Christiane, and his longtime assistant and brother-in-law, Jan Harlan, visited the set when they were filming the sequence and even took a photo with the young actors playing the twins.
3. This Movie Really Challenged Spielberg
It’s weird to think of Steven Spielberg running into a challenge – technological or otherwise – that he would find daunting, especially when you consider that he’s been working with the same crew, with slight variations, since 1993. But “Ready Player One” was just that.
At various points in the home video release’s special features, he says that making the movie was like shooting “four movies at once” (given the complicated dynamics of the “virtual camera” and motion capture systems) and there’s footage of the director, on the last day of the shoot (everyone has their little plastic shooter full of champagne), telling everyone it was the hardest movie he’d ever made. But I’m sure it kept him young. Right?
4. Tye Sheridan and Ernie Cline’s Bonding Paid Off
Early in the production process, star Tye Sheridan (who plays Parzival) found himself in Austin, Texas, which is where Ernie Cline, author of “Ready Player One” and co-writer of its screenplay, lives. The two bonded and Cline even let Sheridan drive his prized DeLorean DMC-12. (Of course the author of “Ready Player One” owns a DeLorean.)
Now, while this might just seem like a heartwarming outing between two coworkers, it actually helped the movie. During the early, oh-so-awesome race sequence, Parzival has to drive backwards to earn the key. But initially Sheridan was just looking behind him, like you would in any other vehicle. He then remembered that Parzival’s DeLorean would be decked out like Doc’s from “Back to the Future,” which meant that the rear window would be obscured by the Flux Capacitor. This led Sheridan to change his approach to the scene, making it even cooler; he popped one of the car’s famous gulf-wing doors and hung his head out of it, thus giving him the eyeline he so desperately needed. And it all came from hanging out with the world’s biggest nerd in Austin, Texas.
5. There’s an Extra “Gremlins” Easter Egg You Might Have Missed
Steven Spielberg famously attempted to keep the references to his own work to a minimum, although there were some things that he deemed too essential to jettison entirely (the T. Rex from “Jurassic Park,” the DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” etc.) However, he was adamant that there be no gremlins. Of course, this didn’t exactly worked out the way he’d planned.
While reviewing visual effects shots towards the end of production, he noticed some sneaky Industrial Light & Magic artist had squeezed some of the nasty little freaks from “Gremlins” into the background of a large battle sequence. But that’s not the only reference to Joe Dante’s iconic film in “Ready Player One.” It turns out there’s a much more subtle nod to “Gremlins” earlier in the film, when iRok (er, TJ Miller) retrieves a mystical orb for Sorrento. The small wooden box that he opens to find the orb is the same one that housed the mystical Mogwai at the beginning of “Gremlins.” It’s a deep cut Easter Egg for only the biggest dorks, but, hey, isn’t that all of “Ready Player One?”
“Ready Player One” is now available on digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray. It rewards repeated viewings.
In 2045, the planet is on the brink of chaos and collapse, but people find salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by James Halliday. When Halliday dies, he promises his immense fortune to the first person to discover a digital Easter egg that's hidden somewhere in the OASIS. When young Wade Watts joins the contest, he finds himself becoming an unlikely hero in a reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical world of mystery, discovery and danger. Read More