After screening READY PLAYER ONE, I was amazed by the visuals and "feel" of the film. Which of course led me to research the production to learn how Steven Spielberg brought this action adventure film to life.
Here's some interesting behind the scene bits on READY PLAYER ONE
Note: I was invited as media to the movie screening by Warner Bros. However any personal views expressed are always 100% my own.
“Ready Player One,” is based on Ernest Cline’s bestseller of the same name, and from a screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline.
Ernest Cline credits Spielberg with being one of his greatest influences in creating his first novel. “It’s hard to quantify what a profound effect Steven Spielberg’s work has had on my life and my interests, but I could not have written Ready Player One if I had not grown up on a steady diet of his films.
Just as anyone who grew up with a passion for movies in the 1970s and `80s, his work is woven into the fabric of my life. So much of it ended up informing the story and the way I chose to write it, and the evidence of that is seen throughout the book.”
BOOK TO SCREEN
“Ready Player One” is set in 2045, when people will have the ability to enter into a digital universe called the OASIS, where you go wherever you want, do whatever you like, be whomever or whatever you choose to be. With the population beset by unemployment, poverty, overcrowding, and utter hopelessness, “it’s a good time to escape into a virtual world where you can live an extraordinary life through your avatar,” says Spielberg. “All you need is an imagination, and that will take you far in the OASIS. But when you escape from reality, you’re also, in a way, divesting yourself of any real human contact. So, the story is entertaining, but there is also a bit of a social commentary.”
In bringing the novel to the screen, it was vital to the filmmakers to be respectful of the source material, as well as its many fans. “But,” Spielberg acknowledges, “every book has to go through a process of adaptation when it goes from a literary work to a cinematic one. I think we ended up with just the right elements to tell a truly wonderful story.”
One of the changes involved the director himself. He explains, “The book had a lot of references to my own movies as a director and producer from the `80s, but I did not want the film to be me holding up a mirror to myself from that time. We left a couple of references in, but it mainly features the cultural imprints that other filmmakers, artists, fashion designers and musicians from that era had made.”
At first glance, Wade Watts would not appear to be your typical image of a hero. Spielberg says, “Every film I produced or directed in the `80s had underdogs as heroes, and Wade is certainly an underdog. He’s a smart but somewhat disenfranchised young man who is in a very unhappy place in his life: his parents have died and he’s living with his aunt and her current boyfriend in a rundown vertical trailer park in Columbus, Ohio, called the Stacks. His only personal satisfaction comes in trying to win Halliday’s contest in the OASIS.”
“For me, it’s always great to work with young actors, so I had the most fun casting Tye, Olivia, Lena, Win and Philip,” Spielberg says. “They were able to take their characters and make them into something even beyond what’s on the page, and that’s always what I look for.”
THE VIRTUAL WORLD
The production pushed the envelope of filmmaking technology, with Spielberg collaborating with the visual effects wizards at ILM and Digital Domain, among others, to take audiences into the fantastical world of the OASIS. To further accentuate the stark contrast between the OASIS and the grittier real world, Spielberg shot scenes in the latter on film while scenes in the virtual universe were shot digitally.
“The layers we had to achieve to put the OASIS on screen made it one of the most complicated things I’ve ever done,” the veteran filmmaker states. “There was motion capture, live action, computer animation... It was really like making four movies at the same time.”
Spielberg even utilized today’s virtual reality tools to direct shots in the futuristic virtual reality of the OASIS. Macosko Krieger details, “Using VR goggles, he could actually step into the digital sets, get a 360-degree view of the environments and figure out camera angles and how he was going to shoot it. It was a first for us, and it opened up so many possibilities for Steven. But it was a difficult process, so I’m very glad this movie was in his hands.”
Despite the advancements, Spielberg emphasizes, “I never make movies for the sake of technology; I only use it to tell a better story. The technology is there to help this kind of film come into existence, but then it should disappear so all you’re focused on is the story and the characters.”
THE REAL WORLD
The filmmakers employed different techniques to denote a visual dichotomy between the wondrous virtual realm and stark reality. As the action moved from the OASIS to the physical world, Spielberg switched from filming digitally to shooting on film, working closely with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger states, “Steven and Janusz wanted to give the real world a grainier appearance, and you can see the difference between what was shot on film and the glossier OASIS. So Janusz was instrumental in defining the tone of the real world.”
In addition, production designer Adam Stockhausen utilized color—or lack thereof—to further establish the delineation. He expounds, “The OASIS is an intense visual experience with a rich color palette, while the real world is desaturated and nearly devoid of bright colors. A lot of that came straight out of the book.”
I hope you enjoyed learning how Steven Spielberg brought the world of READY PLAYER ONE to life. You can see READY PLAYER ONE in theaters nationwide.
In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spend their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone—the only limits are your own imagination.
The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends—known as the High Five—are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.
“Ready Player One” stars Tye Sheridan (“X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Mud”), Olivia Cooke (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “Bates Motel”), Ben Mendelsohn (“Rogue One – A Star Wars Story,” “Bloodline”), Lena Waithe (“Master of None”), T.J. Miller (“Deadpool”), Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), with Simon Pegg (the “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible” movies) and Oscar winner Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies,” “Dunkirk”).
Three-time Oscar winner Spielberg directed the film from a screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline. It is based on the novel by Cline,
Produced by Donald De Line, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Spielberg and Dan Farah.
Executive producers Adam Somner, Daniel Lupi, Chris deFaria and Bruce Berman.
Warner Bros. Pictures and Amblin Entertainment present, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, an Amblin Production, a De Line Pictures Production, a Steven Spielberg Film, “Ready Player One.”
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