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Ready Player One Director and Cast Interview

An Interview with Steven Spielberg, Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke.

Mar 26, 2018

By: Lynn Barker

The young star of the sci-fi actioner Ready Player One, Tye Sheridan, played young Cyclops in X-Men Apocalypse, and he’ll appear soon in X-Men Dark Phoenix. Tye was nervous and excited about playing the lead in a Steven Spielberg movie. The film, about gamers in a virtual reality land called the Oasis, was based on a popular novel by Ernest Cline. Tye had never been much of a gamer but he learned…quickly. He also had to learn to strut like John Travolta in the classic film Saturday Night Fever. This was how Mr. Spielberg saw his character/avatar Parzival.

Wade (Tye) trying to stay alive in the real worldWade (Tye) trying to stay alive in the real worldCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Olivia Cook, from Manchester, England, who plays gamer Art3mis, was in Ouija and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl as well as TV’s “Bates Motel”. The movie (and novel) pays tribute to the pop culture of the 1980’s. Olivia was thrilled to do disco dancing sequences in Ready Player One since she frequented discos as a kid in the U.K.

Wade meets Samantha in her virtual reality gearWade meets Samantha in her virtual reality gearCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Iconic director Steven Spielberg calls Ready Player One his “great escape movie” that “fulfilled all my fantasies”. Check out what filmmaker and his two young, lead cast members had to say about this colorful and highly-anticipated film.

Samantha (Olivia's) avatar Art3misSamantha (Olivia's) avatar Art3misCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Mr. Spielberg, what was it about this story and these characters that made you want to make Ready Player One?  

  • Spielberg: I think anybody who read the book that was connected at all with the movie industry would have loved to have made this movie. It was just a matter of trying to tell the story about this competition, both of these worlds (real and virtual), and to make it a sort of express train and racing toward the third act and, (also), a little bit of a cautionary tale about leaving us the choice. Do we want to exist in reality or do we exist in an escapist universe? The themes were so profound for me when I read the book.

Spielberg directing Ready Player OneSpielberg directing Ready Player OneCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Why did you have so much passion, joy and imagination for this story? It’s evident on screen.

  • Spielberg: I had a passionate and amazing cast. They were all younger than me so I kind of fed off that energy. Tye (was great).  A story like this, Ernie (Cline) gave us a playground to basically become kids again and we did. We all became kids again. I was working with young actors in their 20’s if that. That’s where the energy came from.

Samantha (Olivia) left, with other players in real worldSamantha (Olivia) left, with other players in real worldCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: The sets for the Oasis part of the movie weren’t really there, right?

  • Spielberg: Yeah. We made the movie on an abstract set. The only way the cast could understand where they were, we all had virtual reality oculus goggles. Inside the goggles was a complete build of the set you saw in the movie but when we took the goggles off, it was a big, four thousand foot white, empty space called a “Volume”. But when you put the goggles on it was Aech’s workshop or basement so the actors had a chance to say ‘Okay, if I walk over there, there’s the D.J.’. It was really an out of body experience to make this movie. It’s very hard to express what that was like.
  • Olivia: It was wonderful. We just lived in our own imaginations for five months where we hadn’t had a chance to do that since we were children. So, to be able to completely rely on our guts and our interaction with Steven and the other cast, made it so special and different to anything I think any of us had ever done before.
  • Tye:  When we got to live action everybody was like ‘Ahh, okay I remember how to do this. This is real world now’. The hardest part is when you are in an empty space and anything is possible.

Wade (Tye) and Samantha (Olivia) with other playersWade (Tye) and Samantha (Olivia) with other playersCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Tye, we understand that your first day on set was pretty nerve-wracking and had to do with music. Can you explain?

  • Tye:  I was extremely nervous on the first day and I actually didn’t know it was going to be my first day. Steven shows up on the last day of rehearsal and says ‘Let’s shoot something!’ I thought ‘I hope he doesn’t want to shoot anything with me’ and he’s like ‘Just send everybody else home. I just want to use Tye’. He brings me over to the side and says ‘Have you been working on your Parzival walk?’ I said ‘What is a Parzival walk? I didn’t know I had to work on a Parzival walk’. He says ‘It’s kind of like the John Travolta walk in the beginning of Saturday Night Fever. He’s got a certain swagger’.

Parzival, Wade's avatarParzival, Wade's avatarCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: That must have been intimidating.

  • Tye: (nods yes). I’m like ‘Okay’. He says ‘I just want to capture you walking’. So I’m standing on one side of the Volume and Steven’s on the other side. No one else is on the floor and I’m just waiting for him to call ‘action’. He pulls out his phone, hits the screen and starts playing “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and starts walking toward me nodding his head and holding up his phone and goes ‘and, action’.
  • Spielberg: And you can see that walk in Ready Player One. It’s in the movie. But a lot of the songs came from (writers) Zak Penn and Ernie Cline. I have to say that the songs are from their playlist.

Tye as Parzival/Wade with Lena Waithe as Aech/HelenTye as Parzival/Wade with Lena Waithe as Aech/HelenCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Tye, did you have any old video game experience?

  • Tye: There is a scene in the movie where I play an Atari game and I’d researched the game and watched videos. I’d done as much as I could without actually playing the game. I was like ‘I’ve never played an Atari so you guys are going to have to teach me to hold the control. I don’t want to look like I’m holding it the wrong way’. I got lessons from Steven and Zak on that.

Tye as Parzival/Wade in virtual reality gearTye as Parzival/Wade in virtual reality gearCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: What game or moment in the film really geeked you out and stirred up childhood memories?

  • Tye: For me it was The Iron Giant. That was a movie that I played so many times in my childhood. I have a very sentimental connection to that figure. While shooting the movie, we could see our Avatars in real time on a 2D screen, and I would look over at my Avatar and see Iron Giant’s foot. ‘That’s Iron Giant’s foot!’ That’s so cool!
  • Spielberg: I saw The Iron Giant when it first came out. I’m a big fan of (filmmaker) Brad Bird’s. So that was to honor Brad Bird and “Iron Giant”.
  • Olivia: And I really relished getting to learn the Saturday Night Fever dance. I used to go disco dancing when I was a kid in my hometown. So, Tye and I got really close very quickly with these dance lessons. I don’t know how much of it was digitally enhanced. That probably helped it quite a lot. That was really fun.
  • Tye: All of my dancing is digital. (He’s kidding)
  • Olivia: That was the highlight of the job for me.
  • Tye: We spent three weeks…
  • Spielberg: On wires.
  • Tye: Yeah but three weeks just rehearsing after work or in between.

Wade in his Oasis gearWade in his Oasis gearCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Steven, the theme of fantasy versus reality is something you are familiar with. Is the process different when you are making something real or based on an historical event?

  • Spielberg: For me, this film was my great escape movie. I mean, (it) fulfilled all of my fantasies of the places I go in my imagination when I get out of town. So I got to live this for three years. I got to escape into the imagination of Ernest Cline and Zak Penn. It was amazing. I made Bridge of Spies and The Post while I was making Ready Player One so, I got that whiplash effect of going from social reality to escapist entertainment. It’s a great feeling but it also makes my wife and kids kind of crazy because they don’t know who dad’s gonna be when he comes home.

Steven Spielberg at the premiereSteven Spielberg at the premiereCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Tye, you didn’t live through the ‘80’s, what do you have to say about that decade?

  • Tye: Because the Oasis stands for the great escape. It’s anything you want it to be. Because the ‘80’s were such a vibrant time full of all this crazy hope. I think it makes total sense that there is all this pop culture and ‘80’s references in the movie.

Ready Player One Movie PosterReady Player One PosterCourtesy of Warner Bros.

See Ready Player One in theaters starting this Thursday!

Have Your Say

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