With a resume that includes the Indiana Jones movies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg helped shape the face of modern pop culture. He’s a nexus of nostalgia for a generation of fans who grew up to create their own works, often influenced by, referencing, or outright ripping off Spielberg’s work that set them on the creative path in the first place. He’s also a self-described gamer who, among other things, is cited as creator of the original Medal of Honor.
Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One is a love letter to the pop culture of the last couple of decades of the 20th century, packed to bursting with references to everything from Ghostbusters and Star Wars to The Breakfast Club and Betamax. It’s a story obsessed with both the past and future of video gaming, set in a world where much of the world has retreated into virtual reality. If there’s anyone in the world uniquely suited to bring Ready Player One to the big screen, it’s probably Steven Spielberg. Clearly Hollywood agrees.
Deadline reports that Spielberg has officially signed on to direct the movie adaptation of Ready Player One for Warner Bros. The screenplay was written by Zak Penn, a Hollywood veteran whose resume includes work on flicks such as The Avengers and several of the X-Men films. It’s a major turn for a project that’s been in development since Warners bought the film rights in June 2010, before the novel had even been published. Spielberg is expected to make Ready Player One his next film after completes The BFG, based on the novel by beloved children’s author Roald Dahl.
Ready Player One is set in a future where a virtual world known as OASIS dominates most young people’s time and lives. Clearly having a bit of Willy Wonka in him, creator James Halliday hides a virtual Easter egg somewhere inside OASIS, declaring that whoever finds it first will inherit his entire estate, as well as ownership and control of OASIS itself. The book follows Wade Watts, a young hunter who finds the first of three keys that will unlock the Easter egg. Needless to say, there are plenty of others eager to stop him and take control of OASIS for themselves.
One big hurdle Warner Bros. will face is clearing all the rights issues needed to populate the Ready Player One movie with even a fraction of the references that are an integral part of the story. It’s similar to challenges faced by projects such as The Lego Movie or Wreck-It Ralph, but Warners sounds confident that they can make it work.
Greg Silverman, President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production for Warner Bros., told Deadline, “I think what we have to do is drill down to the best version of the movie and then see who wants to be a part of what will surely be a great film. What we found with The Lego Movie is that when we went and talked to those having the rights, people got excited about being involved.”
Ready Player One isn’t the only game-related project on Spielberg’s plate at the moment. He’s also executive producing the Halo TV series that’s in development for Showtime.