With Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg plans to leave himself on the cutting room floor.
The book by Ernest Cline is a thriller about a kid on a high-stakes treasure hunt through a virtual reality world created in a society that obsesses about ’80s pop culture – so Spielberg was all over the story even before he signed on to direct the film version. But with one exception.
“The movie won’t have any of my films in it,” the director tells EW in a wide-ranging interview. “I’m not putting myself in this movie.”
The film will still include an odyssey through Gen X nostalgia, but for now he intends to cut the book’s references to the Indiana Jones movies, and works he produced, like Back to the Future and Goonies.
“They reference so many ’80s movies. I’m doing the whole pop culture thing. I’m just going to leave myself out of it,” he says, shaking his head. “I can’t do that. Too self-referential.”
What hooked him on the story was Cline’s presentation of a world where everyone would rather inhabit a simulated one rather than the real one. “I think it’s the future,” Spielberg says. “I’m telling this story because I really feel what’s in Ready Player One is going to be in our lives before we know it.”
The director says he starts shooting next year, and is currently in heavy prep, traveling back and forth between Los Angeles and New York for casting sessions – while also promoting his new film, the Tom Hanks espionage thriller Bridge of Spies.
“I’m trying to get the whole thing cast by the first of the year, and start shooting in July,” he says of Ready Player One, which is set for release in December 2017.
Before that, he’ll have another film in theaters July 1, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel The BFG, with his Bridge of Spies star Mark Rylance playing the eponymous big, friendly giant.
“I’ve turned the movie over to Weta [Digital], for the effects, but I’m still tinkering,” says Spielberg, during the conversation at his office in Amblin Entertainment. “I’m just next door cutting, every second.”
One of the things he’s made sure to maintain is “Gobblefunk,” the convoluted dialogue of the big, friendly giant, who speaks in a English fused with gibberish that sounds similar to real words.
Consider his description of other giants: “All of them is guzzling human beans every night. All of them excepting me. That is why you will be coming to an ucky-mucky end if any of them should ever be getting his gogglers upon you. You would be swalloped up like a piece of frumpkin pie, all in one dollop!”
“It’s wonderful. We’ve kept very loyal to Dahl. It’s a very loyal interpretation of the book,” Spielberg says. “The challenge is going to be in different foreign countries, doing the dub, finding the equivalent word in the lexicon of Italian or French or German or Spanish, you know what I’m saying?”
Sounds like a trogglehumper of a task.