Deadline reports that Steven Spielberg will direct Ready Player One, based on the popular book by Ernest Cline. Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow are producing the much-anticipated project.
“We are thrilled to welcome Steven back to Warner Bros,” said Greg Silverman, studio president, creative development and worldwide production. “We had an historic series of collaborations in the 1980s and 1990s and have wanted to bring him back for years.”
Ready Player One is set in 2044, and tells the story of a virtual reality competition wherein the one player who finds a special Easter egg buried amidst a wide field of pop culture clues spread out across virtual worlds in a game called OASIS. Whoever wins the game will be handed the reins of the entire OASIS corporate empire. Teenager Wade Watts decides to take on the challenge in the wake of so many failed players.
The studio has had the rights to the book since before its publication in 2011, and the book has been a genre culture phenomenon since it hit the shelves. It’s been published in 40 countries and was on the New York Times bestseller list.
Early drafts of the screenplay were handled by Cline and Eric Eason, with Zak Penn coming on board to do a pass on a draft. Penn and Cline worked together on the documentary Atari: Game Over and they are collaborating on the Ready Player One script.
One hurdle will be the rights to all of the pop culture references scattered throughout the story. As with The LEGO Movie, they hail from all quarters, many corporate owners, and the challenge will be getting all (or most) of them on board. “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,” Silverman told Deadline. “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.”
The Deadline article also raises the question of just how the film will re-create the virtual world environment described in the book. “At Warner’s, we always have our eye on all the groundbreaking visual effects and technology available worldwide, and we feel very confidant with any new ground that Steven would want to tackle. He’s a master filmmaker so we feel very comfortable with him. The story is the main thing and whatever works best for audience enjoyment is what we’ll do,” said Silverman.