EXCLUSIVE: Steven Spielberg considers creating blockbuster in the Middle East

Raffi Boghosian

Published: Updated:

Digital Escapism. Not too long-ago books, music, movies and our imaginations were all we had to transport ourselves to another world. A world separate from our reality. But things are changing - rapidly. What used to be a fascination held only by hardcore gamers is now an almost absolute truth for the better part of the world - virtual reality is becoming our real-world reality, and you’ll get a glimpse of its potential effects on society in Ready Player One.

Steven Spielberg’s adaption of the Ernest Cline novel is dipped, battered, and fried in delicious dystopian technology. The setting is 2045, where citizens of the new world spend every ounce of their free time escaping to an online virtual universe known as OASIS. Virtuality and reality collide when the OASIS’ creator posthumously reveals a hidden Easter Egg (worth the billionaire’s entire fortune and rights to the company) nestled deep within the digital universe. Wade Owen Watts, played by Tye Sheridan, along with his VR companions, is the unlikely hero on a mission to save the OASIS, and the real-world, from tyrannical rule, no thanks to Nolan Sorrento (played by Ben Mendelsohn). We spoke with the all-star director and cast to get an inside look at why Ready Player One is the VR movie we’ve all been waiting for.

Raffi Boghosian: Congratulations on the film! We really felt the effort, and the time you guys put in on this project. Tell me more about the technology that was developed especially for this film.

Steven Spielberg: “Well, the technology developed for this film especially was less of an invention (a machine that had to be invented) it was not that so much… it was an effort on the part of the ILM people who created all of the digital special effects to create characters, or let’s say avatars, that you could really love who could be emotional. Not just like Halloween masks, but characters that were so real in the Oasis (in the virtual world) that they were interchangeable for the real-life characters in the real world. Because I wanted the emotions that we attached to Samantha and Wade (their character names in the real word) to carry over to Artemis and Parzival in the Oasis, so we don’t suddenly stop feeling for them just because they’re avatars. That was the big challenge.”

Raffi Boghosian: Olivia, what was it like working with a perfectionist director. Tell me about your experience working with Steven Spielberg. He’s not here.

Olivia Cooke: “It was wonderful to work with such a genius and such a talent. And then also have him trust us and trust our ability and trust what we had to offer. And also I think we’re all quite young and so this was the biggest thing we’ve ever done so we came with our preconceived notions and we were so anxious and eager to please. And he instantly just cuts that with his own kindness and his own nervousness and his own vulnerability as well.

Raffi Boghosian: What do you think of virtual reality and the things we see in the film? Do you think we could see this in the near future?

Tye Sheridan: “Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I was really excited about this film just when I found out that it was going to be made and it was going to be made by Steven Spielberg and not even thinking about my involvement in it… So, this film I think, for me, was incredibly exciting because it explores that thing we’re actually trying to figure out how to navigate now which is, you know, different forms of escapism. And in this story, it’s accentuated and exaggerated or enhanced to a virtual replica of a real world. And you know, trying to find that balance between a digital profile or world and your real-world self and not to involve yourself too much in it in neglecting yourself in the real world. And really, you know, it’s about self-control I guess, and that was really fascinating to me.”

Raffi Boghosian: How do you feel when you watch yourself, the bad boy, in the film?

Ben Mendelsohn: “Well, look (laughing) anytime you watch yourself there’s a little bit of like “eeeaahhhh…” but when you watch it in this context, it’s kind of like “yeahhhhh…” (snapping fingers) It’s pretty… look, the film is absolutely wonderful and to be playing the antagonists, the misunderstood characters in this film is a great honor.”

Raffi Boghosian: Nowadays Hollywood is more diverse, so tell me about the diversity in this film. We see people from Australia, Japan… tell me about this. How was the experience on set?

Hannah John-Kamen: “I mean, the experience on set is just amazing. It’s a freeing experience. There’s freedom on set. There’s freedom and it’s not, you know… with the characters… as actors… working with Steven Spielberg… it’s magical. And yeah, having a diverse cast… yeah, keep it going. That’s amazing. That’s progress. And never stop progress.”

Raffi Boghosian: So, tell me about your impression, first thing, when you read the script.

Lena Waithe: “Well, when I read the script I um… it’s funny because when I auditioned, I didn’t get a chance to read the script. They only gave me these sides because it was very top secret. So, I got cast, and then I got the script, and I thought, ‘Wow… this is phenomenal. This is an amazing adventure,’ and then I read the book, and I was even more blown away by the source material because it’s so layered and so well thought out. So, I was… I just really felt very blessed that I was able to be a part of this wonderful, wonderful ride.”

Raffi Boghosian: In the Middle East, we have so many incredible characters and stories. Have you ever thought of turning one of those stories to the big screen?

Steven Spielberg: “I would have to first become familiar with the culture and the stories that are available there. But I… look, I am available to any great story that captures my imagination. And once something captures my imagination, I have to make a movie about it. So, you never know.

Raffi Boghosian: You know a lot of directors are heading to film in Dubai, Morocco and other places. Have you thought of this maybe someday soon?

Steven Spielberg: Well, you know, the good news is that the world is shrinking and film helps the world get smaller and smaller because film is the one language we all speak and we all share in common. So, filmmakers in Dubai, filmmakers in Morocco, filmmakers in the United States, filmmakers in Australia or filmmakers, you know, in China, you know, all of us speak the same language, and the language is telling stories about the human condition or stories about our imaginations. And I think that makes us all brothers and sisters.

Raffi Boghosian: Thank you so much. Congratulations again and hope to see you soon in the Middle East.

Ready Player One, opens in theaters across the Middle East on March 29, 2018.