Steven Spielberg found Ready Player One incredibly challenging to make

Ready Player One hits theaters in just over a month now. And while there’s much reason for fans of the book to look forward to the cinematic adaptation seeing how well received the novel was in the geek community, movie fans have equal reason to be excited about with Steven Spielberg himself handling the directorial duties. For a veteran like Spielberg with a career spanning an eclectic 32 films, one speculates that the production of Ready Player One would’ve been just like that of any other movie. However, this could not be further from the truth as the latest issue of Empire Magazine reveals.

The April issue of Empire coming out this month is a special look into director Steven Spielberg and his filmography. It also includes a detailed piece on Ready Player One. Among the first thinks Spielberg and the editor talk about in their lengthy and insightful interview is how difficult the movie was to make, with Spielberg declaring it to be among the top three most difficult endeavors he’s every undertaken, right up there with Jaws and Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg attributes it largely to the CG nature of the movie which involved extensive shooting in huge empty volumes with most of the stuff filled in during post-production as opposed to something like say, Jurassic Park that, despite its CG creatures had a fair amount of sets and physical production in place. The maestro explains in his own words:

I think there is a distinction between a physical challenge, which was both Jaws and Saving Private Ryan, and another kind of challenge, which is trying to do something technologically new that has never been  one before. Going from a live-action, real-world production – with sets and props and extras and chases  and all kinds of rigmarole – to digital capture in a volume [special stage for performance-capture], sometimes with just a day in-between, created a level of effort I had never experienced before. I had to  learn how to make a film like this while I was making a film like this. And that means a lot of trial and error.

Not that Ready Player One doesn’t have its own share of physical sets to shoot on, but the transition between physical to digital sets was a lot more frequent on this movie than in the other movies. Actor Tye Sheridan who plays the titular character Wade Watts a.k.a. Parzival has previously claimed that about 60% of the movie takes place inside the movie’s virtual reality world of the OASIS. This led to a complicated schedule which often left Spielberg sleep deprived.

I was only getting four or five hours sleep a night, because I was always thinking about what I was going to do the next day. So it was maybe the most sleep deprived experience I’ve ever had making a movie.

Despite the challenges, Spielberg was quite satisfied with making the movie, as he is in most every project he undertakes. The director also reflected on the age at which he’s making the movie, reminiscing that he would’ve found it impossible to make this at say, 29 years of age.

I made the movie when I was 69 years old. I had to ask myself, several times, would this have been any easier if I had been 29 years old? I think it was so complicated I wouldn’t have had any clue what to do at 29. I had a lot of experience that gave me confidence to say, “This is the time to tell this story.” I probably
would have been just as tired at 29 as I was at 69.

Finally, speaking on a subject that he’s often asked about, which is excluding most of his own movies from being referenced in the nostalgia infused and pop-culture heavy film, Spielberg’s sense of groundedness and not having any delusions of grandeur prevented him from going meta. He offered his own take on the subject:

Nobody can dream so big to believe their work would impact the culture. I wouldn’t be that presumptuous. But some of my films have entered the popular culture to such a broad extent that I was too embarrassed to reference those movies in Ready Player One. So, some fans might be angry that I have left out a lot of the movies I made in the ’80s, but I’ve also included some too, like Back To The Future.

The interview is a fascinating read and goes through Spielberg’s entire graph reflecting back on his choices and his motivations for making those movies while offering several fascinating insights along the way. If you can, consider getting a copy of Empire Magazine for yourself today.

Ready Player One hits theaters next month on March 29, 2018.