Update: According to AICN, the shortlist of directors wanted by the studio include Nolan, Peter Jackson, Edgar Wright, Matthew Vaughn and Robert Zemeckis, who is the top choice because his work is referenced frequently in the novel.
With Interstellar in theaters and no directing projects on the horizon, many are wondering what property Christopher Nolan will take on next (so they can start finding plot holes). We may have our first clue as The Tracking Board reported today that Warner Bros. offered Nolan the opportunity to direct an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s sci-fi adventure, Ready Player One. Additional sources hinted that the entire movie will be filmed with IMAX cameras, every character’s wife is dead, and it will play only on 600-foot screens constructed by Nolan himself*.
*may not be true
Ready Player One is a ludicrously entertaining nostalgia trip set in a near-future dystopia where food shortages and urban sprawl force citizens to take refuge inside a virtual world called OASIS. When the OASIS creator dies and leaves behind clues to his vast fortune, a reclusive orphan and his fellow outcasts race to solve the puzzle before a massive corporation beats them to the punch. Cline’s novel is charming and thrilling and will rekindle parts of your soul you thought long dead…which is why I can’t see Nolan in the director’s chair.
Nolan could nail the scope and visuals, no question. But Ready Player One needs someone who’s just as comfortable filming friends shoot the shit as they are staging a breathtaking action sequence. James Gunn or Brad Bird, perhaps. Nolan’s work, while impressive in ways his detractors rarely acknowledge, has a tendency to feel cold and antiseptic.
It might not matter who’s in the director’s chair unless Warner Bros. can navigate the rights issues. Ready Player One is built around countless classic video games, movies, and characters. They’re essential to the plot. Nintendo, Sega and Atari aren’t just going to hand the rights over gratis.
Ready Player One screenwriter Zak Penn discussed the challenges with Nerd Report late last month and admitted that it will be impossible for a studio to obtain rights to all the content in the book.
“If you had to license the stuff in the book, it would cost a billion dollars. You write a script, you take your chances, you say, ‘This is what we’re going to do. This is where we’re going to take cars and scenes from these movies and these properties,’ and then you hope that you’ll get the rights to it, but we’re not at that point yet. I just finished the script. When you start getting into production and casting, that’s when you would start going through and saying, ‘Okay, can we get the rights to Donkey Kong?’ or what have you. It’s very different in a film like that than it is in a documentary where you can just declare fair use and do it.”Even if the creative teams circumvents the rights problem, there’s also the plot structure to consider. Huge chunks of the story take place inside videogames. You ever watched someone else play videogame? It’s about as captivating as an Outlander marathon on Ambien. Fortunately, Penn worked closely with Cline to ensure these sections translate well when placed in a different medium.
“I’m not going to tell you how I did it but I did do it and I got Ernie’s approval on it. The script’s already in. I feel pretty good about [it],” Penn said. “There are a number of things in the book that are unbelievably visual and really easy to translate into a screenplay, and then there’s other things that you definitely wouldn’t want to keep in the same form they are in the book.”
Agree that just filming words would be a bad strategy, Zak. For more on Ready Player One, check out LurkeyTurkey’s Cannonball Read review from 2012.