READY PLAYER ONE
Tye Sheridan talks up Spielberg’s retro future
TYE SHERIDAN’S WADE Watts, hero of Steven Spielberg’s upcoming sci-fi epic Ready Player One, has it tough in the real world of 2045. He lives in the Stacks, a tottering landscape of mobile homes piled high, with uncaring relatives and a perpetual struggle for food. But when he dons a VR rig and escapes into the digital world of the OASIS, he is somebody. Wade’s alter-ego is Parzival, who’s “everything Wade wants to be” and who was performance-captured by the X-men: Apocalypse actor inside a space known as the Volume, where Sheridan spent two weeks rehearsing and learning about the process before filming.
“Steven showed up on the last day of our rehearsal, and he was like, ‘Why don’t we shoot something?’” says the actor, remembering the surprise. But instead of diving into one of the movie’s many colossal action sequences, Spielberg suggested that Sheridan merely walk, as Parzival, across the floor. “There’s a walk I was supposed to be practising?!” panicked his star. “[Spielberg] goes,
‘Well, I thought the John Travolta walk from Saturday Night Fever...’”
A few minutes later, and Sheridan was busy watching a Youtube clip of the disco classic. “It’s just me and
Steve and I’m waiting for him to call action,” Sheridan recalls. “He pulls out his iphone and starts playing Stayin’ Alive. Then he starts [strutting] towards me, nodding his head, and goes, ‘Aaaand, action!’ So that was my first experience working with him.”
Sheridan still hasn’t seen the film’s in-game scenes — he even declined the offer to see a rough version of Parzival’s design, preferring to wait and see his OASIS avatar finished. But he found that the biggest challenge turned out not to be the “completely creative, super-free” performancecapture process, but getting his head around the reams of pop-culture lore that “insecure, underprivileged” Wade has studied. It’s that knowledge that gives his Parzival character a head-start in searching the OASIS for the hidden key to inventor James Halliday’s (Mark Rylance) enormous fortune and ownership of the game, but it was a big ask for a guy born in 1996.
“Every day we were coming to work and there was a reference I didn’t understand,” Sheridan admits. He even had to be shown how to hold an Atari
controller by Spielberg and screenwriter Zak Penn. “The script was just so jam-packed with references to ’80s movies and video-games, and you can’t possibly know everything,” he says. “Unless you’re [source novel author] Ernie Cline.”
In the end, Sheridan managed to bone up on the story’s many hat-tips, from Stephen King’s Christine to anime classic Akira. Will Wade Watts be as successful in his quest? With treasure-hunt clues to crack and an evil corporation to outwit, he’ll have his work cut out just stayin’ alive.