Tye Sheri­dan talks up Spiel­berg’s retro fu­ture

Empire (Australasia) - - 2018 Preview - HE­LEN O’HARA

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.

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