Ready Player One

Ben Men­del­sohn on play­ing hu­man mal­ware in Steven Spiel­berg’s VR ad­ven­ture

Empire (UK) - - COMIC CON -

BEN MEN­DEL­SOHN LOVES Pac-man. He’s a wiz­ard on the pin­ball ta­ble. But when it comes to vir­tual-re­al­ity gam­ing, his ex­pe­ri­ence amounts to a sin­gle ses­sion on a hor­ror sim­u­la­tor. “You’re in a house and there are gob­liny-type dudes com­ing to­wards you as the lights go out,” the Aus­tralian ac­tor re­calls. “I’d hear a noise — GRAAH! — and look over and there’d be some beast that’s ad­vanced.” So he got a lit­tle scared? “No, I’m not giv­ing you that,” he shoots back, fix­ing Em­pire with a gim­let glare. “I found my­self im­mersed.” Now, with Steven Spiel­berg’s Ready

Player One, Men­del­sohn finds him­self back in a VR world, but this time as the bad­die. Not a gob­liny-type dude, mind, but money-grab­bing CEO Nolan Sor­rento, who’s bent on beat­ing plucky teenager Wade Watts (Tye Sheri­dan) to the prize at the end of a dig­i­tal trea­sure hunt: full own­er­ship of the OASIS, the sprawl­ing, mas­sively pop­u­lar cy­ber-world in which any­thing is pos­si­ble. “I play the guy who runs the hard­ware di­vi­sion [of mega-cor­po­ra­tion In­no­va­tive On­line In­dus­tries],” he says. “And I have an in­ter­est in try­ing to se­cure the vi­a­bil­ity of the vir­tual space, which is free, into a user-pays model. The he­roes of the film may have dif­fer­ent ideas about that.”

Men­del­sohn is no stranger to mas­sive blockbusters and A-list di­rec­tors, hav­ing ap­peared in Ri­d­ley Scott’s Ex­o­dus: Gods And

Kings and last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars

Story. But de­spite his air of un­faze­abil­ity, he ad­mits that he got starstruck when he was called in to meet “the Boss” for Ready Player One. “I got very ex­cited and ner­vous; I found it hard to look him in the eye,” he says. “Steven’s cre­ated a lot of leg­endary pop cul­ture. The canon is so huge and so awe­some. I love Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan. I love

1941. I’m very, very par­tial to [the Spiel­berg­pro­duced] Poltergeist, with the girl and the tele­vi­sion and the lovely lit­tle spirit lady. Part of the joy of Spiel­berg do­ing this film is to be able to play in this ref­er­enc­ing of pop cul­ture, of which he is a sub­stan­tial con­trib­u­tor.”

Any­thing can hap­pen in­side the OASIS, as is demon­strated by the new trailer, which fea­tures Freddy Krueger, the Iron Gi­ant and even the Delorean from the Back To The Fu­ture tril­ogy, which Spiel­berg also pro­duced. In Ernest Cline’s source novel, Sor­rento at one point trans­forms into Mechagodzilla to bat­tle Watts’ avatar. While Spiel­berg’s spe­cific take on the story is be­ing kept un­der wraps, the con­cept al­lows for Men­del­sohn’s vil­lain to take any form he chooses — even, should he so wish, that creepy TV from

Poltergeist. It’s the ul­ti­mate play­ground, and so, Men­del­sohn says, was the set of the movie. “I think that this is chart­ing new spots,” he con­cludes. “It’s very much an ad­ven­ture. I ex­pect it to be quite a thrilling ride.”


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