Upcoming movie Ready Player One is set to be a smorgasbord of pop-culture references, clever callbacks to 1980s film and Easter Eggs (in fact, the plot revolves entirely around the latter).
But director Steven Spielberg has revealed that one classic 1970s/80s movie property, which plays a fairly significant role in Ernest Cline’s source novel, won’t be included in the finished film – Star Wars.
“We couldn’t get any Star Wars rights,” Spielberg said at a recent press conference.
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“[We tried] very hard. They wouldn’t give up the Star Wars rights.”
While Star Wars was created by Spielberg’s old pal George Lucas (who might have been more amenable to lending the fellow director a hand), it’s now owned by Disney, who were understandably less than keen on lending their billion-dollar franchise to rival studio Warner Bros.
“You could’ve called me on that one, Steve,” joked Rogue One actor Ben Mendelsohn, who stars as baddie Nolan Sorrento in Ready Player One. “I built the Death Star, I’m just saying.”
In Ernest Cline’s original book, Star Wars properties have some significance to the plot, perhaps most prominently in the X-Wing fighters flown by several of the characters in the virtual Oasis system.
Still, it’s not the biggest change to the storyline, which probably comes from the absence of Ultraman, a Japanese giant superhero who played a significant role in the novel’s final battle. In the finished film he has been replaced in the narrative by the Iron Giant, a property that Warner Bros owns itself.
“Ultraman is in a lawsuit, believe it or not,” co-writer Zak Penn said. “And even Steven Spielberg can’t convince these two parties to settle.”
Even within Warner Bros itself, Spielberg had some issues getting hold of the characters and vehicles he wanted, in an effort spearheaded by producer Kristie Macosko Krieger.
“Kristie spent three years with all of the Warner Bros legal people getting the rights to all of them,” Spielberg said. “And we couldn’t get all of them.”
However, Penn said that Spielberg’s profile did help them in the all-important licensing of the film, securing several key pop culture figures.
“It’s fun to work for Steven Spielberg,” Penn said. “Seriously, [his team] should get an Oscar for licensing.”
Considering just how much looks to be crammed into Ready Player One in this latest trailer (including the DeLorean from Back to the Future and Spielberg’s own T-Rex from Jurassic Park), we’d say the Academy should genuinely start considering it for 2019.
Ready Player One will be released in UK cinemas on the 28th March