When Steven Spielberg agreed to direct ‘Ready Player One’ based on Ernest Cline‘s pop culture-riddled novel, he had one condition– he would not reference any of his own works. That’s a hefty edit, considering all of the indelible contributions he has made to film over the course of his career. Too bad his crew had other ideas.
The crew attempted to slip references to various Spielberg works. Despite Spielberg’s efforts, a few of them managed to stay in the movie.
One that he actually allowed was the use of the DeLorean from ‘Back to the Future’ which is driven in the film by Parzival, the VR avatar of main character Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan). Spielberg had only served as executive producer on ‘Back to the Future’ so he didn’t feel that shout-out was too self-referential.
One wall in the “real world” setting was graffitied with the grinning visage of one of the little beasties from ‘Gremlins’… until Spielberg saw it and nixed it. A diner glimpsed during one chase scene paid tribute to the bank robbing family from ‘The Goonies’. “We had a sly Fratelli’s Diner, but we got caught,” production designer Adam Stockhausen explained. Once Spielberg saw it… you guessed it. He nixed it.
One reference that appears to have slipped past him was a ‘Schindler’s List’ homage. In Wade Watts’ cramped apartment, a copy of the original book, ‘Schindler’s Ark’ appears in the background.
Just because the graffiti Gremlin was axed earlier, one made it to the final movie, having been sneaked in during post-production. Spielberg said:
“I think a lot of the digital artists were trying to get some of their favorite ’80s cultural references in there, you know? And having seen every shot 30 times as we go through all the different steps from pre-viz to animatic to final, I started noticing little things. They snuck a gremlin in. I said, ‘Well, I guess it’s too late to take that guy out.’ So he survived the cut.”
Even without the Spielberg references, the movie is obviously packed with pop culture references from the ‘A-Team’ to ‘Akira’ to ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ to ‘The Iron Giant’ (who is said to play a major role in the climax). There were so many shout-outs that some viewers of the trailers began complaining online that this movie was nothing but Fan Geek masturbation. But Spielberg clarified:
“The movie isn’t really about nostalgia. Nostalgia is only the window dressing — out your side windows, but the movie takes place out your windshield. It’s a race. It’s a competition for control of the OASIS.”
Source: Entertainment Weekly