Steven Spielberg Didn’t Want Any Steven Spielberg References in ‘Ready Player One’

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brian-mcgee - March 23, 2018

One of the big reasons that fans we're gaga over the notion of Steven Spielberg directing the film adaptation of Ready Player One was that some were afraid he'd just turn the film into a celebration of his past films. Well, Spielberg was apparently aware of this issue and did everything in his power to make sure that the film didn't pretend that Spielberg was the only filmmaker doing anything in the 1980s. To the point where the DeLorean from Back to the Future and a random Gremlin are the only nods to Spielberg's past work you're likely to find in the film.

According to Entertainment Weekly, however, it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of virtually everyone else working on the film. When Spielberg nixed the notion of using anything other than the DeLorean in reference to one of his past films, the crew decided it was time to try and bypass the director's love of killing anything self-referential...

Thus began a covert campaign to sneak Spielbergia into the background of Ready Player One, often by visually referencing movies he produced rather than directed. Graffiti on one wall of the dystopian real-world set included the grinning green jaws of a fiend from Gremlins. Spielberg killed it.

A diner on one street during a chase was a wink to the villainous bank-robbing brothers from The Goonies. “We had a sly Fratelli’s Diner, but we got caught,” production designer Adam Stockhausen says. “He nixed it.”

It seems that their efforts weren't all in vain, however, as the director himself admits that a couple of things got past his Walt Disney-esque attention to detail in every frame...

“I think a lot of the digital artists were trying to get some of their favorite ’80s cultural references in there, you know?” Spielberg says. “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.”

He let them have that one. “I said, ‘Well, I guess it’s too late to take that guy out.’ So he survived the cut.” In the epic final battle, keep your eyes open to spot the little monster that hates bright light.

This wasn't all about ego, though, as Spielberg admitted he ultimately didn't want to hog the spotlight...

A movie and games fanatic himself, Spielberg was far more eager to showcase the work of others. “I didn’t corner the ’80s market,” he says. “There’s plenty to go around.”

So there you have it. If you're wondering why the film acts like Indiana Jones, E.T., and Richard Dreyfuss never existed, now you know why.

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