Ready Player One is finally coming to the big screen, with Zak Penn writing the screenplay based on Ernest Cline's fan favorite novel. Giving an update on the movie, the screenwriter confirms that he has turned in the script into Warner Bros., who acquired the rights back in 2010. He also reveals that he has Cline's full blessing, though it may be tough to get in all of the classic 80s movie, video game, and TV references. At this time, none of the pop culture icons featured in the book have been licensed.
Ready Player One takes place in the future, where mankind lives in a virtual reality. When the creator of this alternate world dies, his estate announces a Willy Wonka-like quest, with the winner taking home a multibillion dollar fortune. The game requires a strong pop culture knowledge, especially when it comes to the films, characters, TV shows and games of the 1980s, all of which make an appearance at some point in the story.
Speaking with Nerd Report, Zak Penn says he wasn't hindered by the numerous references to existing properties. He included what he wanted to, and the rest will be figured out later, as the licensing is pursued by the studio.
"That doesn't happen until we're actually making the movie. Put it this way, I took some huge liberties in the script. Not as many in the book. If you had to license the stuff in the book, it would cost a billion dollars. You write a script, you take your chances, you say, 'This is what we're going to do. This is where we're going to take cars and scenes from these movies and these properties, and then you hope that you'll get the rights to it, but we're not at that point yet. I just finished the script. When you start getting into production and casting, that's when you would start going through and saying, 'Okay, can we get the rights to Donkey Kong?' or what have you. It's very different in a film like that than it is in a documentary where you can just declare fair use and do it."
"I'm not going to tell you how I did it but I did do it and I got Ernie's approval on it. The script's already in. I feel pretty good about [it]. There's a number of things in the book that are unbelievably visual and really easy to translate into a screenplay, and then there's other things that you definitely wouldn't want to keep in the same form they are in the book. It was just really fortuitous that I was around Ernie a lot, so periodically I would go, 'Ernie, let me run this by you. Here is the way I'm thinking of doing this.' If he said, 'That's awesome, do it,' I felt pretty good about it. If he didn't, I went back to the drawing board."