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‘Ready Player One’: Inside Steven Spielberg’s Epic Tribute to Stanley Kubrick

When the screenwriters picked an iconic '80s movie for Spielberg to recreate inside the OASIS, they never expected him to say yes.

“Ready Player One”

The following contains spoilers for “Ready Player One.”

As Ernest Cline and Zak Penn adapted “Ready Player One” into a Steven Spielberg movie, they wanted to create a sequence that featured a film within the film for one of the contests mounted by the OASIS founder James Halliday. They first proposed Rutger Hauer chasing the kids in a sequence reimagining the original Ridley Scott “Blade Runner”; Warners shot that down, as the studio was about to release “Blade Runner 2049.”

So Cline and Penn came up with another ’80s classic released by Warners from a world-class auteur, one revered by Spielberg: Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror classic “The Shining.” They never thought Spielberg would agree to it. After all, Kubrick and Spielberg had been friends; when Kubrick finished shooting “The Shining” at London’s Elstree Studios, Spielberg took over the Overlook Hotel set to film the Well of Souls snake pit for “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

In 1995, Kubrick handed Spielberg his long-developed project, “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” based on Brian Adliss’ 1969 short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long.” Spielberg wrote his own script, and dedicated the 2001 film to Kubrick, who died in 1999.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Warner Bros/Hawk Films/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5885079q)Jack Nicholson, Scatman Crothers, Shelley DuvallThe Shining - 1980Director: Stanley KubrickWarner Bros/Hawk FilmsBRITAINOn/Off SetStephen KingHorrorShining

Jack Nicholson, Scatman Crothers, Shelley Duvall on the set of “The Shining”

Films/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Spielberg agreed to recreate several sets from the iconic “The Shining” for “Ready Player One,” including the Overlook Hotel lobby, hallway and elevators, the snowy exterior maze, and Room 237.  “Ernie and I were, ‘Holy crap, he’s willing to do this!’,” Penn said. “It was an insane sequence that was really difficult. Ernie and I spent weeks on different takes of what it should be about. It has a meta quality of an author who doesn’t like the movie adaptation of his book because they’ve changed it, and can’t believe he doesn’t like the movie adaptation.”

“The Shining”

Penn isn’t the only one whose head spins while watching Spielberg’s twisty take on “The Shining” — and it comes with some pretty radical changes. Watching it with a theater audience is a hoot as it dawns on them just where hero Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) and his OASIS chums the High Five are heading. And no one is prepared for what happens there.

“What’s happening is that the uber-geek is saying, ‘This is wrong, this isn’t the way the movie is, there’s no zombies in this movie,'” said Penn, “while Art3mis, who represents the balanced enthusiast or nerd, is saying, ‘That’s the point, it’s not supposed to be exactly like the thing you like so much, because [Halliday] wants you to stop focusing on that.'”

For Penn, the movie’s thrust is: “Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of nostalgia, where you can’t see the forest for the trees, and you’re obsessive about references. Don’t be afraid to poke fun at the greatest filmmaker who is untouchable, but we touched.”

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