Steven Spielberg has begun assembling his team for Ready Player One, the silver-screen adaptation of Ernest Cline’s dense, thrilling geek adventure. We’ve gotten a few hints here and there as to who Spielberg may be contacting to join the cast, which is one of the many, many challenging aspects of the film; almost every character will need an avatar version to exist in the OASIS and a “real-life” in the dystopian future world, if early indications in the casting department amount to anything.
Recent rumors hinted – hoped – that Spielberg was reaching out to Gene Wilder in an attempt to have him come out of retirement to play a role in the film. News broke yesterday that a shortlist for Art3mis, the female lead, includes Elle Fanning, Lola Kirke, and Olivia Cooke. But we have a long way to go to fill out the case of Ready Player One. So why not save Spielberg some time and try and nail down the crucial casting decisions? Here we go…
Wade Watts, the protagonist of Ready Player One, is front and center in every scene both in the real world and James Halliday’s virtual world, the OASIS. Like all of the gunters – avatars hunting the elusive eggs of the OASIS – Watts needs two actors if Spielberg is headed in the direction he seems to be heading with the Art3mis casting news.
For the real world Watts we need a young, somewhat unfit actor, as Watts is not in the best shape from spending his entire day sedentary, locked into the OASIS. The Watts avatar should be someone altogether different, an athletic, handsome young actor. For the real Watts, I can see nobody else beyond Clark Duke. Duke, who’s appeared in Kick-Ass 2 and Hot Tub Time Machine, has that soft geeky charm and playing Wade Watts could be a great move for him. As for Parzival, Watts’s OASIS avatar, the field is much broader. Someone like Nicolas Hoult would fit, but for this world of the OASIS, a lean and angular actor like Ezra Miller would fit to perfection.
Art3mis, the headstrong female gunter and the apple of Wade’s eye, will most certainly require two different actresses given the twist near the end of the novel. Let’s go with Spielberg’s shortlist, including Elle Fanning, Lola Kirke, and Olivia Cooke. For me, Fanning seems a bit too fair and flighty to embody a strong, sassy gunter like Art3mis. Of Kirke and Cooke, I would say Lola Kirke fits the description of Art3mis, at least in my mind. Kirk played the redneck thief Great in David Fincher’s Gone Girl last year, and that attitude and swagger fit perfectly. As for Art3mis in the real world, all bets are off…
Halladay, the OASIS architect, the deified Spector of the entire story, exists more as a figure than an actual character. That being said, he will need to be cast because there will be a few crucial moments for him throughout the picture. Such an icon within the story deserves an iconic performer. There is no word as to which character Spielberg wants Gene Wilder to play, so he is certainly an option here. However, I believe (and hope) that Wilder is set up for another character. Someone like Max Von Sydow sounds great, but maybe he is a bit too old and ominous for a character who spent his time programming video games and collecting nerdy nostalgia. After all, Hallaway died before he reached the advanced age of Og, his partner.
Someone like William H. Macy could nail both the young geeky side and the prestige of Halladay. Even Jeff Daniels would be an interesting choice. But, I am going with Kevin Kline. Kline feels absolutely spot on, both as an ominous force permeating the film, and a geeky mastermind. Make it happen.
Ogden Morrow is Halladay’s surviving OASIS co-creator and partner. Though the two had a falling out, detailed early on in the novel, it’s clear Og is still very much in the picture as far as the daily operations of the OASIS and climax of the story are concerned. We don’t see Og for some time in the real world, but his presence is vital. Again, we’re all in the dark here regarding the possible involvement of Gene Wilder. Perhaps it was for Halladay, but Wilder is pitch perfect for Og. The omnipresence of Og and the majestic unveiling of his character in the third act deserves Wilder and his ubiquitous gaze.
Now for the baddie. Sorrento is a corporate snake, the figurehead of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), the corporation hunting Halladay’s virtual fortune in hopes of capturing it and ruling (therein ruining) the OASIS. Sorrento is cold and calculating, but a chameleon in early scenes before his earnest attempts to court Wade Watts to IOI’s side turn sinister.
Casting a slimy corporate suit is simple enough, they seem to come a dime a dozen. An older possibility could be someone like James Spader, though I doubt he could fool anyone that his intentions are good in the early scenes. The always reliable William Fitchner would be a good fit as well, but again we run into the problem of his menace outweighing his ability to feign innocence. Which leads me to Patrick Wilson, the perfect blend of innocence, a seething smarm behind that gleam in his eye, and an actor who could capture the essence of villainous corporate corruption. Wilson would be a perfect fit.
There are a handful of supporting characters needed to fill out Ready Player One, from Toshiro and Akihide, the two Asian gunters, to Aech (pronounced like the letter “H”), Wade’s friend who needs two vastly different actors to play the role. These are my choices for the central players. Regardless of the cast, Steven Spielberg will have a tough time capturing the pop-culture density of Cline’s novel. Alas, if anyone can pull it off, it’s him.