- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Alex Lynchehaun
Ernie Cline has a very good claim to being king of the nerds. His first screenplay, Fanboys, was a love letter to Star Wars packed with references and cameos. Last year he backed that up with the award winning novel Ready Player One, a whirlwind adventure in a near future that emulates the 1980s. He spends chapters detailing tricky games of Joust, reliving WarGames and exploring the world of Blade Runner. His pop-culture obsessions run as deep as anyone, and they’re not simply falsified through hours of research; “I did very little research – unless you count my entire adolescence and my 20s as research. When I was writing the novel, I only referenced movies, video games, books, and music that I was already familiar with. It was a way for me to pay tribute to all of the things I loved, and keep me writing.”
Fanboys may be more famous for the controversy it attracted during post-production than anything else. After the film was finished, reshoots were ordered and directed by a new director to remove the central cancer plotline. The studio then decided to test both versions of the film, and internet supporters managed to save the film by demanding the original version be released. Ernie describes it as a difficult experience, saying “my original script was rewritten during the development process, but I had a say in those changes and I felt like the shooting script still captured the spirit and fun of my original story. The bad changes began to happen after we’d finished shooting the movie, when the studio took the film away from the director and producers and began doing reshoots to drastically change the plot and tone of our movie. The whole experience left me a bit jaded, and inspired me to work on finishing my novel, so I could finally tell a story the way I wanted to tell it, without any outside interference. I’m glad I did.”
The novel to come out of this would be Ready Player One. He relished the shift from screenwriting to becoming an author, explaining that “writing a novel is much more difficult and time-consuming than writing a screenplay, but (in my experience) it’s also a lot more rewarding. Very few screenplays ever get produced, and when they do, the story usually gets changed during the process. When you write a book, there’s nothing between you and the audience, so you have total control of the story. “ Despite his belief that he “was writing a story that could never be made into a film”, Warner Bros. snapped up the film rights a year before it was released. It might be expected that after Fanboys he’d have been reluctant to go back to Hollywood, and he acknowledges the risks: “when you sell the film rights to your novel to Hollywood, you’re rolling the dice and giving up control.” But he remains optimistic: “so far, I’ve been very involved in the adaptation process, and I have high hopes that the film will stay true to the spirit of the book. Warner Bros. made all of the Harry Potter films, which I thought were incredibly faithful to the source material. We’re still in the early stages of development on the Ready Player One movie, but I’m working with great producers who want to make a great film.”
Ernie Cline is clearly a man passionate about the subjects he’s writing about, and still a little in awe that other people are interested in them as well (he confesses that the novel has “ been far more successful than I ever imagined”). Ready Player One is a compelling, enthusiastic debut. Whether it can be successfully translated into a film remains to be seen, but with Ernie working on the script I doubt that enthusiasm will ever be stamped out.