Script For Ready Player One Is Complete But Licensing Issues May Stall Development

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It’s been four whole years since Warner Bros. scooped up the rights to Ernie Cline’s Matrix-like science fiction novel Ready Player One, and according to X-Men screenwriter Zak Penn — who signed on to retool the project back in July — the script for the adaptation is now complete.

Taking place in a dystopian future where the remnants of humanity have all but exhausted the Earth’s fossil fuels, Cline’s tale follows Wade Watts, a young child who has the opportunity to go from rags to riches within a virtual reality simulation called OASIS. It’s a fascinating set-up, and one that will have Watts seek out a fabled easter egg within the pixelated realm that would grant him seemingly untold riches.

Speaking to /Film, here’s what Penn had to say about the nature of the project and how he envisioned Ready Player One in its transition from page to screen.

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.

Infused with pop culture and video game references, the book reads like a walk down memory lane for anybody who grew up in the early 80s, but this inherent nostalgia may halt development on the project due to licensing issues.

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.

Ready Player One is currently without a release date and it looks as though the project has some hurdles to jump on its path to the silver screen. As ever, be sure to leave your thoughts on the adaptation in the comments.