Project RPO - What if: Ready Player One


Casting for Ready Player One is in full swing. Some are decent choices, some are decidedly less so. Nate McKenzie has taken it upon himself to make the correct call-backs to fill the roles in the film adaptation of Ernest Cline's cult-favourite novel...

Wade/Parzival

Wade Watts is instantly likeable, witty, obsessed with 80s pop-culture, afraid to talk to girls, poor, and average looking; but brilliant, moralistic, and sternly loyal.

There are a number of young actors that could work in this role. Ideally, I think discovering an unknown kid, who has wit, attitude, and a wee bit of an inferiority complex (who isn't too good looking) would be perfect. That was never going to happen though.

There are three actors who I keep picturing as Parzival (upon my numerous re-reads of the novel): John Boyega, Joel Courtney (Super 8), and Shameik Moore, who starred as Malcolm in 2015's criminally under appreciated Dope.

Reminder: There is nothing in Ready Player One that says that Wade is white; Cline did not even indicate whether Wade's OASIS avatar, Parzival, is white or black or other. Spielberg and Co. had a chance to really set a new standard for broad-thought casting choices in RPO, but *surprise!* they casted current "It" kid, Tye Sheridan.

Wouldn't want to upset the patrons before they can fill the coffers, right Steve?

I like Tye Sheridan. I really do. He has chosen (or had chosen for him) some more meaningful roles and shown some real talent. But I just get tired of the same ol' Pong ball being batted back and forth in front of my eyes.

John Boyega would be great but it would be hard right to imagine him in a role other than Finn right now. Joel Courtney is much less familiar face. While Sheridan has been in 11 films in 5 years, Courtney hasn't done anything major since Super 8 but still has the archetypal looks that studios swoon over. Shameik Moore is even better looking than Courtney or Sheridan and is virtually unknown, even after his fantastic turn in Dope. Disregarding the aesthetic factor, Moore nailed the "geek" chic persona as Malcolm so I have no doubt he can fit superbly into 80s-obsessed Wade's haptic suit.

If nothing else, imagine the uproar in the Nerd-osphere if they cast a person of color in a role that many RPO fans believe is meant for a white person. (It would be reminiscent of the Hunger Games conroversy.) The ire that would induce is enough to make Shameik Moore my choice. But make no mistake, Moore is a terrific talent.

That look you get when you kill a role and no one sees it.
Tye Sheridan will probably do a fine job. I just don't see him as Parzival. The only characteristic that Sheridan possesses that I think can make the role work for him is his pensive, brooding stare; he definitely conveys a bubbling anger below the surface that reminds me of Wade's pent up angst.

I hope he brings that to the screen because I honestly see Wade Owen Watts as the second coming of Luke Skywalker. (Without all the whining.)

Sam/Art3mis:

Oh look - they cast Olivia Cooke, a ridiculously beautiful girl, to fill the role of relatively plain, unattractive Art3mis. I did not see that coming. </sarcasm>

Olivia Cooke is a wonderful young actress. I actually enjoyed her in The Signal. She's good.

But no way in Chthonia is she Art3mis.

Here's a list of actresses that would be perfect for Art3mis:

1.) Ariel Winter
2.) just Ariel Winter.

[Whispers] Ariel Winter
That's it; that's my whole list.

Yes, Winter is stunningly beautiful. But she plays the adorable nerd so exact in Modern Family you wouldn't know that unless you Google her name.

I briefly considered Chloe Grace Moretz or Emily Browning and either of those would be better choices than Cooke. The adjective that stands out in my head from Cline's description is "Rubenesque". Winter has slimmed down recently but she personifies the mental picture I had of Art3mis the first time I read the book.

The only other possible choice for Art3mis would be Mae Whitman. Unfortunately, Whitman has never been able to ascend to that higher echelon among young talented actresses that get parts like the female lead in a Spielberg film.

Ogden Morrow/The Great and Powerful Og:
Ok, Olivia Cooke isn't a great choice for Art3mis but I can live with that decision (like I have a choice otherwise). It's not as if I expected the studios to actually cast someone relatable in the key female lead.

But LET ME TELL YOU how utterly asinine it is that Simon Pegg is playing Ogden Morrow.

James Halliday is rolling over in his fictional grave right now. Pegg has precisely fuck-all in common with the character of Ogden Morrow.

This too is how I felt when I heard the news, Simon
I love LOVE Simon Pegg but this is the worst f*cking decision I've seen in casting in a long time. It's worse than casting Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson.

There are already limited roles for anyone who isn't thin, at least relatively attractive, and already well-known. So, of course Warner Bros. couldn't just cast one of the many jovial, rotund actors in Hollywood for the role of the jovial, rotund Great and Powerful Og. Simon Pegg isn't exactly David Beckham; but he isn't exactly Steve Buscemi either.

As with Art3mis, I really only had one actor in mind for the role of benevolent Og.

(Actually, my first thought was that Ready Player One author Ernest Cline should play the role himself. I just thought that would be kind of cool; but obviously it is completely unrealistic.)

Think of someone in Hollywood who isn't really a part of the "It" crowd; someone who does their own thing, but has a loyal fanbase, and whose name is synonymous with anything and everything geek-related. The only person who I think could seamlessly transition into the part of Og is...

Kevin James.


I'm just kidding.

I meant Kevin Smith.


No, I'm not kidding this time. I'm totally seriou- wait, where are you going?

If you don't like that idea, what about Jeffrey Wright? Ah, see, you didn't think of a black guy did you? That's the problem with Hollywood: "If they ain't white, they ain't right."

Still, Kevin Smith is everything that Ogden Morrow is but in real life. Why not have him play that character? He would add an authenticity to the role that Simon Pegg absolutely has no chance of achieving.

Come on, Internet, make this happen.

Nolan Sorrento:

Ben Mendelsohn has been cast as Sorrento, the head of Innovative Online Industries Oology Division and antagonist to Wade Watts. This isn't a bad choice. It certainly doesn't piss me off the way Simon Pegg playing Og does. Where I have an issue, though, is in that Mendelsohn doesn't inspire fear the way Sorrento does. Mendelsohn doesn't exude the sinister vileness that oozes from Sorrento within the pages of Ready Player One.

But Michael Shannon does.

I don't want to be whatever he is mad at
Michael Shannon absolutely terrifies me.

Ben Mendelsohn seems like the kind of guy who would ask you for a ride home after a party and you'd oblige, out of pity. Michael Shannon is the kind of guy who would glare at you from across the room (with those eyes that look like they're made of dragonglass) walk up, reach into your pocket, take your keys, take your date, and never return your car, leaving you to ask Ben Mendelsohn for a ride home and a place to crash for a couple of weeks. And of course he would say yes, because he is a pushover and doesn't know how to say no.

Michael Shannon is a Nolan Sorrento. Ben Mendelsohn is a no-name Sixer who gets killed trying to defeat the Lich King after getting waxed at Joust. I just don't see Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento.

James Halliday/Anorak:

Mark Rylance is not an actor I am terribly familiar with outside of Bridge of Spies (which he was obviously amazing in). Although I think Warner Bros. is piggy-backing off of Rylance's Oscar win for his role in Spies by casting him in another film with Spielberg, I feel like this is a really great choice.

If I had my choice (and that is the point of this exercise isn't it?) I would love to see Terry O'Quinn as Halliday. O'Quinn has always had a playful glint in his eyes and smile and I think that alone would bring to life Halliday's mystical, mischievous OASIS avatar Anorak in a wonderful way.


Uncle Anorak!

Of all the casting decisions announced so far, Rylance as Halliday is the least perturbing. I actually really like the idea. As a legend of stage acting, Rylance will bring a devotion to character acting that many "movie stars" would completely miss.

The other person I had in mind was... none other than Wil Wheaton. He is too young to play Halliday but his presence would be like an Easter Egg within an Easter Egg in the movie. Alas, it would be just a little too on-the-nose to not seem campy.

Daito & Shoto:

Daito being the stand-in big brother to Shoto makes their relationship a very interesting dynamic in the book. As with Mark Rylance, I'm not familiar with too many Asian-borne actors; but I think I've landed on two that would nail these roles and really add a lot of nerd street-cred to the cast (the way Kevin Smith as Og would).

For Daito: Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead)


For Shoto: Ki Hong Lee (The Maze Runner)


Granted, Yeun is only two years younger than I am (he is 32) but he could easily play the subtly complex role of Daito, a subdued, early-20's hikikimori (video game recluse) who becomes the ad hoc guardian of sorts for Shoto within the OASIS.

Shoto, being younger and more prone to emotional displays, would be an exciting role to see Ki Hong Lee play. Lee is funny as Dong in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and pretty badass in The Maze Runner series as Minho.

Yeun has the recognizable face and Lee is an up-and-comer; I think the two of them in these roles would really play well within the story and with audiences, as well as the hardcore fans of Ready Player One.

My biggest fear with the casting is that they are going to whitewash the roles of Daito and Shoto. I wouldn't put it past the studio, or Spielberg, to cast Taylor Lautner and Brooklyn Beckham as two Asian kids.

From Twitter
Nice try, Tay.
Pray to Leucosia that this doesn't happen.

Speaking of...

Kira/Leucosia:

Obviously, Kira isn't a big role, but she is a key character in the book. Without Halliday's unrequited love of Kira, perhaps he doesn't become a total recluse and doesn't creates the OASIS.

Kira was loved by everyone in Ready Player One. So how about someone likewise as universally adored and iconic; someone that will make the audience gasp in delight? Mia Sara? Ally Sheedy?

How about every 80s nerd's wet dream?

[unintelligible muttering]
I rest my case.

i-R0k:

It was recently announced that TJ Miller will play vexing OASIS troll i-R0k in RPO. This is a terrible choice for one simple reason - everyone loves TJ Miller. He's hilarious!

"They cast me as who?"
I would say that Miller steals every scene in Silicon Valley but that would imply that he isn't meant to be the off-centered focal point of every scene he appears in. I-R0k is annoying and void of any redeemable qualities; the exact opposite of Miller.

A better idea? Jack Gleeson. Easily one of the most vile, disliked characters in history was Joffrey Baratheon. His face alone causes bouts of rage.

Don't act like you weren't aware of that fact, Jack
But if we are going full-fledged, I-want-to-drop-a-planet-on-his-head hateableness, there is only one "man" for that job: Justin Bieber.

The only problem? I wouldn't never watch a movie with Bieber in it. Let's stick with Gleeson.

WARNING! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

If you haven't read Ready Player One (why are reading this?) but plan to do so (you should!) don't read any further. A major plot twist is revealed henceforth.

Aech:

If you have read RPO you know how fun this part of the movie will be. I can imagine a cinema full of nerds giggling to themselves while observing Parzival's interactions with Aech in The Basement.

I hope to see Spielberg have a lot of fun with this facet of the story. Of course, the actress that plays Helen Harris would be different from the actor who plays Aech.

For Helen's male avatar, Chris Zylka would be perfect.


He has the action hero jawline and hair that seem like they could be computer generated; which is Helen's entire intention.

As for Helen herself, Amber Riley is the ideal choice.


Talented, under the radar, and completely adorable, Riley is the smart choice to play Helen Harris.

Alas, I have no hope that Warner Bros. won't screw this up. I fully expect that they will either cast Lupita Nyong'o (a fine actress, but not right for this part) or g**damn Kristen Stewart.

Yes, we know there's nothing we can do about it.
If it isn't obvious, I'll just say it - I don't have a lot of hope for Ready Player One, the film. I would even prefer to see a different director at the helm. My first choice would be James Gunn. Second choice, J.J. Abrams. Third, Duncan Jones.

All three of those guys would make a much more worthy film adaptation of a book with such a devout following. Spielberg is going to make Ready Player One his story instead of just putting on the screen everything that fans love about the novel.

But, I guess, at least it isn't a remake.

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