If the advance word from SXSW is accurate and Steven Spielberg has created a reminder for grumpy readers that yes, it is possible to make something decent out of something not so decent, then it may be fun watching Ready Player One after all. But even the king of popcorn movies has limits, it seems.
During a recent press talk featuring Spielberg and much of the film’s cast, the director admitted that, despite his best efforts, he wasn’t able to secure one of the most iconic pop-culture properties of the 20th century for his adaptation of Ernest Cline’s book. As io9 reports, no amount of phone calls to Disney (which presumably went something along the lines of, “Are you fucking kidding me?! I’m Steven fucking Spielberg, motherfuckers”) were sufficient to get the rights to Star Wars. Spielberg and his producer Kristie Macosko Krieger worked for three years diligently nailing down the multifarious agreements needed to secure the vast swath of pop-culture references depicted in the film. But even though the book has a scene involving an X-Wing fighter, Disney refused any and all efforts, leaving Spielberg and his crew as bereft of rebel ships as the end of The Last Jedi.
“We couldn’t get any Star Wars rights,” Spielberg said. “[We tried] very hard. They wouldn’t give up the Star Wars rights.” It was probably right around then that Spielberg wished his old buddy George Lucas still owned the rights; Lucas let Robot Chicken use Star Wars, for god’s sake. It wasn’t the only property the Ready Player One team wasn’t able to secure—Japanese superhero Ultraman is embroiled in a lawsuit right now, preventing that property being being included as well—but it’s easily the most noteworthy one for American audiences.
At least one member of the cast thought Spielberg didn’t exhaust all of his options: Ben Mendelsohn, he of main villain fame in Rogue One. “You could’ve called me on that one, Steve,” said Mendelsohn. “I built the Death Star, I’m just saying.”