Think you spend a lot of time online? Check out Wade Watts, a gamer searching for Easter Eggs in OASIS, the world’s most elaborate virtual reality game, in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. “Except for eating, sleeping and bathroom breaks,” says Wade, “everyone does everything in the OASIS.”
Tye Sheridan, the 21-year-old actor who plays Wade, says the film isn’t just about losing oneself in an artificial world.
“The OASIS can teach us. You may not look like the person you want to be or the avatar you want to be,” says Sheridan on a stopover in Toronto, “but you are you and there is nothing you can do about that. It’s OK to be who you are and to be comfortable with who you are.”
The story is an orgy of special effects about a technological escape from the all-too-real societal ills that make Wade’s life miserable.
“Although it is a crazy adventure, sci-fi futuristic movie,” Sheridan says, “at the core of it there is so much humanity. It is also very relatable today in 2018. I feel like the OASIS is a huge metaphor for social media and digital platforms and for people who don’t feel comfortable with who they are in the real world. Sometimes they focus more on that than they do on who they are in this realm.”
The young actor auditioned for Spielberg last year. In a quick “chemistry read” with Olivia Cooke, who had already been cast as the gunter — egg hunter — Art3mis, he shot one scene with the director in the room, operating the camera.
“I didn’t know if I would get the role or not,” he says, “but I wanted to thank him for all his movies. His movies played hundreds of times during my childhood. I think they definitely influenced me and helped become the person I‘ve become. Without him and his films, without ET, I think I would be a different kid. To work with someone who has had that impact on you and so many people like you is such a cool thing.”
A month after the try-out he got a call from his agent: “You’re going to be working with Steven Spielberg this summer.”
Working with an icon caused a case of the nerves, but only for the first day.
“It’s hard not to be nervous on the first day because as an actor in his film you are carrying his film. You want to get it right. You wouldn’t want to have a bad relationship with that guy. (Co-star) Lena Waithe said something that was really amazing and such a great way to describe Steven and how it feels to work with him — she said, ‘He’s a giant that doesn’t make you feel small.’
“He is such a leader and knows how to command a set. He’s a great collaborator and doesn’t let anything get in the way. At the end of the day it feels like you are there with someone who is equal to you. You both want what is best for the story and are passionate about what you are working on and putting two heads together to get the best result.”
As for that final result? Sheridan says he’s seen the film, with its elaborate special effects, twice. “It was still surprising,” he says, “even for me and I was there.”