The hyperbole kicked into hyper-gear shortly after its premiere earlier this month at the SXSW Film Festival. “It’s perhaps the geekiest movie ever made,” one critic said of Ready Player One, the Steven Spielberg-directed spectacle set in a future where virtual reality is king and a nonstop bonanza of pop-culture references from retro movies, TV shows, and video games dominates the landscape.
And Spielberg, the legendary lenser behind films like Jaws, E.T., and Jurassic Park, welcomes the label. He was, after all, a geek long before geek culture dominated entertainment. “I have a lot of outer-geek, but the making of this film brought out my inner geek,” Spielberg told Yahoo Entertainment at the movie’s Los Angeles press day (watch above).
The 71-year-old first started making his own 8mm movies when he was 12 while growing up in Arizona, and by age 16 he had directed a 140-minute sci-fi adventure (that would later influence his 1977 movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind).
“I suffered through geekdom when nobody but me, I felt, was a geek,” Spielberg said, laughing. “So it was nice to be able to geek out with Ready Player One.”
As one of his stars, Lena Waithe (Master of None, The Chi), put it: “The geeks are the cool kids. The geeks are the ones that are making things happen,” she said. “Steve Jobs was a geek. That’s one of the coolest geeks in the world. And I think Steven is one of those geeks too, who spent many hours making movies and dreaming things up, and then gave us stuff like Jurassic Park.”
Ben Mendelsohn, no stranger to geekdom after his role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and who is currently filming the superhero adventure Captain Marvel, took the emphatic early reactions to Ready Player One to the next level.
“I have no problem embracing the greatest geek movie of all time,” he said. “You heard it here first.”
Ready Player One opens Friday.
Watch Steven Spielberg tease the film’s Star Wars cameos:
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