2 'Ready Player One' references you never saw coming

The heavy bulk of references in the Easter egg-filled Ready Player One fall into one of two categories: They’re from the 1980s (Back to the Future, Beetlejuice, Weird Science), and/or they’re genre fare (Alien, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica).

Two of the more surprising references, then, are callbacks to a pair of early 1990s comedies: 1993’s Arnold Schwarzenegger spoof Last Action Hero and the 1994 frat-house farce PCU. The common thread: Both of those movies were co-penned by Zak Penn, who adapted Ernest Cline’s best-selling novel Ready Player One for the screen.

“Ernie is a big fan of Last Action Hero, which is the first script I wrote [with Adam Leff],” Penn told Yahoo Entertainment (watch above). Cline suggested to Penn that they include to a nod to that film, but Penn resisted, noting that Spielberg limited the use of IP from his own filmography. “If Steven’s not referencing his movies, it seems kind of pathetic for me to reference mine. But Ernie didn’t listen to me, and he went around my back to the production designer” at Industrial Light & Magic.”

When Penn first saw a rough cut of the movie, he realized Cline and company had slipped into one scene’s background a movie theater marquee that reads “Schwarzenegger [in] Jack Slater III,” a fictional sequel to that film’s fictional movie franchise. “I have to admit, I was pretty psyched when I saw it. Because I didn’t do it, and I didn’t feel responsible for it.”

The <i>Last Action Hero</i> reference slipped into <i>Ready Player One</i> (Photo: Warner Bros.)
The Last Action Hero reference slipped into Ready Player One (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Penn, whose other credits include the superhero films X2, The Incredible Hulk, and Avengers, did, however, intentionally plant a quotable from PCU, the second film he and Leff had produced.

In that comedy, multiyear senior Droz (Jeremy Piven) cautions the meathead Gutter (Jon Favreau) against wearing a band’s T-shirt to their concert, and tells him, “Don’t be that guy.”

In Ready Player One, Parzival (Tye Sheridan) is considering dressing his avatar as one of his favorite movie characters, Buckaroo Banzai, to go out to a zero-gravity dance club, when Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) don’t-be-that-guys him.

“People say that to me to sometimes, ‘Hey, don’t be that guy,’” Penn said. “I’ll say, ‘Hey. That’s my line.’”

Ready Player One is now in theaters.

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