Tye Sheridan debuted in 2011’s The Tree of Life and garnered attention for strong performances in subsequent indie films such as Mud, Joe and The Stanford Prison Experiment. AFJ readers probably know him best as Cyclops from 2016’s X-Men Apocalypse, a role he’ll be revising in the upcoming Dark Phoenix. In between, he scored the lead in Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the celebrated pop culture magnum opus. He spoke about the role, and about working with Spielberg, in a recent press day for the film.
Question: How did you immerse yourself in the 80s for this project?
Tye Sheridan: That starts with the book, which is just packed with these pop culture references. You need to be some kind of super-nerd to get them all. I was going through the book with a highlighter to mark them all. We couldn’t fit all of them in the movie, but I needed to absorb as much of them as possible in order to understand this world and this character.
Beyond that, it was just Steven Spielberg’s presence that helped. I grew up on his films. We watched E.T. all the time in my home. Also Jaws, Minority Report, Indiana Jones… it’s incredible when you think about all of his contributions. And he loves the movies, and he loves talking about filmmaking. He would talk about working on Jaws and we’d all just sit and listen to him. It was amazing.
Q: Was there any particular bit of pop culture that stood out for you during the production?
TS: For me, it was The Iron Giant. That was another movie that I watched so many times in my childhood. I have a very sentimental connection to that figure. While shooting the movie, we could see our avatars in real time on a 2D screen, and I would look over at my avatar and see Iron Giant’s foot.
Also, there was a sequence in the film involving an Atari 2600, which was the first home computer game. I’d never played one before. So I had to learn how to use the joystick and maneuver around the game controls. Steven and Ernest Cline helped me get the feel for it. Little details like that grab you when you’re making the film. Like, my character drives a DeLorean, from Back to the Future. At one point, I have to drive backwards. Well, you can’t see out of the back window of a DeLorean, so I have to pop open the gull-wing doors and look out the back. Figuring that stuff out and seeing the effect it has on the story can be really gratifying.
Q: What’s it like being directed by someone so influential?
TS: I was extremely nervous on the first day. I didn’t even know it was the first day. We’d been rehearsing for two weeks, and I thought it was still a rehearsal day. Then Steven shows up and says “let’s shoot something!” I thought, “wow I hope he doesn’t want to shoot something with me!” He asked me about the “Parzival walk.” “Do you want to do a Parzival walk?” It’s the walk John Travolta did at the opening to Saturday Night Fever. So there I am, standing on one side of the set and STEVEN SPIELBERG on the other side. Then he pulls out his phone and starts playing “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. Holding up his phone playing this song… and then he goes “okay, action!”
He always has ideas. He always gets excited about what we’re doing on a given day. And you can use that energy, and put it into your performance. It really makes the whole process just a dream.
Q: Social media and online worlds have become a part of our culture. How close do you think this world comes to ours?
TS: We’re just a few steps away, honestly. This movie really is about social media, and how our real lives differ from our online lives. We have friends today – real friends – who we’ve never met in real life and may never meet. That’s amazing. But it’s easy to get caught up in that and never come up for air. The things we see in games and on social media are just projections of what we want other people to see. They’re part of who we are, but only a part. We never see the whole picture until we step away from the online world and go back to the real one.
Ready Player One opens April 30th, 2018.
Check out AFJ's interview with director Steven Spielberg and our Ready Player One Primer below!