Ready Player One stars ‘didn’t discuss salaries’

Olivia Cooke and Tye Sheridan.
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Olivia Cooke and Tye Sheridan at the premiere of Ready Player One at SXSW last week

Tye Sheridan and British-born Olivia Cooke star in Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Ready Player One. They tell BBC News about their own technology use, how Olivia perfected her US accent and why they haven’t discussed their pay.

The core message of Ready Player One may well take audiences by surprise.

Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi film tells the story of a society where people escape from their daily lives to the virtual-reality world of the “Oasis”. There, they compete as avatars to find an “Easter egg”, which has been hidden somewhere in the expansive universe by its creator.

(Kind of like the golden ticket hunt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but with less caramel and more JavaScript.)

But for a visually mesmerising and high-tech movie, made using motion-capture equipment, one of Ready Player One’s main takeaways is that society should not push ahead with new technology at the expense of real-life human connections.

Limiting screen time is policy which the film’s two stars also employ in their own lives. Neither 21-year-old Tye Sheridan, nor his 24-year-old co-star Olivia Cooke, even have an official Twitter account.

“Twitter is a very lawless place,” says Tye, who plays the lead character Wade Watts in the film.

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“Social media is lawless in the sense that you can say anything, and I know it might be taken down, but it’ll be there long enough for people to see it. But there aren’t yet rules and boundaries, I think people are still trying to sort that out.”

Olivia adds that, when it comes to technology and social media, the best policy is “everything in moderation”. But there’s another reason she stays off Twitter.

“Because of what we do, there’s an entitlement that people feel that they need to get to know us, that we need to be approachable and that they’re entitled to our time.

“But I don’t think that’s the case. This is a job that we do, and we have to promote the job, and do all this lovely nice stuff where we appear on things, but that’s it, I don’t buy into the greediness of it.”

Ready Player One is based on the science fiction novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, and is the second Spielberg film to be released this year after The Post.

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The day before our interview, the director collected the Legend of our Lifetime prize at the Empire Awards.

He used his acceptance speech to praise the Time’s Up movement, which campaigns to fight sexual harassment, describing it as a “watershed moment” for attitudes in the entertainment industry.

Time’s Up has also helped spark a complex debate about the gender pay gap in Hollywood – with several stories emerging about male and female actors in leading roles being paid different amounts.

But Olivia says she and Tye haven’t discussed their own salaries for Ready Player One.

“We didn’t have any chats [about pay],” she says. “I never discuss money because I’ve just been brought up like that, I think it’s quite rude.”

Tye jumps in: “Yeah, me too, Olivia and I definitely never [discussed it].”

“But,” Olivia continues, “I think it’s wonderful, and I’m so glad there’s a conversation about it now.

“I feel like this is for me, being an actress in this current moment, I’ve never felt so supported and passionate and riled up with my fellow sisters.”

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Olivia Cooke, 24, grew up in Oldham but now lives in New York

Having seen the film, it’s surprising to hear Olivia speak in the northern accent she has in real life – given how convincingly American she is on screen.

I ask Tye, as an actual American, what mark out of 10 he’d give Olivia for her US dialect.

“Fifteen!” he says immediately, turning to her and adding: “You’ve got a great ear, and I felt for you a lot of times on set, because this movie was ever-evolving and there were times when Steven would yell to me ‘No, Tye, say it like this, and then Olivia you say it like this’, and I would see Olivia just [look exasperated].”

Olivia picks up: “He’d give us different lines, completely different lines of script. And I’d be like, ‘Steven, I’ve been working on this particular scene for a long time to try and get this accent very accurate, and now you’re throwing a monologue at me which is completely different’.

“But luckily I had a wonderful dialect coach on set with me, and he has an incredible ear so he helped me a lot with the dialect.”

The actress moved to New York several years ago, shortly after which she told The Telegraph she felt lonely in the city. “I get really miserable. I hate my own company,” she said.

Asked about that interview now, she explains: “I’d just moved there [when I said that],” adding that she feels “so much more settled” now.

“But it’s funny, because as soon as I moved to New York I got this job here, and I’d just finished a job in London for six months, so it’s just sod’s law.”

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Warner Bros

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The time-travelling DeLorean from Back to the Future makes an appearance in Ready Player One

Presumably spending time in the US for the last few years must be helpful for perfecting a US accent?

“It is, it is, and I’ve been based over there without a home since I was 18, so it’s kind of nice that I’m more solidified.”

But, she jokes: “My mum would slap me if I started talking with an American twang.”

‘Jazz hands’

Ready Player One features countless 1980s references, some of which must initially have gone over Tye and Olivia’s heads given their age.

“Yeah, we did a little bit of homework,” says Olivia.

“But you’re pretty familiar with 80s music,” points out Tye. “More so than I am.”

“Well, yeah, just because I’m from Oldham, so news travels slower there,” laughs Olivia. “So I was born in 1993. We still had some leftovers from the 80s for sure.”

Tye explains: “My parents were aged seven to 17 in the 1980s. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Texas, and 80s music is something I never heard growing up, unless it was traditional country music. But I saw a lot of 80s movies and played a lot of 80s arcade games.”

We finish by discussing what each of them would’ve put in their own virtual oasis, had they been the designers.

“A mish-mash of different musicals that I can be front and centre of, just jazz hands all the way,” says Olivia instantly.

Tye opts for “every instrument possible with every recording system and sound system and one room – and mountains and oceans surrounding it”.

(We’re setting up camp in Olivia’s, personally.)

Ready Player One is released in the UK on 30 March.

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