Q&A: Spielberg likes VR, but not necessarily for filmmaking

Steven Spielberg arrives at the world premiere of "Ready Player One" at the Dolby Theatre on Monday, March 26, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
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AP Film Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — For Steven Spielberg, “Ready Player One” was a great escape from reality. The legendary filmmaker says he got to live in the imaginations of author Ernest Cline and co-screenwriter Zak Penn in this dystopian, futuristic world full of ’80s references and virtual reality possibilities for three years, with brief trips “back to Earth” to make “Bridge of Spies” and “The Post.”

“This was a film that for me fulfilled all of my fantasies of the places I go in my imagination when I get out of town,” he said. Spielberg spoke to The Associated Press about the film, nostalgia and the prospects of VR in filmmaking. Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Associated Press: You said that you wanted to keep references to your own films to a minimum.
SPIELBERG: I kept it to a dull roar. I kept it to a dull roar by not putting everything in the kitchen sink in there. But because the ’80s, there were so many contributors to the culture of the 1980s, so many international brands really left their mark not just in movies but also in music and wardrobe and costume and clothing and fashion.

AP: Is it sort of like a journalistic conflict of interest?

SPIELBERG: Exactly. Exactly. I felt a little bit of a conflict of interest.

AP: This movie is kind of a celebration of nostalgia. Do you ever worry that we’re so focused on the past that we’re not creating something new?

I think we’re actually very current focused. I wish there was more focus on the past. Social media has … triggered a sort of critical mass of contemporary, almost, panic to be included in the conversation globally. … Today’s social media is actually causing a lot of young people to dwell on the immediate social rewards of being liked or disliked and that’s scary for me. And it also stops people from reminiscing and looking back on a quieter era. So I’m not worried at all about anybody getting stuck in nostalgia because nostalgia is what we’re not getting enough of right now in my opinion.

AP: Do you think the rules of Hollywood are being rewritten with the success of films like “Black Panther”?

The rules of Hollywood are rewritten every couple of years anyway. It’s a continuum not a pendulum. Although there are flashbacks all the time to styles and themes that our parents grew up with that we seem to think we invented. I really feel like everything is moving forward, is moving ahead.

AP: It does seem like there’s progress.

SPIELBERG: I think there’s progress. We’re stalling out a little bit in the political cycle with the political quagmire we find ourselves stuck with but culturally we’re still moving ahead.

AP: Perhaps that stagnation is fueling the progress elsewhere?

SPIELBERG: It’s giving people a new voice. It’s making people realize that their vote counts and their voices will be heard, they just have to exercise the right to speak and the right to vote and when they do that they can change the world in a significant, positive way.

AP: What do you think of something like Disney and Fox combining?

SPIELBERG: I’m not going to get into business.

AP: “Ready Player One” both celebrates the potential of virtual reality and is also kind of a
cautionary tale. What do you think of VR as a future for filmmaking?

SPIELBERG: I love VR. I’m not sure I love VR as a medium for telling a story but I do love VR for how it could release people to go places they will never in their lifetimes or be able to afford to go, you know see the Great Wall of China, be able to see the rainforests to be able to even see the Grand Canyon if you’re living in far-away places. I think it’s going to be a boon to science and medicine and education especially. I’m not yet certain how I could make a movie in VR because I don’t have as much control over where the audience is looking. I would have to really be clever to get them to pay attention to where I want them to pay attention, on what I want them to pay attention to, which is the story and the characters. They might be looking all around the world and taking their eye off the bouncing story ball.