Ernest Cline, the screenwriter of the movie Fanboys and author of the bestselling novel Ready Player One, is a special guest of the Con and appeared Saturday in a spotlight panel to discuss himself and his work.
Regarding Fanboys, Cline said the movie that got released is quite a bit different from the original cut. Only about 80 percent of the movie is what he originally intended. Cline offered the "Mantina" scene as an example of something that was foisted upon him and the director by Weinstein.
Cline wrote Ready Player One mainly for himself and his friends because the story celebrated all the '80s geek culture that he loves. He never expected it to be as wildly successful as it has been. In fact, Cline made it clear that he is still somewhat baffled that his geek niche novel somehow became a bestseller and the subject of a bidding war between Hollywood studios.
The rights to the movie were sold before Cline even finished the novel. As part of the deal for the screen rights, Cline insisted that he write the screenplay. The end result was that he started work on the screenplay the week after he submitted the final draft of the novel.
The book was not even released until six months after Cline started working on the screenplay. As a result, Cline thinks Warner Brothers was not exactly sure what set the book apart and made it special. Warner Brothers saw the book as a treasure hunt in a virtual world, according to Cline, but thought the '80s geekiness was superfluous. It wasn't until the book came out to accolades that the Warner executives realized the movie would need to retain those elements.
As to the status of the movie, Cline said he assumes it's never going to happen. It seemed that wasn't so much realism on Cline's part as it is that he doesn't want to be disappointed, so he'd rather assume it's not going to happen and be pleasantly surprised if it does.
If the movie is made, Cline would like to see unknowns in the roles of the kids. For some of the supporting roles, however, Cline would love to see some of the parts go to various 1980s screen icons like John Cusack and Matthew Broderick.
Cline admitted that he never thought the book could be made into a movie because of the number of licensed properties that are integral to the plot. He pointed out, though, that the fact that Warner Brothers bought the rights helps because a lot of the properties referenced in the book are already owned by Warners. Cline also hopes that if the movie is made it will be the "perfect storm" in the same way Who Framed Roger Rabbit was – where there is so much excitement surrounding the project that all the license holders want to jump on the bandwagon. Cline also noted that it would make sense for the license holders to give permission, because featuring their products as a plot point in a major motion picture would ultimately be the best advertising they could hope for.
Cline is currently working on a book about coming of age as a nerd at the dawn of the video game era. He assured his fans, however, that he secured the websites readyplayertwo.com and readyplayerthree.com and he does intend to tell more stories in that world.
When asked why the book – which is filled with geek trivia including Dungeons & Dragons, anime, video games, music and movies – contains no major references to comic books, Cline offered two explanations: (1) He was poor and could not really afford comics growing up, and (2) Although he liked comics, they were not his passion.