The surprising movies Steven Spielberg asked his young 'Ready Player One' stars to watch

Kevin Polowy
Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

Ready Player One, the new Steven Spielberg-directed virtual-reality action film based on the bestselling book by Ernest Cline, is steeped in references to popular ’80s movies like Back to the Future, Beetlejuice, Dune, Say Anything, and Nightmare on Elm Street.

However, the film’s two leads, 21-year-old Tye Sheridan (Parzival) and 24-year-old Olivia Cooke (Art3mis), weren’t even born yet when those movies came out. We sat down with Spielberg and his Ready Player One stars and asked whether the Oscar-winning filmmaker put the actors through some sort of retro pop-culture boot camp. (Watch the interview above.)

As it turns out, Spielberg did make some movie recommendations — just not the ones you’d expect.

“Steven asked us to watch His Girl Friday,” Sheridan said of Howard Hawks’s 1940 screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. “Because there’s a scene in the movie where Art3mis and Parzival are trading [VR mastermind] Halliday knowledge and trying to one-up each other, and [Spielberg] said, ‘Go watch that movie because the dynamic between the male and the female leads in that movie is what I want you guys to look at.’”

Spielberg asked Philip Zhao to screen The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece. That’s not surprising in that it relates to Ready Player One — in fact, the adaptation of the Stephen King novel plays a significant role in RP1. But it is surprising because The Shining is terrifying, and Zhao is barely into his teens.

“I have not finished my homework yet,” the high school freshman admitted. “I watched the trailer for it before I watched the movie ’cause it’s R-rated, and I saw the blood elevator scene and I already got a little spooked. And when I watched the [“Here’s Johnny” clip]. … No, I’m not watching the movie anymore.”

Ready Player One opens Friday.

Is Ready Player One the geekiest movie ever? Steven Spielberg and cast react:

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