Ready Player One: How Steven Spielberg Cast Tye Sheridan

The star of Ready Player One nearly missed out on a huge role.

Tye Sheridan has been one of Hollywood’s young stars to watch since he burst onto the scene the in low budget, but critical darling Mud alongside Matthew McConaughey in 2012. Since then, the 21-year-old actor has booked major roles in genre blockbusters, stealing scenes in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse as a young Scott Summers (he’ll reprise the role in this year’s X-Men sequel Dark Phoenix) and Steven Spielberg’s virtual reality romp Ready Player One. Landing the lead role in a Spielberg film is the stuff of dreams for a young actor, but at the world premiere for Ready Player One during SXSW Film Festival, Sheridan admitted he nearly didn’t get the role of Wade Watts.

Sheridan was filming X-Men: Apocalypse while Spielberg was casting for the adaption of Ernest Cline’s sci-fi novel. After reading the script and sending in a self tape, Sheridan’s agent called and told him that the studio passed.

In a stroke of luck, Spielberg saw Sheridan in a trailer (presumably for Apocalypse) and decided to give the actor another chance. Sheridan flew to Los Angeles to audition in person with actress Olivia Cooke, who was already cast as Samantha / Art3mis. It was at the audition that Sheridan first got to meet face to face with Spielberg. 

“I didn’t know if it was going to go further than that, so I shook his hand and said sir without your movies I think I’d be a different kid,” Sheridan told Den of Geek.  

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They spoke about E.T., virtual reality, and, of course, Ready Player One. In the film, Sheridan plays a gamer obsessed with the virtual reality world known as OASIS. When the creator of OASIS passes away, he leaves behind an easter egg hunt within the game universe to determine who will become the sole owner of the wildly profitable VR simulator in a near future where overpopulation and global warming have made the virtual world more preferable to the real one. 

“I never thought it was possible for me to be in this film,” he said. On the red carpet as the lead in a Spielberg film, fantasy did indeed become reality for Sheridan. 

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Ready Player One hits theaters on March 30th. You can read our review of the film here