Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is hitting theaters this week as a high-profile Steven Spielberg extravaganza. (We liked it!) But this isn’t Cline’s first Hollywood rodeo: He also penned the original script for 2009's Fanboys, and his experience found him crossing paths with several members of the Hollywood elite, including disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Weinstein, as his reputation might suggest, is the true villain of Jordan Hoffman’s new oral history of the film for Thrillist, though it paints the film’s endless retooling and producer manipulation as endemic of the larger problems in the studio system. Here Weinstein is bargaining for more on-screen nudity:
Kyle Newman: [Earlier in the process] I would go sit down with Harvey and he’d be like, “Here’s what I wanna try.” I’d say, “I don’t agree with that.” And there’s a couple of times he’s like, “if you put this strip scene in here, we’ll give you an extra two days of shooting.” And when you’re scrambling for days and minutes, those are the kind of deals you make as a young filmmaker. It wasn’t just me, it was everybody. It was like, “don’t be an idiot, when you’re gonna get two extra days of shooting.”
They also pin the movie’s abundance of gay panic jokes on him and hired gun Adam F. Goldberg. And then there’s the story of how the success of The 40-Year Old Virgin impacted the process:
Ernie Cline: This was [also] when The 40-Year-Old Virgin came out, and became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time. Harvey’s like, “this movie’s kind of about 40-year-old virgins! Fanboys!” He started to try to change it, and Kyle wasn’t having it.
Dana Brunetti: It was like negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine with Kyle and Harvey.
Kyle Newman: They owned it. I mean, they paid for it. I respect that’s part of the filmmaking culture. I paint, I draw, and I own that stuff. But I made a commitment to the folks at Lucasfilm, to the Star Wars fan community and to my cast and crew about the tone of the film.
Ernie Cline: Weinstein pitched them the idea of taking out the whole plot of the dying friend. They strategically shot scenes that made it so the fanboys were just going on the trip because they wanted to see the movie early. No one’s dying. They all are just going because they want to trespass. It robs the movie of its whole call to adventure, and the whole heart of the picture. We actually saw that cut of the movie. They screened that cut with the original cut two nights in a row in Reseda or something, and that was going to be the version that they would have released.
The cut of the film that Cline and director Kyle Newman more or less wanted eventually made it to screens, and it is no classic, but the oral history itself is a great read. In addition to all the Weinstein dirt, there are anecdotes about houses burning down during business calls, Carrie Fisher eating Froot Loops, a potential McLovin cameo, and Jay Baruchel’s affection for air rifles.
Read the whole thing here.