Obviously this was a perfect match given Spielberg’s collection of films, which includes the likes of E.T., The Goonies, Gremlins, Back to the Future, and many other decade-defining hits. Oddly enough, though, Spielberg wasn’t keen on the idea of referencing his own movies in the film. As EW reports, “the director didn’t want the new movie to become a series of shout-outs to his older ones.”
Spielberg did allow one exception: the time-traveling DeLorean from Back to the Future, which Spielberg executive-produced, is in the movie. Other than that though, any reference to Spielberg’s movies was likely snuck in by the crew – and most of them are subtle visual nods to movies he produced rather than directed.
Speaking to EW, the crew detailed specific references they tried to sneak into the movie, only for Spielberg to notice and nix. There was a shot of graffiti on one wall of the dystopian real-world set that included a grinning fiend from Gremlins, which Spielberg promptly removed. In another scene, there was a nod to the villainous bank-robbing brothers from The Goonies. “We had a sly Fratelli’s Diner, but we got caught,” production designer Adam Stockhausen said. “He nixed it.”
Despite the director’s attempts to squash any references to his movies during principal photography, he admitted that some still managed to sneak their way in via post-production, particularly in the CG-created virtual-reality world OASIS.
“I think a lot of the digital artists were trying to get some of their favorite ’80s cultural references in there, you know?” Spielberg said. “And having seen every shot 30 times as we go through all the different steps from pre-viz to animatic to final, I started noticing little things. They snuck a gremlin in.”
“I said, ‘Well, I guess it’s too late to take that guy out.’ So he survived the cut,” he added.
Spielberg’s reluctance to include references to his own movies has more to do with giving other 80s films the spotlight, and the director was eager to showcase the work of others. “I didn’t corner the ’80s market,” he said. “There’s plenty to go around.”
Ready Player One opens in theaters March 29.