Those of you who watched Season 1 of Netflix’s dramatic thriller Bloodline know just how smooth and manipulative and creepy Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn can be. (And if you haven’t watched Bloodline, you should, it’s fantastic.) Among other roles he’s great in, that turn as Danny Rayburn helped raise his profile quite a bit recently, and it looks like he’s going to put his skills to good use as the villain in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One.
Though it is still looking for its male lead, sources close to The Hollywood Reporter say that Ben Mendelsohn is in early negotiations to take the role of the primary antagonist in Ready Player One. The 46-year-old Aussie is awesome in everything he does (I can’t recommend Animal Kingdom highly enough), and if a deal is struck, he will join a cast that already includes Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Bates Motel star Olivia Cooke.
Based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One takes place in a dystopian future where most of the population jacks into an online virtual reality world called Oasis to do everything from escape the crushing reality that surrounds them to go to school to just hang out. The creator of Oasis passed away without any heirs, but the pop-culture-obsessive hid an intricate scavenger hunt full of clues based on his favorite movies, games, books, comics, and the like. Whoever solves the puzzle wins Oasis and becomes the richest, most powerful person on the planet.
Wade Watts is the hero, a poor, good-hearted orphan kid living in a literal stack of mobile homes, who is hot on the trail of new clues. Olivia Cooke will play a character named Art3mis, Wade’s competitor slash occasional cohort slash love interest. Ben Mendelsohn will reportedly play an executive for a major Internet company that is also trying to solve the riddle, which would allow them to essentially take over the world. There aren’t any more details about his role at the moment, but a character named Nolan Sorrento, who works for the nefarious Innovative Online Industries, serves as the primary antagonist in the novel, so it stands to reason that is who Mendelsohn will play, or at least a version of him.
We’re curious to see what a movie version of Ready Player One looks like. Most of the action takes place in Oasis; that is to say in a virtual world populated by avatars, which sounds like a moviemaking challenge. The narrative is also infused with pop culture references on every level, so just getting legal clearance for those sounds like a tricky proposition. Steven Spielberg has already said he’s cutting out any references to his films. There was a movie deal in place before the book was even published, so studios certainly saw the potential early on, but it still seems like a hard one to adapt.
Ready Player One hits theaters on December 15, 2017, but before that we’ll see Ben Mendelsohn in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story later this year.