Interview

How ‘Ready Player One’ composer Alan Silvestri took Spielberg back to the future

Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” celebrates the culture of the 1980s with a mash-up of media and movies that defined the decade – including many of Spielberg’s own. Alan Silvestri, who composed not only the music for “Ready Player One” but a litany of ‘80s classics including “Back to the Future” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” told Moviebill that he collaborated closely with Spielberg to create an original score that wouldn’t merely serve as a mix tape of iconic cues.

“Mr. Spielberg is incredibly hands on when it comes to the scoring of his films,” Silvestri said in a phone interview last week. “He has an incredible music background awareness and depth of experience, having worked with the greatest for basically his entire career, that being John Williams. So Mr. Spielberg was very clear and very specific about if or how close he wanted me to be with any kind of reference – and as you know in ‘Ready Player One,’ there are some.”

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, “Ready Player One” follows the adventures of a young man in a dystopian future where the world’s populations play online games influenced by pop culture elements that inspired their creator. Silvestri said that Spielberg was judicious about which references he wanted to emphasize, and which ones he wanted to serve as window dressing for this futuristic tale. “He is not hiding so many of his references,” he said. “I mean, the lead character of the film is driving a DeLorean and Mr. Spielberg is not hiding the fact that there is a ‘Back to the Future’ reference here. So he was the guide as to whether in a moment he wanted something like ‘Back the the Future’ or he wanted ‘Back to the Future.’

“Those were his decisions and he is such a studious filmmaker that he knew every second of his film and what he wanted the score to do and that was great,” Silvestri said. “He could direct in such a clear way and you know what you had to do.”

Called upon to revisit some of his own work, Silvestri said that he followed Spielberg’s direction closely when asked for those cues, but never tried to sneak motifs of his work into the musical tapestry of “Ready Player One.” “I can say there was none of that,” he insisted. “There’s a tremendous aspect of Easter eggs in ‘Ready Player One,’ it’s part of the very structure and heart of the film, and there are some musical quotes in the film that are clearly connected to the films that these characters had been in. Mr. Spielberg would put a character in visually and he could say I want to hear his little motif when I see him and we do that and we’re not shy about it, but there were no places where I am kind of undercover in the shadows trying to do anything like that.”

In fact, Silvestri said that Spielberg was so knowledgeable about movie music – particularly in the 1980s, when his films both as a director and producer dominated the box office – that he doubts he’d have successfully snuck anything past him. “Working with Steven [Spielberg], he knows the scoring side of the 80s films so much better than I do, including my own, that there’s no way anyone would put something past Mr. Spielberg musically, I can’t imagine it.”

“Ready Player One” opens in theaters on Thursday, March 29.

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