Ready Player One arrives in Cineworld this March and is poised to be a smash-hit adventure for a number of reasons. For one, it's directed by Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park movie guru Steven Spielberg. It's also adapted from Ernest Cline's bestselling novel, one that established a massive audience following with its riveting tale of a virtual reality treasure hunt.
It could also go a long way in helping to create a new Hollywood superstar in its lead, Tye Sheridan. He plays hero Wade Watts, the youngster searching for hidden treasure within the remarkable digital landscape of the OASIS. But just who is Sheridan and how did he land this position in one of the most eagerly anticipated films of this year?
Sheridan has relatively few credits to his name. Despite this he's already managed to star in an impressive array of films, ranging from huge blockbusters to independent hits. He got his first acting job at 15 starring in acclaimed director Terrence Malick's experimental drama film The Tree of Life, playing the younger brother of Jack, the film's main protagonist (played by Oscar winner Sean Penn).
He was chosen for the role out of 10,000 kids who auditioned. Unusually, he had no prior acting experience, and The Tree of Life was his first foray into the field. In an interview with Cinephiled he said: "I really had no aspirations to act back then. I was always interested in telling stories but I always thought I'd become a novelist or something."
The rise to fame
Sheridan's performance in The Tree of Life was then followed with a central role in Jeff Nichols' coming of age drama Mud. Starring alongside Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, Sheridan was praised for holding his own in (and some say carrying) a film starring two big-name stars. The performance led to him receiving a Critics' Choice nomination at Cannes in 2012 – not bad for a 16-year-old with no previous aspirations to act.
Next was a role opposite Nicolas Cage in the independent drama Joe, directed by David Gordon Green (the man behind recent Jake Gyllenhaal drama Stronger). Cage's and Sheridan's performances were praised and the latter's status as an up and comer was further cemented.
Hollywood comes calling
How do you continue a career that started at such a high point? By continuing to work with a high calibre of Hollywood performers. Films such as The Forger, Last Days in the Desert and Dark Places placed Sheridan opposite acting behemoths such as John Travolta, Ewan McGregor, Charlize Theron and John C Reilly. It was surely only a matter of time before a box office franchise came knocking...
In 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, Sheridan starred as the younger version of Scott Summers aka Cyclops. It was a role made famous by James Marsden in the original X-Men trilogy, and Sheridan more than held his own alongside the star-studded ensemble. This included James McAvoy, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Fassbender and more.
Sheridan revealed to The Independent it was an opportunity he just couldn't say not to: "To me, it's rare because of all the superhero movies, it's kind of the only one that... All superhero movies are stories about underdogs, but in this one, you see people deal with real world issues and problems that we can relate to so we really invest in characters that we really care about emotionally. I feel like X-Men is probably the arthouse franchise of that genre."
Leading man status
Despite all his experience and obvious talent, it was still no easy job for Sheridan to land a part working for Steven Spielberg. After sending in several audition tapes for Ready Player One, he was invited to Los Angeles to read opposite co-star Olivia Cooke… with Spielberg in the room.
If that wasn't intimidating enough, Spielberg was also filming it. The process was quite lengthy and Sheridan wasn't sure he'd done enough. He told Collider: "[Spielberg] was holding the camera in the audition, and he shot it from three different angles. He did a frontal two-shot, and then two side angles. We did maybe two takes of each set-up, and that was it. I thought, 'Geez, I don't know how I did. Maybe there weren't enough takes. I could have done better.'"
But it seems he did and a month later he got the part. If his current track record is anything to go by, Sheridan is going to bring an engaging performance to a film already being tipped as one of Spielberg's biggest in years (and that's saying something).
Ready Player One is released on 29th March.
Marvyn Wilson is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.