Last Action Hero and Ready Player One Screenwriter Shocked to Find Last Action Hero Reference in Ready Player One

The poster for Last Action Hero.
The poster for Last Action Hero.
Image: Sony

Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One is bursting with so many winks, nods, and references to all areas of pop culture that sometimes, even the people who created those things aren’t aware they’re in the film. Case in point, Ready Player One co-writer Zak Penn.


Penn, best known for writing many of the early X-Men movies, adapted the reference-heavy, self-aware book along with its author, Ernest Cline. Years earlier, he also co-created the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero which shares several meta-elements with Ready Player One. Last Action Hero seems like exactly the kind of film characters in Ready Player One would love but Penn didn’t want any references from one movie in the other.

So he was surprised when, during the opening set piece, the race flashes past a theater showing “Jack Slater III,” a film named after the main character in Last Action Hero.

“I never saw it until the first screening,” Penn told io9. “That’s completely Ernie. He slipped it in there without asking me. He got the ILM guys to do it. I never noticed it, Steven didn’t notice it, I had told him not to but when I saw it I was like ‘Man, that’s sweet.’ But I was shocked when I saw the screen. I was like ‘Whoa. Did that say Jack Slater?”

Yes, it did.

Here’s a Last Action Hero reference in Ready Player One.
Here’s a Last Action Hero reference in Ready Player One.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Ready Player One opens March 29.

Entertainment Reporter. NYU Cinema Studies Alum. Formerly Premiere, EW, Us Weekly, and /Film. AP Award-Winning Film Critic & CCA member. Loves Star Wars, posters, Legos, and often all three at once.



While Ready Player One looks like dumb fun, I really, really love Last Action Hero. It subverts and deconstructs so many action movie cliches...and then completely reconstructs them for the finale. It’s like if someone instilled all of their love for action movies into one film.

Plus, it has Charles Dance as the goddamn villain and he was amazing. “If God were a villain - he’d be me.”