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Director of "The Lawnmower Man" Thinks Real Virtual Reality Is Pretty Cool

Oculus has a unique "ethos of hope," Brett Leonard says.

When talking about virtual reality, you hear people mention “The Lawnmower Man” a lot. The 1992 film, along with the “Matrix” movies and Ernest Cline’s novel “Ready Player One,” explored what might happen if science made it possible to enter into a virtual world.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the director of “The Lawnmower Man” was milling about at the Oculus Connect conference yesterday in Los Angeles. Brett Leonard’s film doesn’t exactly paint a sunny picture of VR, but he said he was pleased and impressed with Oculus VR’s progress.

“I made a movie about it over 20 years ago,” Leonard said. “Now, it’s at a point where it truly can become real … Which is ironic, given that it’s virtual reality.”

He praised what he saw as an “ethos of hope” in Oculus’ work, which is “very unique for a tech conference.”

“You can very much think of it in ways that would be the opposite of that,” he said. “‘Frankenstein,’ that was the model [for ‘The Lawnmower Man’]. But it’s really a wonderful experience to be with a group of people who have the motivation, from [Oculus co-founder] Palmer Luckey on down, to transform people experiencing people.”

Leonard said he’s very interested in developing movies for virtual reality, something startups like Condition One and Jaunt have begun to explore. An immersive narrative in VR, he said, will be less like a book or movie and more like a “tribal ritual,” such as the corroboree of Australia’s aboriginal people.

Here’s the trailer for “The Lawnmower Man,” and — because why not? — a news clip about the corroboree.

This article originally appeared on

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