Wargames (1983) Part 2 WOPR Gets the iCBM Launch Codes HD Global Thermonuclear War
WarGames is a 1983 American Cold War science fiction techno-thriller film written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes and directed by John Badham. The film, which stars Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, and Ally Sheedy, follows David Lightman (Broderick), a young hacker who unwittingly accesses a United States military supercomputer programmed to simulate, predict and execute nuclear war against the Soviet Union.
WarGames was a critical and box-office success, costing $12 million and grossing $125 million worldwide. The influential film was nominated for three Academy Awards. A sequel, WarGames: The Dead Code, was released direct-to-video in 2008.
Development on WarGames began in 1979, when writers Walter F. Parkes and Lawrence Lasker developed an idea for a script called The Genius, about “a dying scientist and the only person in the world who understands him—a rebellious kid who’s too smart for his own good”. Lasker was inspired by a television special presented by Peter Ustinov on several geniuses including Stephen Hawking. Lasker said, “I found the predicament Hawking was in fascinating—that he might one day figure out the unified field theory and not be able to tell anyone, because of his progressive ALS. So there was this idea that he’d need a successor. And who would that be? Maybe this kid, a juvenile delinquent whose problem was that nobody realized he was too smart for his environment.” The concept of computers and hacking as part of the film was not yet present.
The Genius began its transformation into WarGames when Parkes and Lasker met Peter Schwartz from the Stanford Research Institute. “There was a new subculture of extremely bright kids developing into what would become known as hackers,” said Schwartz. Schwartz made the connection between youth, computers, gaming, and the military. Parkes and Lasker also met with computer-security expert Willis Ware of RAND Corporation, who assured them that even a secure military computer might have remote access enabling remote work on weekends, encouraging the screenwriters to continue with the project.
Parkes and Lasker came up with several different military-themed plotlines prior to the final story. One version of the script had an early version of the WOPR named “Uncle Ollie”, or Omnipresent Laser Interceptor (OLI), a space-based defensive laser run by an intelligent program, but this idea was discarded because it was too speculative. Director John Badham coined the name “WOPR”, feeling that the name of NORAD’s Single Integrated Operational Plan was “boring, and told you nothing”. The name “WOPR” played off the Whopper hamburger, and a general sense of something going “whop”.
The WOPR computer as seen in the film was a prop created in Culver City, California, by members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 44. It was designed by production designer (credited as visual consultant) Geoffrey Kirkland based on some pictures he had of early tabulating machines, and metal furniture, consoles, and cabinets used particularly in the U.S. military in the 1940s and ’50s. They were adapted in drawings and concepts by art director Angelo P. Graham. The WOPR was operated by a crewmember sitting inside the computer, entering commands into an Apple II at the director’s instruction. The prop was broken up for scrap after production was completed. A replica was built for a 2006 AT&T commercial.
David Lightman was modeled on David Scott Lewis, a hacking enthusiast Parkes and Lasker met. Falken was inspired by and named after Stephen Hawking, with the appearance of John Lennon, who was interested in the role, but was murdered in New York while the script was in development. General Beringer was based on General James V. Hartinger (USAF) the then-commander-in-chief of NORAD, whom Parkes and Lasker met while visiting the base, and who, like Beringer, favored keeping humans in the decision loop
On Rotten Tomatoes, WarGames received an approval rating of 93% based on 44 reviews,