HBO and J. J. Abram seem to have something in common. They keep their projects shrouded in secrecy for as long as they can. Well, HBO fans are eager for any news about his developing WESTWORLD and luckily Entertainment Weekly knows that about our eagerness. The pop culture spot recently snagged a chat with Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, two of the producers/writers for the upcoming series. Of course, as EW cites, there is not much being leaked out but, we will take what we can get. We excerpt some of the best parts here:
EW:What drew you to this project?
Jonathan Nolan: I’ve collaborated with J.J. now for several years on our show on CBS [Person of Interest]. He’s a lovely guy, a brilliant guy. He called us last summer and explained that he wanted to figure out how Westworld could be remade. In that usual Michael Crichton fashion, he never wrote anything that was just a film – there was always a massive world behind it that could be mined. Lisa and I thought about it a little bit, and came to the realization this had literally everything that we’re interested in in one series. We couldn’t say no.
Lisa Joy: It’s such an amazing world. It’s such an amazing platform for examining so many things that are top of mind for me intellectually, emotionally, psychologically. Jonah and I joked that it’s kind of like we took a bunch of movies that we were thinking about writing and shoved it all into this TV series. It’s been incredibly thrilling.
EW: The original movie had a great three-act structure. How do you take that storyline—androids run amuck in futuristic theme park—and convert that into a weekly series?
Nolan: Michael Crichton wrote this as an original screenplay and then directed it. There’s no book. What you feel in the film is there’s this larger world that he barely has time to explore. It leaves you breathless. Westworld goes from one f–king massive idea to the next. At one point in there, he references why the robots are misbehaving. He describes the concept of the computer virus. When they were shooting the film it was the same year, or the year before, the appearance of the first actual computer virus. This is why Crichton was so brilliant. He knew so much about the technologies that were about to emerge, spent so much time thinking about how they would actually work. Consider the fact that the original film was written prior to the existence of even the first video game. Think about massive multiplayer role-playing games, and the complexity and richness of video game storytelling. When he wrote Westworld, none of that existed! So it’s a film that anticipated so many advances in technology. The film has a structure that barrels forward—there’s this unstoppable android hell-bent on vengeance—and it preceded The Terminator by 10 years.
Joy: The glory of doing it as a series is that you get to kind of dance in the little spaces that were left unexplored. In a film, you only have a finite amount of time, and you’re so concerned with saying what happened and making it a gripping short story with a satisfying ending. But in a TV series, you can really take a novelistic approach and explore characters that you wouldn’t ordinarily see, in a level of complexity that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to explore just out of the sheer time constraints in a feature. I think we’re very much looking forward to taking all those possibilities and exploding out.
EW: In terms of the look of the androids: Is there anything that distinguishes them physically from humans?
Nolan: That’s a very good question. [Pause]
EW: Um … does that mean you don’t want to answer?
Nolan: There are questions that we want the audience to be asking. There are some key differences between the film and our series.
EW: Is there any sense you can give in terms of how the park functions? I mean, is it a physical theme park that you go to, like the park is in the film, or is it virtual? And does it fulfill a different role in terms of its place in society? [Long silence] Is this a bad question?
Joy: It is a good question. A part of this is… basically… [to Nolan] Yeah, you take it.
Nolan: Here’s the thing: People who come into this place are looking for—and this is the irony of it—the authentic experience. They’re looking for not the virtual version, but the real version, the tactile version. Interestingly we’ve arrived at what [the original film] created—fully immersible virtual worlds. Look at Grand Theft Auto or any of these wholly imagined open-world video games. They are beautiful. They’re perfectly immersive and brilliant and filled with narrative turns … “What happens in Westworld stays in Westworld.” It’s a place where you can be whoever the f–k you want to be and there are no consequences. No rules, no limitations.
EW: Does the show take place entirely within the world of the park or do we go outside of the park as well?
Joy: We do.
EW: Obviously this is tricky to interview you about. Is there anything I didn’t ask about that’s an in-bounds question that you think our readers would be interested in?
Nolan: The back of napkin version, is that it’s about a theme park where you can take your id on vacation. But there’s way more to it. It’s based on a film that’s 40 years old, and one of the amazing things about Crichton is he was such a visionary. For much of science fiction, it felt like so many of the questions were a long way away. I actually think we’re in a moment now where these questions are close in the real world. Our world is about to get very off, and some of the questions Crichton had in his film we’re hoping to elaborate on in the series. As exotic as they seemed years ago, they are now becoming very frighteningly relevant.
Wow, and all that sounds a bit ominous but, then Nolan has already promised us a ‘subversive, fucked up’ series. Now Nolan/Joy talked a bit about the source material and if you are interested in this upcoming series then maybe, you should check out the 1973 original for yourself. In the meantime, do these scant facts from the producers intrigue anyone to a trip to WESTWORLD? Let us know.