Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, the husband-and-wife showrunners of Westworld, sat down with The New Yorker and discussed how their sci-fi Western television series was influenced by candy, video games, Sergio Leone’s films, and Philip K. Dick novels.
When J. J. Abrams first approached them about rebooting Westworld, Nolan wasn't initially interested in the project because he loved Michael Crichton’s original 1973 film and struggled “couldn’t quite wrap my head around what it would be.” However, it was Abrams suggestion to have the show focus on the lives of the robots instead of the humans that sparked interest in Nolan and Joy. Once their creative juices were flowing, they decided to make the (mis)treatment of inanimate objects a core theme.
For Joy, it was never a challenge for her to sympathize with the hosts as she has “had a problem with over-identification with inanimate objects” since she was a child. “I had a Gummi Bear sanctuary,” Joy explained. “I’d put them in this little chest that I had of precious things, these moldering Gummi Bears, that I’d keep by my window.” On a particularly hot day, she was saddened to discover the gelatin-based candies had melted and reformed in the chest — looking “like soap.”
Nolan, an avid gamer, and Joy used the Grand Theft Auto games to inspire Westworld's world-building and interlocking narrative. However, even when Joy played the hyper-violent games, she chose not to beat up, steal from, or kill the innocent bystanders.
When playing G.T.A., Joy told me, “I literally just cruise around the city and obey the laws. . . . It’s hard for me to run over a lady, because I’m, like, Does she limp home to her family when you turn it off? Do they have health insurance?” Yet it was video games, Nolan said, that gave them “a language for what we wanted the hosts to be. We wanted them to be N.P.C.s,” or non-player characters. “We wanted the video-game equivalent of extras, because in Westworld, the guest is the hero.”
The one-hour drama series Westworld is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin. Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, it explores a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged.
Created for television by Jonathan Nolan (Interstellar, The Dark Knight) and Lisa Joy (Pushing Daisies, Burn Notice), both of whom are executive producing and writing, with Nolan also directing, the series was inspired by the 1973 motion picture Westworld, written and directed by Michael Crichton.
The cast features Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford, Ed Harris as The Man in Black, Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy, James Marsden as Teddy Flood, Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay, Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe, Tessa Thompson as Charlotte Hale, Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa Cullen, Jimmi Simpson as William, Rodrigo Santoro as Hector Escaton, Shannon Woodward as Shannon Woodward, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as Armistice, Ben Barnes as Logan, Angela Sarafyan as Clementine Pennyfeather, Luke Hemsworth as Stubbs, and Clifton Collins, Jr. as Lawrence.
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The second season of HBO's Westworld will debut in 2018.