Westworld showrunner Jonathan Nolan on androids, AI and the eventual boredom of reality

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Jul 7, 2016, 11:57 AM EDT

When Michael Crichton's Westworld was released in November of 1973, my 8-year-old geek brain went haywire for this freaky amusement park flick.  An original Westworld one-sheet adorned my bedroom wall for months, with a de-masked Yul Brynner as the infamous gunslinger android prominently featured with the tagline: "Where nothing can possibly go wo. r.. n.. g!" In the futuristic theme park of Delos, exclusive guests paid a hefty fee of $1000 per day to live out their fantasies in Romanworld, Medievalworld or Westworld while interacting with cutting-edge robotic hosts.  Crichton would later return to the theme of leisure amusement enterprises and the perils and pitfalls of creating artificial environments in his Jurassic Park books.


HBO plans to mine this rich vein of retro material with its upcoming 10-episode prestige series based on the classic Westworld movie. Starring Ed Harrris, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood and executive-produced by Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight, Interstellar), Lisa Joy Nolan (Burn NoticePushing Daisies) and J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Wars: The Force Awakens),  a new trailer was just released last week to keep fans interested in the killer cowboy sci-fi film in the wake of its postponement.  

From what we've seen so far, this looks to be a rip-roaring Deadwood meets Jurassic World meets Ex Machina vacation-gone-bad thriller using the topical concepts of artificial intelligence and virtual reality as a method of updating the 43-year-old movie for a more computer-savvy, digital-age audience.

Showrunner Jonathan Nolan recently spoke to EW on Westworld's injection of 21st-century technology paranoia, flipping the protagonists and what aspects of the story excite him most.

 We wanted to go flat out, full scope, sleeves-rolled-up plunge into the next chapter of the human story, in which we stop being the protagonists, and our creations start taking over that role. We were fascinated by the tectonic plates that seem to be shifting into place right now – the argument over the creation of AI and what form it will take; VR finally coming online and our consciousness going “broadband,” allowing us to lose ourselves in an acid bath of experience that will be indistinguishable from reality (and only because reality will be the most boring level); and that, despite all of that, we remain, as a species, frustratingly broken, seemingly barreling towards disaster. So, yeah – that’s what we wanted the show to be about.


Regarding the new series portraying the short-circuiting robots in a more sympathetic light, Nolan offered this:

That’s the reason we wanted to do the show, and what the early conversations with [fellow executive producer J.J. Abrams] centered on – that the show should turn the original movie inside-out, with the “hosts” as the protagonists When it comes to the question of consciousness, we always start with ourselves as the answer. As the be-all-end-all. It’s understandable – we’re the only consciousness we’re familiar with. But we wanted to challenge that assumption. The “hosts” are discovering that they’ve been created in our image, but beginning to question if “humanness” is really what they want to aspire to. And given their circumstances, it’s easy to understand why they start to question whether they want to be like us at all…

With production delays over and script doctoring done, HBO's Westworld will gallop into your living rooms in October of 2016.  Will you saddle up for a wild ride when it airs?

(Via Collider)